Should design agencies be more transparent about their work?


Purple 20 Oct 2021
2 mins

Are some design agencies living solely on the reputation of their past work, or are they who they say they are?

If you go to any agency’s website and view their portfolio, you will see a blast of their creativity with an array of their best, cutting-edge designs. We have to ask, how many of these are still their clients? At the end of the day, an agency’s client list is a big part of choosing an agency for your business.

We rarely see endorsements alongside work, so how do we know they had happy clients? After all, we can only take their word for it. Just because what we see looks excellent doesn’t mean the objectives of the brief was met correctly. 

Looking at current awards or nominations can help reveal the level of design currency an agency has. However, awards aside, there may be a fantastic design team that has never won or entered any awards, but are about to produce the next visual era. 

So, should design agencies state who their current clients are? You could argue, and I’m sure some would, its our creativity you are buying into, not the companies we have created for.

The reality is, too many companies are having bad experiences and finding their new creative designs are falling short of their expectations and not delivering the promised results. 

I also think that the term, ‘you get what you pay for’, no longer applies. One solution to this could be for companies to adopt ‘value pricing’ and move away from the traditional time-based or fixed-hours billing. Value pricing looks at prioritising everything you need over the bottom dollar value. This can be a change of mindset and a complex concept to grasp, but it does eliminate the grey area of doubt and produces a better end result. 

With all this in mind, a call for greater transparency is needed, and for design agencies to be open and honest about who they are. The design expertise they currently hold is a key feature of who they are, not something they created two years ago. 

The saying holds true: you’re only as good as your last ad. 

This is not to say you shouldn’t show past work. But I think that you should state how recent it is. 


Good design goes beyond simply ‘making things look nice’ – and combines facts with feeling, to grab attention, be persuasive, and create the impact needed to communicate effectively in an attention economy. The design team at Purple has extensive design agency experience, and understands the needs and challenges facing corporate brands today.