Accessibility

Accessibility

Tailor your digital experience to your specific needs by adjusting the accessibility preferences below
tool-icon
Reduce motion
tool-icon
Dark mode
tool-icon
Large text
tool-icon
Large spacing
Get in touch
Main menu
Accessibility

Accessibility

Tailor your digital experience to your specific needs by adjusting the accessibility preferences below
tool-icon
Reduce motion
tool-icon
Dark mode
tool-icon
Large text
tool-icon
Large spacing
Get in touch

The role of design retainers in building long-term brand consistency

Sarah Edwards
User Experience Consultant

Achieving long-term brand consistency requires ongoing, high-quality design support. This is why we advocate for design retainers. In this article, we delve into the essence of long-term branding, highlighting the core benefits of design retainers, how to structure effective agreements, and how to measure their impact. Brand consistency upholds a brand’s values in a steady, predictable, and dependable manner through elements like tone of voice, graphic design, and actions. This creates a recognizable and robust brand identity—essential for staying relevant in competitive markets. Consistent branding retains customer loyalty, builds trust, and promotes brand authority. Think of your favorite brands; their strong, well-established identities likely result from long-term consistency in messaging and visual elements across all platforms.

In the sections that follow, we will explore the fundamental benefits of design retainers, provide guidance on structuring effective agreements, and discuss methods to evaluate their impact on user engagement and brand consistency.

 

The essence of long-term branding

Long-term brand consistency is acquired through consistent, high-quality design support over time. For this reason, we advocate for design retainers. In this article, we’ll touch upon the essence of long-term branding, the core benefits of design retainers, how to structure effective design retainer agreements, as well as how to measure the impact of design retainers.

Brand consistency upholds the values of a brand in a way that is steady, predictable, dependable, and is delivered through the use of elements such as tone of voice, and graphic elements, as well as through its actions and campaigns. A clear pattern of such elements that comprise a company’s identity results in a recognisable and robust brand – arguably the two most key elements needed to stay relevant in highly competitive markets.

Strong brand consistency and identity retain customer and user loyalty, and trust, and promote brand authority. Think of one of your favourite brands – does it have a strong brand image with a solid identity? Do you have a well-established perception of its values and level of reliability? If so, it’s likely that the organisation has built long-term brand consistency, grounded in clear messaging, cohesive visual elements, an unvarying tone of voice as well as consistency across all channels and platforms.

 

The core benefits of design retainers

A design retainer is a bespoke agreement between a design agency and a client wherein a set fee is paid for access to design services throughout the duration of a specific time period. Design retainers provide on-demand, immediate access to expertise and professional design services. Retainers are also cost-effective as they are typically billed in monthly cycles, and therefore enable budget predictability.

Design retainers are highly personalised as they take into account a client’s specific design requirements and business goals, desired outcomes of set objectives, nuanced consultancy services, and project management. Other benefits of design retainers include enhanced collaboration between teams for inspiration and the consistent communication for alignment which supports the continuous improvement of work. Design retainers also enable teams to adapt quickly to market or internal company changes. On the whole, design retainers increase the efficiency of design work.

But how do design retainers impact brand consistency? Rather than being limited to an ad-hoc project, design retainers with agencies contribute to strong brand consistency by fostering a relationship with a company – rather than simply being an agency, we become an extension of a company’s team and trusted advisors, forming a partnership. Long-term communication that happens as a result of a design retainer allows for a deep understanding of a brand’s identity, values, goals, and ethos. The agency is also able to reinforce a brand identity across all touchpoints due to a strong familiarity with the brand’s history, target audience, and market positioning, which allows for more strategic and coherent design decisions. Plus, getting to know a brand well results in faster turnaround times, as less time is spent on briefing the design team on brand guidelines and general requirements for each project.

Unified visual language with consistent messaging is crucial in producing an identifiable and impactful brand image. Within design retainers, it is ensured that visual elements such as typography, logos, colour schemes and imagery are consistent across all platforms. Brand guidelines are created which serve as a reference point for all design work, including messaging and tone of voice. Since design retainers aren’t restricted to one single platform, they allow for unified visual language across all relevant channels, such as social media or print.

 

Structuring effective design retainer agreements

To effectively structure design retainer agreements, a number of points are required to discuss between design agencies and clients in collaboration:

  • Defining the scope and services: Firstly, establish the services that are needed, and whether the design agency has the appropriate skills and capacity. Services might include website and/or app development with UX/UI services such as wireframing, UI design, usability testing, design system creation and/or maintenance, marketing campaigns, print design, video and animation, as well as corporate presentations and social assets. When researching an agency to choose to work with, it may also be worth looking into the breadth of industries that they already specialise in working with. For example, at Make it Clear, we have a strong background in working with clients in cybersecurity, education, technology, and healthcare.
  • Setting clear expectations: When working within a design retainer, confirmation of clear expectations including timelines, timeline adjustments, and communication methods are key. At Make it Clear, we encourage a strong sense of collaboration with our clients and recognise the benefits of a frequent communication stream to ensure we’re always on the right track. It’s important for both teams to set clear expectations from a project management standpoint to ensure that our ways-of-working are compatible, deliverables can be achieved, and review processes are agreed upon.
  • Addressing flexibility and scalability: One of the benefits of a design retainer is its flexibility. Agreements can be structured to scale with business needs, allowing adjustments as the company grows or shifts its strategy.

Evaluating the impact: Before and after retainer engagement

Evaluating the impact of design retainers on user or customer engagement can be achieved in multiple ways, using a combination of both quantitative and qualitative data. The analysis of this data allows for the identification of significant changes in engagement metrics following the implementation of design work.
Key performance indicators (KPIs)
Behavioural metrics such as user flows, heatmaps and funnel analysis can be used to trace how users interact with a digital product on a very granular level. These can include:

  • Engagement rates: Likes, shares, clicks, comments
  • Path analysis: Sequences of pages visited and drop-off points as well as pages per session
  • Event tracking: Buttons clicked, videos played, files downloaded and any other general interactions made through heatmaps and funnel analysis
  • Page views: The number of times a page is viewed to understand popular content and areas of user interest
  • Session duration: The average amount of time spent during a session using a digital product, indicating engagement
  • Bounce rate, click-through rate, and conversion rate
  • User satisfaction: Net Promoter Score (NPS), Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT)

 

Establishing baseline measurements

Prior to making design changes, it is worth collecting data on any current engagement metrics to understand the baseline.

 

User research

Behavioural metrics are best combined with qualitative insights gained from user research methods, which include user interviews, surveys, usability testing, and A/B testing. Hearing users’ thoughts on a brand or digital product is a source of rich, qualitative data that shines a light on how they’re perceived and understood, and is a valuable method of deeply understanding user behaviour, identifying pain points, and overall gauging the impact that the work completed within a design retainer has made.

 

Final thoughts

In summary, design retainers help to uphold many of the key factors needed for delivering a consistent, long-term and successful brand. The continuous access to professional design services unlocks a more thorough understanding of what a brand might set out to achieve, allowing a design team to at once push creative boundaries while adhering to well-understood brand guidelines and the general message intended to be conveyed. In brief, design retainers, when structured efficiently, can be instrumental in building a brand that is recognisable, trustworthy, and has an enduring presence in the market.

 


Back to top