Updated January 18, 2021. See this twitter thread for details.
The design services landscape has undoubtedly evolved in the last decade.
Regardless of size or model, there’s been a rich history of graphic design services being a “relationships businesses.” Firms typically became known and trusted for their leadership, teams, and results. Reputation is still a factor today, but the variety of means for engaging with design practitioners continue to expand.
Outside agencies still exist and are now competing with the impulse within some companies to either build or acquire their own internal design teams. Individual freelancers and small boutique shops are looking for ways to specialize in countering these pressures. Freelancer marketplaces have been around for a while and focus on a race to the bottom in affordability.
An even more recent trend is the rise of design service companies that commoditize typical graphic and digital design production services and outputs and wrap them up in a SaaS (software as a service) styled capabilities model that offers predictability of pricing and flexibility of commitment.
The business world loves its acronyms. Perhaps this is model could be known as “On-Demand Design Services (ODDS)” or “Unlimited Design as a Service (UDaaS)” 🤓
What do these companies have in common?
- Emphasis on a tiered fixed-price model, quite similar to SaaS companies
- A contract-less monthly commitment that can be canceled any time
- Ability to increase or decrease the scale of services needed month to month
- They are usually remote-only, nobody shows up on-site to help you
- Anonymity and variety, no guarantees that you can choose or know the designer(s) working on any given project
- Proprietary online portals track all workflow processes, job requests, feedback, iterations, and sign off – asynchronously online.
- They are headquartered around the globe
- Many offer unlimited revisions
- A promise of end-product ownership (IP, files, assets)
- Some offer a “risk-free” trial period
- Some target a mix of end-customers, from companies seeking design help to other agencies and freelance designers that need immediate assistance
- Most emphasize graphic design production, NOT strategic thinking or brand creation
Here’s a copy of this list in an Airtable database that you can bookmark, follow or copy.
Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with any of the above services, nor have a had the opportunity to work directly with any of them. This article is meant for information purposes only and is not a recommendation to purchase or use these services.
If I’ve missed any related companies, or if you are a business that has hired any of these companies in the past and wish to share your experiences – please get in touch.
Illustration: productive by Becris from the Noun Project