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Specialists or Generalists?

by Sean Treacy | Mar 22, 2018 | [[ readEstimate ]] min read

Every few months, as another batch of projects wrap up, I formally update our Grafton Studio portfolio, Behance and Dribbble accounts (platforms showcasing our work). I always look forward to this moment of reflection on recently completed projects, and use its learnings to mold our outreach for the upcoming quarter.

Spending time in our portfolio always brings home just how varied our projects can be, making us a generalist agency rather than a specialist one. Over the last few months we’ve built a website for a cryptocurrency, a luxury yacht brand website, a website investigating Princeton Universities tie to slavery, a high school attendance web app, and a web app deployed on exhibit touch screens that teach kids about genocides past and present.

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From an outside perspective, this variety could be construed as lacking direction or missing the opportunity to be a niche agency, with a steady stream of like-clients to work with. But what we’ve come to recognize is that, no matter the industry or sector, the problems that clients hire us to solve are typically the same (or similar):

  • An intuitive and seamless user experience, underpinned by an in depth knowledge of web and usability best practices.

  • A good lookin’ product, from expert designers who have mastered modern design trends, and have an acute sense of the individual needs of each client.

  • Sound functionality, the code needs to be perfect and thoroughly tested. It’s 2018; clients and users, understandably, won’t tolerate sloppy dev.

Sure, experience in a particular industry/vertical can lend to the success of a future project in the same industry, but so can many other things. I believe if a team has the essentials, i.e. the tools to provide the solutions bulleted above, they are in as good a position to approach a project, than an agency that has produced web products for multiple competitors of that client.

There are downsides to being a specialist agency too. Working for one or two industries can become tiresome for a team, stagnating creativity and reducing the challenger mindset that stimulates problem solving skills.  

There are certainly industries that we have an affinity for, but I don’t think we’ll be narrowing our focus anytime soon. Each project is a new learning opportunity, where we can apply our generalist web design and development expertise to a unique problem, and provide unmistakable results.