Comparing the Top 10 Outsourced Design Services: Which one is Right for You?

Tyler Wade
Tyler Wade5 min read

Struggling to get high-quality designs from a design team already at capacity is frustrating. Layer on ad-hoc requests and the design teams’ own projects fall apart and team morale sinks.

It doesn’t have to be this way. There are many companies that will take on the overflow, add that missing skill, or work through the tireless monotony of ad variations—they're available in three different options:

  • Option 1. Hire a freelancer or agency. You can outsource the overflow to a freelancer marketplace or an agency. But you don’t need more work onboarding, managing, and spending countless hours buried in administrative work with freelancers, nor do you want the fear of submitting the expensive bill to your boss from a slow agency.
  • Option 2. Hire in-house. Hire more in-house talent, which comes with all of the added costs and responsibilities of recruitment, onboarding and employee retention.
  • Option 3. Subscribe to an outsourced design service. To scale design efficiently and discover unique design skills, you can partner with a creative design subscription service to get great design work done on-demand.

More and more businesses are using outsourced graphic design companies when they don’t have the bandwidth to hire in-house, they're tired of trying to make to work with freelance designers or don't have the bags of cash to work with expensive agencies.

With our list, you can forgo some of the sales-y product demos, narrow your search and speed up your selection with some of the key comparative differences.

We separate the marketing messaging from what’s actually under the hood to give you a clear picture of what you get.

Top 10 Outsourced Design Services for Enterprises and Scale-Ups

These services are all an excellent fit for fast-growing brands with high day-to-day design needs. If you’re looking for a fully managed process with many design skills and require consistent design work over an extended period, the list below should help you.

Outsourced Design Services Comparison (in no particular order)

  1. Superside
  2. Penji
  3. Design Pickle
  4. Many Pixels
  5. Kimp
  6. Lightboard
  7. Shuttlerock
  8. Designed.co
  9. Sketchdesk
  10. Designity

Superside

Superside scales with you as your design needs change. From pitch decks that sell and landing pages that convert to motion graphics, brand development, and video production.

We tailor our subscription-based pricing plans to match the solution you require. You can change your plan at any time to access more (or less) hours or different design capabilities.

The key difference from the competition is that all Superside plans include a vetted design team with full-time Design Specialists, a Creative Director, and a Creative Project Manager to ensure delivery of your requests are always on brief, on time, and on brand.

You also get a customer success manager who works with you to make sure we’re delivering the quality you want, helping to resolve issues quickly, and generating new ideas for how we can bet better partners.

It’s why customers like Amazon, Salesforce, Facebook (and more) use Superside. They aren’t stuck in back and forths, wasting valuable time and money.

  • Pricing: $4,000 to $15,000 per month
  • Talent: We hire the top 1% of worldwide designers as full-time employees from top-tier agencies like McCann, Ogilvy & Mather and Sancho BBDOO. You also get a team of Creative Project Managers and Design Directors who onboard your brand to ensure designs are the highest quality.
  • Features:
    • Collaboration platform for brand asset storage, messaging with your team for briefing, feedback and revisions, and storing the assets you created with Superside. You can integrate communication in Slack, too. You can also add as many team members as you like.
    • A robust onboarding process.
    • Scales with your needs to consistently hit turnaround times and capabilities required, including revisions.
  • Turnaround time: 12- 48 hours
  • Notable clients: Shopify, Masterclass, Strava
  • Headquarters: The world (fully remote)
  • Company size: 508 (on LinkedIn)

Capabilities:

✅ Graphic Design

✅ Digital Ads & Marketing Design

✅ Motion Graphics Design

✅ Illustration & Infographic Design

✅ Brand Identity Design

✅ Video Production

✅ Landing Page Design

✅ PowerPoint Presentation Design

✅ Print, Merchandise, and Packaging Design

✅ Design & Brand Consulting

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Superside is not the lone wolf in the forest of outsourced design services. Many competitors offer similar solutions but fall short of Superside’s complete package.

Sometimes you don’t need a fully-loaded Porsche 911 Turbo when a 2011 Toyota will suffice. But, as you compare, consider the cost of maintaining an older car and the joy (or lack thereof) of driving it—opportunity cost, or finding a new-to-you jalopy ...again, can be a source of stress you don't need.

Penji

Penji is an unlimited graphic design service ideal for small businesses and agencies with predictable design needs. Their tech-enabled platform makes requesting designs easy for anyone on your team to submit briefs, collaborate, and provide feedback in the same place.

You work directly with one or two designers, depending on your plan, and so quality relies heavily on the talent assigned to you. Suppose you’re unhappy with your Penji designs. In that case, they’ll give you a new designer meaning you’ll have to onboard another designer that hopefully meets the brand standards and quality you’ve come to expect.

Penji offers unlimited revisions, except everything happens in a queue. So, your designer doesn’t move on to your next project until finishing the first one. At Superside, if one project is caught in a feedback loop, your Superside team will quickly bring on more designers to facilitate a new request and get it done within your chosen period.

  • Pricing: $499 to $999 per month
  • Talent: After passing Penji’s test, only the top 2% of designers who apply are hired.
  • Features:
    • Collaboration platform for brand assets, messaging with the designer (higher paid plans unlock a dedicated designer) and storing any assets you created with Penji. You can also add more team members.
    • A ”self-service” onboarding process
    • 15-day money-back guarantee
  • Turnaround time: Typically 24- 48 hours (more complex projects like landing pages and infographics require more time)
  • Notable customers: Lyft, Reebok, University of Pennsylvania
  • Headquarters: Camden, New Jersey
  • Company size: 70 (on LinkedIn)
  • Penji’s Portfolio

Capabilities:

✅ Graphic Design

✅ Digital Ads & Marketing Design

❌ Motion Graphics Design

✅ Illustration & Infographic Design

❌ Brand Identity Design (Penji creates the assets (e.g. logo) based on your input but won’t fully develop your brand guidelines, including colors and fonts.)

❌ Video Production

✅ Landing Page Design

✅ PowerPoint Presentation Design

✅ Print, Merchandise, and Packaging Design

❌ Design & Brand Consulting

Design Pickle

Design Pickle allows you to submit design requests on their platform, and even though they have a queue system, you can rearrange the queue, allowing you to reprioritize as your needs change.

If you have multiple priorities at any time, you’ll need to onboard another designer (which may create quality control issues). If your designer goes on vacation or stops responding, they’ll give you a new designer, making getting quality designs difficult.

You can access many design capabilities from one of their 500 designers worldwide. As for quality, the details are lacking. Their vetting process includes an interview and a design test, so take the time to review your assigned designer’s portfolio.

A designer can have a full-time job while working for Design Pickle, which may hurt your deliverables if your designer is busy, distracted or unfocused. They allow this “side-hustle” because their designers are not employees; they’re freelancers. Without full-time dedicated designers, your design queue could be a long line of mistakes.

  • Pricing: $499 to $1,695 per month (motion graphics only available with the costliest plan)
  • Talent: Anyone can apply so long as they have advanced knowledge of Adobe CC programs and a good internet connection. Then there is a communications assessment and a skills test—a single design request related to their potential future role (e.g. graphic for social media).
  • Features:
    • Easy collaboration platform for storing multiple brand assets, providing feedback and revision requests with your designer, and some slick integrations with Slack, Asana, and Google Drive to name a few. You can also add any team member any time you like
    • A ”self-service” onboarding process where you watch a few videos and answer some questions
    • 30 day, 100% money-back guarantee
  • Turnaround time: Typically 24- 48 hours (more complex projects like illustrations and motion graphics could require five business days).
  • Notable customers: Design Pickle targets small to mid-sized businesses. Their last three case studies are from Science from Scientists (a non-profit), APAN (A Podcast About Nothing), and Madak (a boutique marketing agency).
  • Headquarters: Scottsdale, Arizona
  • Company size: 437 (on LinkedIn)
  • Design Pickle Portfolio


Capabilities:

✅ Graphic Design

✅ Digital Ads & Marketing Design

✅ Motion Graphics Design (with the most expensive plan)

✅ Illustration & Infographic Design

✅ Brand Identity Design (Design Pickle can create a brand book, but they aren’t brand consultants)

❌ Video Production

✅ Landing Page Design

✅ PowerPoint Presentation Design

✅ Print, Merchandise, and Packaging Design

❌ Design & Brand Consulting

Many Pixels

The Many Pixels platform allows you to submit design requests in a queue which you can reorder based on priority. Their platform is also how you’ll communicate directly with any designer, access your files and where your brand assets are stored.

Their “battled-tested” designers are employees whose only requirement is three years of proven experience.

When you pay more, you can add more designers to unlock more design requests and different capabilities (like illustrations, logos, and branding). You can access a dedicated designer, Slack communication, and same-day turnarounds at their most expensive.

While not advertised on their homepage, they are hiring project managers who will be responsible for 10+ designers and a portfolio of 80+(!) clients. In other words, quality may be an issue, especially when these project managers only need to understand Office and project management platforms. Reviews are relatively positive, but you can find the juicy details in negative reviews, like one customer complaining of having to play “find the error” with every design (you can play the game on their homepage, too).

  • Pricing: $449 to $999 per month (motion graphics only available with the costliest plan)
  • Talent: Requires three years of experience as a full-time or freelance designer working with Adobe Suite. Their job posting says they must be able to work on more than one assignment at a time and respect deadlines. The applicant must write and speak in perfect English.
  • Features:
    • A simple platform to request any design you need where you can create multiple brand profiles, communicate with your designer, leave feedback directly on the graphics and invite your team to provide input collectively.
    • A 5-step self-serve onboarding process
    • 14 day, money-back guarantee
  • Turnaround time: Typically 24-48 hours (more complex projects require a dedicated designer plan to keep the timeline viable).
  • Notable customers: Teachable, Buffer, European Investment Bank
  • Headquarters: Singapore
  • Company size: 38 (on LinkedIn)
  • Many Pixels Portfolio

Capabilities (for advanced to dedicated designer plans):

✅ Graphic Design

✅ Digital Ads & Marketing Design

❌ Motion Graphics Design

✅ Illustration & Infographic Design

✅ Brand Identity Design

❌ Video Production

✅ Landing Page Design

✅ PowerPoint Presentation Design

❌ Print, Merchandise, and Packaging Design

❌ Design & Brand Consulting

Kimp

Kimp differentiates itself by putting all its design services into two categories: graphic design services, video services, or both.


While they don’t have a purpose-built platform for design requests or feedback, they piggyback on Trello (you may have heard of’em). The Trello board gives you brief templates, hosts your brand guidelines, and facilitates email communication between you and your design team. It’s also where you can re-prioritize design requests.


Design requests are limited to 2 at any given time per subscription. So, if you have two designs stuck in a feedback loop and another time-sensitive request comes up, you’ll need to add a subscription (with new designers) or submit an email they’ll hopefully see, causing them to stop what they’re doing, and change gears. If you expect your business to grow beyond two requests per day, plan accordingly.


Their video service, a rarity for most outsourced design services, is editing your raw footage. They can do simple explainer videos, video ads, and logo animations, but if your video needs a human touch, you’ll have to outsource that (or buy a ring light, mic, and use your mobile phone).


  • Pricing: $499 to $895 per month
  • Talent: Kimp hires full-time professionals proficient in the Adobe Suite of products. You get a team that includes 1 Project Manager and 3 Designers to ensure some level of quality control.
  • Features:
    • A simple platform to request any design you need (within their capabilities). You can create multiple brand profiles, communicate with your designer, leave feedback directly on the graphics and invite your team to provide feedback collectively.
    • A 5-step self-serve onboarding process
    • 14 day, money-back guarantee
  • Turnaround time: Typically 24-48 hours (more complex projects require a dedicated designer plan to keep the timeline viable).
  • Notable customers: Harley Davidson, Universal Music, Single Grain
  • Headquarters: Markham, Canada
  • Company size: 104 (on LinkedIn)
  • Kimp Portfolio


Capabilities:

✅ Graphic Design

✅ Digital Ads & Marketing Design

✅ Motion Graphics Design

✅ Illustration & Infographic Design

✅ Brand Identity Design

❌ Video Production (video editing and motion graphics are available)

✅ Landing Page Design

✅ PowerPoint Presentation Design

❌ Print, Merchandise, and Packaging Design

❌ Design & Brand Consulting


Lightboard


Lightboard advertises its design services for sales and marketing teams, so their most “popular” requests are for presentations, PDF documents (one-pagers, sales sheets, etc.), and social media ads.


Their designers are 100% U.S.-based and are generally vetted through their portfolios, accepting less than 3% of applicants into their system. You need expertise with professional design tools like Adobe, Sketch, and Figma and experience with Powerpoint and Keynote to apply as a designer. Lighthouse hires freelance designers who are only allowed to work with the company (no side-hustles permitted).  They do give you a full-time account manager to oversee the design process.


You can submit a project request via email today, or for better pricing, you can get a monthly, quarterly, or annual membership and access to their collaboration platform. Lightboard’s software allows you to submit briefs, provide feedback, and invite other team members.


  • Pricing:
    • Monthly membership starts at US$2,750/month for 25 hours ($110/hour).
    • Annual membership goes up to $67,200 for 900 design hours ($75/hour).
    • Without a membership, hourly pricing is $150/hour. Same-day estimates are available on request.
  • Talent: Lightboard uses freelance designers in the U.S. and does their best to match your timezone. You also get an account manager to ensure your final assets' quality and timely delivery.
  • Features:
    • A collaboration platform to request small projects, communicate with your account manager and provide feedback.
    • Designated account manager
  • Turnaround time: Typically 24-48 hours, but with any revisions, it may take 5-8 business days.
  • Notable customers: Github, Tile, Autodesk
  • Headquarters: Seattle, WA
  • Company size: 7 (on LinkedIn)
  • Lightboard Portfolio


Capabilities:

✅ Graphic Design

✅ Digital Ads & Marketing Design

✅ Motion Graphics Design

✅ Illustration & Infographic Design

✅ Brand Identity Design

❌ Video Production

✅ Landing Page Design

✅ PowerPoint Presentation Design

✅ Print, Merchandise, and Packaging Design

❌ Design & Brand Consulting

Shuttlerock

Shuttlerock designs ads for Facebook, TikTok, Amazon, Pinterest and more with more than 200 full-time employees spread across 14 offices worldwide. They offer a collaboration platform to submit briefs, request revisions, and an API export to deploy your creative assets to your social media channels.

You can lock into a 12, 24, or 36-month creative plan and access design capabilities from static to video and AR in over 30 languages.

One unique feature is Shuttlerock Live, where you can sit with your designer to co-create your next ad over a video call in as little as 6 hours. Be sure whoever needs to be consulted on designs is on that call.

  • Pricing:
    • Annual membership is $7,500 when billed quarterly.
    • If you can afford to pay annually, your price drops to $6,500 per month (or $78,000 billed annually).
    • If you lock in for three years, you’ll pay $72,000 per year.
  • Talent: Shuttlerock’s headquarters are in New Zealand, with other principal offices in the United States, Vietnam and Malaysia. They hire full-time designers, and, depending on the skill requirement, your designer may be fresh out of school or have years of experience with industry-standard tools and a portfolio of projects.
  • Features:
    • Shuttlerock Cloud is their creative collaboration platform featuring guided ordering, briefing, teamwide collaboration, and API integration for your social channels.
    • A dedicated strategist trained in social platform best practices.
    • Shuttlerock Labs opens the doors to cutting-edge formats, including AR, VR, and playable ads.
  • Turnaround time: 3-5 days, but with Shuttlerock live, you can co-create with a designer in as little as 6 hours over a video call.
  • Notable customers: P&G, Burger King, Tinder, Nestle, Heineken, KFC
  • Headquarters: Nelson, New Zealand
  • Company size: 209 (on LinkedIn)
  • Shuttlerock Portfolio (they don’t have a portfolio, but you can see some of their work on their site)


Capabilities :

✅ Graphic Design

✅ Digital Ads & Marketing Design

✅ Motion Graphics Design

❌ Illustration & Infographic Design

❌ Brand Identity Design

❌ Video Production

❌ Landing Page Design

❌ PowerPoint Presentation Design

❌ Print, Merchandise, and Packaging Design

❌ Design & Brand Consulting



Designed.co

Designed.co’s monthly subscription features unlimited designs and revisions, one-day average turnaround times and a design-ops team complete with a designer, art director and project manager.


Their team consists of full-time employees located across North America. You can communicate with your design team on their collaborative platform to submit briefs, provide feedback and manage files (like rearranging priority projects).


On average, they complete 5-7 designs/revisions in a given month. If you need more, you can “stack” subscriptions or pay at least $750 for a one-off project that takes five or more days to complete.


  • Pricing:
    • Starts at US$2250/month for a 6-month prepaid plan, or you can opt for month-to-month pricing at US$2500.
    • For the ultimate savings, lock in for a year at US$24,000.
  • Talent: At a minimum, talent must possess skills and knowledge of the Adobe Creative Suite, social media, and have a portfolio or website.
  • Features:
    • Collaboration platform to submit projects, manage users and payments, and store your assets.
    • Design team with designer, art director, and project manager.
  • Turnaround time: 1-2 day turnaround on most projects
  • Notable customers: Rinnai, Allstate, Subway
  • Headquarters: Miami Beach, Florida
  • Company size: 11 (on LinkedIn)
  • Designed.co portfolio



Capabilities:

✅ Graphic Design

✅ Digital Ads & Marketing Design

❌ Motion Graphics Design

✅ Illustration & Infographic Design

✅ Brand Identity Design

❌ Video Production

✅ Landing Page Design

✅ PowerPoint Presentation Design

✅ Print, Merchandise, and Packaging Design (not packaging)

❌ Design & Brand Consulting

Sketchdeck

Sketchdeck is an on-demand design partner whether you have a one-time design need or hundreds of projects per year.  However, If you want a consistent creative team to ensure coherent design stylings, you’ll need to commit at least $2,000 per month to access 20 hours of total work from any required skillset, be it a Designer, Director, or Project Manager.

If you want more hours, your designer is $150/hour, and your director is $200/hour on the membership plan. One more level up, the enterprise plan gives you 100 hours with a commitment of $9,500 per month, where you also get an Account Director who supports your business planning and strategy

A membership plan also gives you access to their design collaboration platform to see your designs and provide feedback on them. With the Enterprise plan, you can receive onboarding at your office.

  • Pricing:
    • Membership plans start at $2,000 and go up to $9,500 per month for 100 base hours.
    • If you need more hours, a designer is $150 per hour on the membership plan or $143 per hour on the Enterprise plan.
  • Talent: A design director needs 10+ years of experience, expert knowledge of digital creative function and competencies across mediums, and expertise in Figma, Sketch, and the Adobe Suite.
  • Features:
    • Collaboration platform to initiate any new project, review with your team and distribute finished assets
    • Design team with designer, art director, and project manager.
  • Turnaround time: The standard turnaround time is 2-4 days per iteration (including revisions). With express delivery, they can move standard-size projects to the top of the queue and deliver in 12-36 hours for a 50% premium.
  • Notable customers: Asana, Remy Cointreau, Thrive Savings
  • Headquarters: Walnut, CA
  • Company size: 58 (on LinkedIn)
  • Designed.co portfolio

Capabilities:

✅ Graphic Design

✅ Digital Ads & Marketing Design

✅ Motion Graphics Design

✅ Illustration & Infographic Design

✅ Brand Identity Design

❌ Video Production

✅ Landing Page Design

✅ PowerPoint Presentation Design

✅ Print, Merchandise, and Packaging Design

✅ Design & Brand Consulting


Designity

Designity offers a virtual creative team on-demand. Your team consists of a single Creative Director who hand-picks freelance creative specialists who nominate themselves for each project if their skills match the request. Your Director ensures brand alignment and quality control from the creatives.

They vet their creatives through the application process, which requires a portfolio and an interview before taking on a creative challenge (i.e. sample project). If the creative passes the challenge, they’re placed into three talent levels—emerging, senior, or pro—based on their experience. Your pricing plan will reflect the talent you can access.

Designity’s Essentials plan, at $2,995 per month, unlocks access to an “emerging” creative, one weekly video call for one person on your team and a limited scope of services (mainly graphic design and illustration for web, print, and merchandise). To access their full range of services and one “pro” creative, you need their premium plan at $7,995 per month, including three weekly video calls with seats for three team members.

  • Pricing:
    • Starts at $2,995 per month with a limited scope of services and one weekly call.
    • For $4,995 per month, you get more design services, two video calls, and two team members.
    • The Premium $7,995 per month plan unlocks all design services and three seats for your team to collaborate with your director.
  • Talent: Your Creative Director is a freelance project manager with at least three areas of design expertise. They manage timelines, budgets, project briefs, and workflows for 5-7 clients at a time. Based on your monthly package, they receive a commission—30% to manage emerging creatives and 25% to manage pro creatives.
  • Features:
    • Collaboration platform to communicate with your Creative Director and manage project queues.
    • They offer mobile app design, front-end and back-end development, and content and copywriting services.
    • 2-week trial aka if you cancel within 14 days, you can get a refund
  • Turnaround time: Depending on the project and scope, it can take 1-10 days to complete a project. If another project comes up that you need to be delivered fast, you can purchase another plan or upgrade your current one to access more creatives.
  • Notable customers: Audible, Anaheim Ducks, Vital Farms
  • Headquarters: New York, New York
  • Company size: 51 (on LinkedIn)
  • Designity portfolio

Capabilities:

✅ Graphic Design

✅ Digital Ads & Marketing Design

✅ Motion Graphics Design

✅ Illustration & Infographic Design

✅ Brand Identity Design

✅ Video Production 

✅ Landing Page Design

✅ PowerPoint Presentation Design

✅ Print, Merchandise, and Packaging Design

❌ Design & Brand Consulting

Which Outsourced Design Service Is Right for You?

There are many creative design solutions on the market, so picking the perfect service for you comes down to knowing your needs and goals.

  • If you have a tight budget, consider services like Kimp, Design Pickle, or  Penji. Understand that you’re giving up consistency and reliability and caps on your “unlimited” designs.
  • If you have to meet deadlines, Designity, Sketchdesk, Shuttlerock, and Lightboard are not the greatest choices, with turnaround times sometimes taking as long as ten days.
  • If you want a scaleable, dedicated team with world-class designers, 12-hour turnarounds, and access to all design capabilities, book a 15-minute call and see how well we work with global, ambitious brands by embedding our design team into your structure.

Choosing the right solution for your organization isn’t easy, but we hope our list is helping shine a light on the differences to help you make an informed decision.







Published: May 13, 2022
Tyler Wade
Written by
Tyler Wade

Tyler is a content marketing manager at Superside with a passion for writing, mental wealth, and fatherhood.

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