Frequently Asked Questions

Common Q&A On:

Bidding Process and Background

Q1. Why did the university contract with a group of creative agencies?

Over the past several years, the university has made operational excellence a priority. Operational excellence is about identifying areas to increase efficiency and effectiveness without compromising quality. It means the university must think differently about how it has historically conducted business and used data to drive decision-making. During the operational excellence review of communications and marketing practices universitywide, which was conducted by University Communications (UC), creative services was identified as an area with high potential for the optimization and modernization of business practices in order to increase efficiency and effectiveness.

A universitywide contract serves multiple purposes:

  • Ensures brand consistency: Assets associated with UB across all units will have a consistent and cohesive look that is aligned with the university’s branding.
  • Enables cost efficiencies: We are able to take advantage of scale when everyone is using the same group of agencies.
  • Saves time: Contracts are already in place with each vendor and therefore creating a PO is expedited and you can begin work sooner.

Q2. What are the benefits of using these designated vendors?

  • Brand integration and consistency: UC provides annual training to the vendors on UB’s overall identity and brand strategy, with detailed instructions on photography, graphical elements, typography, color, etc.
  • Time and cost efficiencies: Production can begin immediately upon receiving the lowest bid (if using state funds) and submission of a short media brief. Without these contracts, any state-funded project required an RFQ or RFP, for which you would have to distribute and track results. This new process not only saves the unit time but also Procurement in managing contracts.
  • Low contractual risk: Working directly with a select group of creative vendors who have agreed to the New York State terms and conditions limits the university’s exposure to risk.
  • University Communications is available to the contracted vendors as well as UB units as a resource to help navigate any challenges that might arise. Please contact Becky Farnham,  Elena Conti-Blatto or Amy Cassidy for additional support.

Q3. Why was the decision made to select multiple agencies/vendors?

Many units across campus use outside vendors for creative services. Thus, it was deemed important to have a reasonably large selection to ensure timely service and appropriate attention to each unit. We also wanted to provide a range of vendors, from individual freelancers to full-service creative agencies—with expertise in a variety of areas—allowing each unit to find the best fit for their particular projects.

Q4. How long are these contracts in place?

Each of these contracts has a five-year term that runs through July 2028.

Working with Vendors

Q5. How do I start working with one of these vendors?

If you are using state funds, you must fill out a request for quote form that is automatically sent to each vendor. The project will be awarded to the lowest bidder. If you are using UBF or RF funding sources, you will begin by filling out a short creative brief. This will help the vendor understand your creative needs as well as the timing. The vendor will then schedule a kickoff meeting to review the brief with you and/or your team. (Please refer to the step-by-step procedures for more detailed information.)

Q6. If I don’t have experience with any of these vendors, how do I know which vendor will be the best fit for my creative needs?

Please review the vendor information page, which outlines their specialties, as well as presentations and websites to view more of their work. 

Q7. What types of costs/fees are associated with using these vendors?

  • The hourly rate is set for each of the vendors and ranges from $70 per hour to $140 per hour.
  • The costs will be fully transparent and outlined in the project estimate based on the approved (contractual) hourly rate and the anticipated number of hours for project completion.
  • Initial RFQ submissions are not inclusive of direct costs, such as photography/stock imagery. Those fees would be added onto a final invoice.
  • Please contact University Communications if you have specific questions about contract rates and overall costs.

Q8. We are working with one of the creative vendors. Can they hire a print vendor to produce the project for me?

No, the creative services contracts do not allow for print buying or other production costs. To select a print or production vendor, each unit is responsible for following all applicable procurement guidelines and policies. This includes competitive bidding requirements to ensure price reasonableness. Your creative services vendor may recommend print or production vendors to include in the bidding process. Contact Procurement if you have questions regarding contracting with print or production vendors.

Q9. What is not covered under these contracts?

The following services are not part of the creative service contract:

  • Print buying: Print buying and printer selection will be handled by your unit. However, the vendor may provide recommendations; given their experience, they may know which printers are best suited to handle a certain technique. If you prefer that the vendor be involved in the quoting process and selection of a printer, be sure to outline this in the request for quote form and creative brief. All print costs must be directed through the unit and not the creative services vendor.
  • Media buying: The university has a contracted agency that provides strategic planning, buying and monitoring of paid media. The creative service vendors will not be allowed to procure media for the university; however, they may be utilized to create assets that will be used in a promotional media campaign.
  • Web development/website creation: The university uses a content management system (UBCMS) and generally does not need these services. However, page updates, landing pages or project micro-sites can be developed by the vendor when it pertains to the project. Should a special circumstance arise that requires the creation of a page or small site within the UBCMS, this facet of the project will be collaboratively negotiated with University Communications.
  • Photography: Image assets should ideally be obtained from the university’s photo database, stock photography (when appropriate) or your unit. Original photography is also a possibility, but discouraged if not necessary.
  • Videography services: Large, multiday video projects are not covered as part of this agreement.

Q10. What if I’m already working with an agency for creative services? Can I continue to use this agency and not one of the eight that have been awarded contracts?

You will need to work with one of the eight vendors awarded the contract for all creative/design service projects. The exception would be for editorial services such as copywriting. You are not required to use these vendors for editorial services, including proofreading. Additionally, if you receive creative services from a freelancer who is a sole proprietor and they are paid via an honoraria, you may continue to use their services.

We have every confidence that the selected group of vendors will be able to get up to speed quickly and provide exceptional service to your unit. University Communications is available to help ensure a smooth transition from your current vendor to one of the selected vendors for this contract.

If you are in a contract or formal agreement with another agency, vendor or freelancer, please contact University Communications and Procurement Services. Together, we will discuss how you can best transition while adhering to any current contractual obligations.

Q11. I get a special discounted rate with the creative vendors/freelancers I use because of our long-standing relationships. Why can’t I continue to contract with them for my creative needs?

Several factors were considered by the committee in the selection of these eight vendors, including not only price but the quality of their work and their experience in the higher education/non-profit sectors. Additionally, the eight vendors receive annual training from UC to ensure brand compliance.

The pricing from our pool of eight vendors is very competitive; the range of hourly rates available is most likely in line with your discounted rate and may even be lower. Therefore, a transition to one of the eight vendors should not impact your project budget.

Finally, it is important that all of UB’s business operations are in alignment with SUNY and state ethical and procurement requirements. Leveraging these universitywide contracts ensures quality and business continuity.

Request for Quote

Q12. Why is it necessary to fill out an RFQ form that's issued to eight vendors? I always just call one vendor and discuss the project verbally. This seems like it will be time consuming.

The request for quote form is a requirement made by the New York State comptroller when using state funds. There are signficant advantages to the university as a whole for this process, including time and cost effeciencies for multiple units, brand consistency, low contractual risk and more.

See Q2 for more information on the benefits of leveraging this shared contract.

Q13. What if I have multiple projects, like a campaign? Or a project that includes multiple phases, but requires continuity? For example, a viewbook that needs updates the following two years.

If you have multiple jobs or jobs that span multiple years that would benefit from using the same vendor, you may fill out the request for quote form for multiple projects. An example of a multiyear quote might be a semiannual newsletter, or viewbook development in year one and simple updates in year two. An example of multiple jobs is a campaign that contains pieces that work together, like a postcard, brochure and poster that are part of one cohesive campaign. Requesting a quote for multiple jobs at once is an acceptable practice as long as the unit includes a strong business case for requiring continuity with one creative agency. In order to do so, the unit must outline each project, including deadlines and other details, within the initial request for quote form.

Q14. If a vendor is not interested, do they have to submit a bid? If they do not respond, are they required to say why?

There is no penalty to a vendor for declining to bid on a project, regardless of the reason. They are not required to provide further information.

Q15. I’ve contacted all eight vendors and none of them are able to complete my project. What do I do?

In the unlikely scenario that none of the eight vendors are able to complete your project, please contact University Communications and Procurement Services to discuss your options.

Q16. What if a vendor has a question about the RFQ?

Vendors may ask questions to the unit representative who filled out the original RFQ via phone or email. If the question and answer are significant enough to change the hours quoted, the question and answer should be remitted to all vendors via email.

Q17. What if a unit realizes there are mistakes within the RFQ?

The unit should notify all vendors about the correction via email and it may provide more time to submit a response, depending on the scope of the error. The RFQ should not be resubmitted. 

Q18. Does the five-day submission deadline begin from the time or the day of submission?

Vendor responses are due by 11:59 p.m. on the fifth business day from when it was received. For example, if an RFQ is sent by a UB unit at 11:05 a.m. on a Friday, vendors must submit a response by 11:59 p.m. on the following Thursday. 

Q19. What if a project is canceled while vendors are submitting responses?

The unit representative must notify all vendors of the job cancellation via email. 

Q20. What if there is a tie for lowest bidder?

The unit representative may select the vendor between the lowest cost options.

Q21. Who is responsible for notifying the awarded vendor and all others who submitted a response?

The unit representative must notify the lowest-cost vendor and all others who submitted. 

Q22. Why is a creative brief necessary?

Regardless of the project's funding source, a creative brief provides a clear outline of the project’s scope and helps the vendor understand all aspects of the project: the objective, target audience, voice and tone of the creative, along with deliverables and timeline. It puts everyone on the same page and makes the ensuing discussions more efficient and effective.

Q23. What if the awarded vendor is unable to complete the project(s)?

For state-funded (including IFR-funded) projects, if work has already begun, the project must be re-quoted using the RFQ process. If the project was awarded to a vendor but no work has begun on the project, the unit may select the next lowest bidder.

If UBF or RF funds are used, the unit may simply select another vendor. Please notify UC in this event.

Q24. What if the project scope changes and a change order is required?

If, during the course of your project, you find the scope has changed, please discuss this with the vendor. If these changes result in a cost increase, the vendor must provide an updated estimate, and in turn, you will provide written approval of the new costs before work can begin again. For example, a 12-page magazine has grown into 24-pages. This does not apply to entirely new, ad hoc projects, e.g., a request for a poster when only a brochure was indicated in the RFQ. In these cases, a new RFQ must be submitted.

For a UBF/RF-funded project with a purchase order, a change order is required to reflect the project's change in scope. Please send the updated estimate to Procurement Services (Bethany Scibetta) and request a change order on the PO.

For state/IFR-funded projects, no formal change order is needed. For record-keeping purposes, you may attach the updated estimate to the original ShopBlue order as a comment. However, since an individual PO was not issued for the project, no further action is needed. 

Procurement and Payment

Q25. Which funding source can I use under this contract?

You can use state (including IFR), Research Foundation (RF) or UBF funding sources.

Q26. How are change orders processed?

For projects using state (including IFR) funds, no change orders are required. Simply submit an invoice with the higher amount once the project is complete. For record-keeping purposes you may wish to add any updated estimates for your project to the ShopBlue order as a comment.

For projects using RF/UBF funds, units can follow the typical change order process.

Q27. How is a receiver for a final invoice processed at the end of a project?

For projects with state/IFR funds, please send it to with an OK to pay and the account number to be charged. For projects with RF/UBF funds, follow the standard receiver process.

Q28. For state/IFR-funded projects, how will end-of-month charges back to the unit appear within SIRI?

To assist with SIRI reconciliations, the charge will appear on the unit's account number that was given during the ShopBlue order and the description of the charge will show as Invoice Date, Vendor Name, Invoice Number (i.e.,  2/1 Big Yellow Taxi – 1234).


Q29. Who is responsible for proofreading?

If copy is supplied directly by the UB unit, the vendor is not liable for any text errors. Proofreading is incumbent on the unit to facilitate. Should you require additional editorial services such as copywriting and proofreading, the selected vendor may provide them at an additional fee. However, there is no requirement to do so.

Q30. Does the vendor have to buy the licenses for the brand typography?

No, University Communications has provided one license per vendor for the typeface families of Sofia Pro, More Pro and Freeland for the term of this contract.

Q31. Who was on the RFP committee responsible for the selection of these eight vendors?

Every effort was made to assemble a committee representing a cross section of the university. The nine committee members were:

  • College of Arts and Sciences: Kristy Strough
  • Academic Affairs: Dawn Reed
  • Student Life: Alan Kegler
  • School of Nursing: Sarah Goldthrite
  • Division of University Advancement: Kristin Lowe
  • Division of University Communications: Jeff Smith, Elena Conti-Blatto, Becky Farnham, Devon Jerla

Q32. I have more questions. Who do I contact?

Please reach out to University Communications with any further questions.