In my previous post, What you Need to Know When Hiring a Creative Freelancer, I briefly talked about the importance of choosing the right designer for the job, but I didn’t go into a lot of detail. Working with a designer is often a long-term commitment, and taking some extra time to decide who to hire will ensure you get someone who understands your needs, as well as a happy working relationship with someone you get along with. So here are the specifics of what exactly to look for and why.
A designer’s portfolio is probably the most important asset that will give you insight into their abilities and what they’ve worked on in the past. A great designer is creative, original in their thinking, pays attention to detail, and their portfolio will be diverse and well organised. Ask yourself if their website is also organised and easy to navigate. These are clear indications that show they care about the user experience of the people who visit their site. And as I’ve previously mentioned in my first post, choose a designer from the right field; a graphic designer who focuses primarily on typography probably won’t be able to build an app for you, though it never hurts to ask.
You’ll need to consider if a designer’s style (e.g. modern, classical, grunge, minimal) is something you want to apply to your project. This is something you don’t want to overlook as style will dictate what the end product looks like. So if you need a website design for a punk-rock band, don’t go to someone who uses a lot of flowery imagery and dainty typography. Some designers will be happy to work to a different style than they’re used to, though you can’t rely on all of them to do the same.
If you’re hesitant to leap in and give a designer a big project, give them something small to start with, such as a banner design, to see if you’re happy with what they do.
In some cases, location is a very important factor in design work. Urgent projects are better left to designers who are close by, as you don’t want to spend hours waiting for their next response because they’re in another country, working in a different time zone. But if you’re in no rush and you’ve got your sights set on someone based on the opposite side of the world, go and reach out to them.
Another advantage of proximity is geographic knowledge; a designer who’s close to a client will be familiar with the cities around them and be more in touch with the local culture. This is especially useful in advertising; they know how the people act, what they want, and what goes on in certain areas. For example, a designer in Melbourne will produce better content for a show in Australia than someone in Spain. I’ve produced content for competitions for events in other countries and thought that if I was able to go there and experience it for myself, I’d have created even better work because it would give me a deeper understanding.
Even though you may be working to a budget, price shouldn’t be the most important factor. After all, shouldn’t the work you get in the end outweigh the cost? Okay, not everyone has a lot to spare, and design work has the potential to be expensive. Ask for hourly rates, get quotes, and most importantly, have a budget. There’s nothing worse than coughing up more cash than you were willing to because you didn’t ask how much it would cost, or you weren’t aware of your exact needs. I guess finding a designer with rates that fit your budget is a no-brainer, so if you can’t afford to pay that amazing designer, save up for a while longer, or find someone a bit cheaper.
Some things that affect cost include:
The designer’s experience and skill set
Scope of the project
Type of project
Value of the project
Number of revisions
While qualifications are a nice bonus, experience will trump education every time. Where a designer went to school to learn their craft is impertinent when they have a portfolio full of professional work. Did you know, a great deal of creatives are self-taught, their primary resources from books and on the internet, and have had great success in landing clients. Ultimately, when it comes down to it, the quality of a designer’s work and their experience will normally be far more important than anything else.
Don’t automatically dismiss people who are new to the design world. You’d be surprised by the amount of stunning work new-comers produce. Of course, if you have a complicated project and you’re feeling uneasy about trusting someone who’s just left school, you may be better off with someone who has a few more years of experience.
A good designer can give you an awesome logo, but a great designer will give you an awesome logo and be able to justify their design decisions. While you may want the logo for your new restaurant to be blue, your designer may think that red or yellow is more suitable because these colours, on a psychological level, make people hungry when they see them. Knowing what works and what doesn’t will definitely give your business an advantage over others, so listen to your designer because they may have suggestions that broaden your view and ideas that you may have never thought of. How do you know if the designer you want to hire knows what they’re talking about? Look for explanations alongside the projects in their portfolio, but if there aren’t any, ask them!
Communication is probably the most important factor in any working relationship. As part of the creative process, you will most likely be in contact with your designer on a regular basis, via phone, email, or even in person. The purpose of this communication could be anything; feedback, sharing ideas, questions about your brief etc. Asking questions beyond the information you provide, active listening, and clarification are all signs that your designer has effective communication skills. This will limit hiccups during the design process, especially if you possess these skills too.
Tying in with communication is what level of involvement you wish to have in the project; if you wish to take a hands-off approach to it, then it may not be very important for you to find someone who is open and approachable when it comes to feedback and criticism. You may be best off with someone who is simply able to get a brief and create a finished product without any input or assistance. Conversely, if you wish to take a more involved approach, such a person would be a hindrance to your project and you would likely be better served by someone who is very open and responsive to feedback.
Finding a designer who can give you amazing work is great, and finding someone you can easily get along with is a bonus, especially in long-term projects. Some may find that great work is enough and that a designer’s personality is irrelevant. Though people who crave social contact may want to find someone with similar traits to themselves in order make the experience of working with someone as enjoyable as possible. Before launching into a project, consider if you can work with the designer. Listen to the tone in their emails and phone calls, do they sound friendly? Are they interested in your project? Ask yourself if this is someone you can see yourself working with.
While not every point I’ve addressed may be important to you, this will hopefully aid you in your search for a designer who’s suitable for you and your business.
© Lisa Bradbury