What Do I Need to Look For in Hiring a Designer?

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“It is not enough that we build products that function, that are understandable and usable, we also need to build products that bring joy and excitement, pleasure and fun, and, yes, beauty to people’s lives.”
–Don Norman

If you're just hopping into the Design Transparency Series, check out the intro post here! My goal with this blog post series is to equip, empower and add a little more transparency to the mystery of working with a designer by answering popular questions that you have about the design process and hiring and working with a designer.


No matter what your project or business, there is a designer out there, probably many, that would be the perfect fit. The trick is finding the right ones, when there are so many great ones out there. 

Finding the right designer is very subjective and can be different based on the project, so in this blogpost, I will give main tips on what you need to look for when you are researching, googling, going through instagram, pinterest or dribble to find the right designer for your project.

I encourage you, when looking for a designer, to do your research. Ask business friends who they used, look around on social media, and use google search, but hone in on your search terms so that you get quality designers and not the template sites, like we talked about in this blogpost.

Good designers will add value to your business!

Good designers will add value to your business, so as you are researching and finding designers who stick out to you, make sure to go through my quick list to check off that you are getting everything you want, and everything you need for your investment.

 

#1: Know yourself and your business well

You can’t start working with someone ON your business if you don’t KNOW your business. So start thinking about your goals - one year goals and 5-10 year goals. Think about your industry, your product or service, and your competitors. Think about why you do what you do and what makes you different. Think about your customers and who you love serving, and who you’d rather not serve. Think about what they value and why they buy from you. Then think about your budget and your timeline.

You can't start working with someone on your business if you don't know your business.

You want to find a designer that will encourage your goals, compliment your industry and services, and challenge your branding to align with your goals, set yourself apart from your competitors and reach the people you love to serve.

 

#2: Make sure your project fits into their wheelhouse

Now this is an encouragement, because growth doesn’t happen until you get a client or a project outside of your comfort zone that challenges you, but if you’re looking for something specialized or specific, make sure the designers you are looking at have the skill in their wheelhouse to get you the most value for your investment.

  • If you need some extra help with strategy or a marketing plan, find a designer that is known for or markets that they offer that.
  • If you just need a simple logo design to start out with, don’t choose a thousand dollar branding package or a luxury designer.
  • If you need a rebrand for your business to grow out of a certain industry or clientele, you need to look at some designers who have done rebrands before and can show the positive change for the client.
  • If you’ve been in business a long time and have a good budget and vision to work with, look for a luxury or high-end designer.

Look at each designer’s offerings. If you specifically need a website, don’t pick a designer who talks only about print design and doesn’t have web design as an offering on their website or examples in their portfolio. If you want beautiful, custom-made, foil stamped, letterpressed business cards, do your research and go to the designers who have business cards in their portfolio and talk about print design on social media.

Now this is why I said that these are all encouragements, not rules, because each designer is constantly learning and developing their skills as they go. Maybe you meet a designer who doesn’t market that they design websites, because they are building their web portfolio on the side and plan to launch it as a full offering. Or maybe a designer was a print-based designer in another world, but their current clientele don’t need print, so they don’t show examples of print, but still talk about it on their blog or social media.

With #1, do your research, ask questions and make sure you pick a designer who can easily do everything that you need done.

 

#3: Would you want a logo/project in their portfolio to be yours?

Each designer has a specific style, not matter how much they try to vary their style and be everything to everyone, their style will come out in certain ways. As you are viewing portfolios and instagram feeds, find a few projects and ask yourself, would I want this logo to be mine? And would I be happy with it? Of course, the designer will make a totally custom logo or project for you, but you should be looking at their overall style and making sure that it fits your project and your business.

You should be looking at their overall style and making sure it fits your project.

If a designer has a specific style that you like, but doesn’t fit with your current project, you may bookmark them for a future project and find someone who best fits the style. Or reach out and ask them about it. Designers can be very intuitive and will turn you down if they don’t think it’s the right fit.

 

#4: Will your personalities work well together

Now this is also just an encouragement. I’ve worked with plenty of clients who haven’t ended up as my best friend, and that’s perfectly fine. I loved their projects and working with them went extremely smooth, even if we had opposite personalities. They do say opposites attract! ( ;

But it is important to make sure that your personalities mesh and that you can work together for the amount of time that is needed. So I always suggest reading their blog and social media content. See how they reply to people’s comments on their work and view their insta stories, videos or snapchats and see how they act on the other side of a screen.

The consultation will be very important piece of seeing their personality in action without the sleek and polish you get with social media.

 

#5: Make sure their process is for you

The process is very important and each designer’s process is different, but there are also several things that should be in each designer’s process so that you come out with a great finished project. I talk about my process and the things that a designer can bring to a project in this blogpost.

Those contact forms aren't there just to look pretty!

If the designer doesn’t have their process or at least an overview on their website, reach out. Those contact forms aren’t there just to look pretty. ( :

Here are a few things that I tell recommend looking for in a designer's process:

  • The designer should set proper expectations for you at the start. They should tell you either in person or through email what the process entails, where you will have homework, how long the process will take, when you should expect things from them, and what you get in the end. If they don’t, you need to ask about it.
  • Each designer should have a questionnaire or discovery section in their process. This will look different based on the designer, but in the beginning of the process the designer should ask you about your business. If they don’t know anything about you than what you put on the contact form, how are they going to create something that will really work for your business in the long-run?
  • Each designer should have a contract that you sign. This not only protects them from you missing a payment or cancelling last minute, but it also protects you, so that they don’t disappear with your money or don’t deliver what was promised and expected. If they don’t have a contract, especially for a long branding or logo design process, ask them why.
  • Each designer should allow a amount of time for you to make a specific quantity of edits or tweaks to the project. Now I personally work extremely close with my clients, and some designers don’t and that’s ok. But make sure that you have some say in your design or project and are able to see it as it develops.
  • The designer should have let you know in the beginning what you are to expect in the end. Whether it’s logo files, printed pieces, a finished website, digital files, etc, and you need to make sure that everything they promised is there.

 

#6: Treat the consultation like a first date

If you don’t learn anything from this blogpost, please take this advice with you. Take full advantage of any free or complimentary consultation...and treat it like a first date. If you have found a designer that you think would be a great fit and they offer to meet via skype or in-person for a consultation, ALWAYS say yes. It’s complimentary, it’s just like taking the free samples at Sam’s. No one has to commit to a long-term relationship at the end. You are just getting to know one another.

Take full advantage of any free or complimentary consultation...and treat it like a first date!

I also would encourage you to get to know their business through browsing their website, social media, portfolio, blog, so that you can ask good questions. You are getting to know each other, but like a first date, you are both deciding if you would be a good match. So if you don’t have questions, ask the ones that I gave you above, and if something doesn’t feel right about the process, the files you receive in the end, etc. just ask!


DESIGN TRANSPARENCY SERIES UPDATE:

We are going to take a little break during the holidays, but before then, we are going to hit our last topics, which will be: tips for hiring the right designer for you, what you should do to prepare yourself to work with a designer, and the main philosophies that good designers have that sets them apart from the rest.

After the holidays (I can’t believe I’m saying holidays…seriously, where has this year gone??) we’ll pick it back up and I’ll be asking for more questions to keep this series going into 2018. If you think of a question at anytime, leave comments on here or social media or send them to me directly through email.