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10 Steps to Hiring a Designer

10 Step Guide to Hiring a Designer – Full Write up

After getting a lot of positive feedback we were surprised to have a few requests for more content regarding our Infographic: 10 Step Guide to Hiring a Designer.  Below is the full content we used for the piece.  We hope you find this useful.

Objective –

This is the starting point for why you’re looking for a designer. You need to have a clear idea what the purpose, message, and goal for the project are. If you cannot clearly define this, it will be nearly impossible for you to express this to a designer. Start by first writing down what your goal is for the project. Then outline how the project lines up with other initiatives and campaigns in your company. When you’re at the interviewing stage with prospective designers, communicating your objective to them will be helpful for determining which designers are capable of achieving your goal.

Portfolio –

You can find portfolios of prospective designers in a few ways. You can ask friends for references, look up graphic design companies, or even go through freelancer sites. When you get down to looking at the individual or company’s portfolio, there are a few things you should consider. Do you like their style? Are they working with clients that are like you (e.g. Non Profit or Small Business)? If they aren’t, do you like the elements of their design enough to think they might be able to adapt their style appropriately for your brand? Also, consider how recent their design samples are. Say you’re looking for someone to do your Annual Report, and their portfolio samples are all from 2002, well maybe they’re not current enough for the look and feel you need. When looking through these portfolios write down the elements you like from your favorite designers. These are the types of projects and styles you are going to want to ask them about when it’s time for an interview.

Interviewing –

So at this point you’ve done some research on prospective designers. You know who they are, you’ve seen their portfolios, and you like some of their prior work. Here is where you’re going to determine if your personalities mesh and if they’ll be a good partner for your project. You shouldn’t be looking for a BFF here, but you do want to avoid divas as well. There are a couple of things to note before you start your interview with them either in person, on the phone, or even through Skype. Are they on time for the meeting? If they’re not, chances are their time management with your project will also be poor. Are they professional? Do they ask you questions and listen to your responses before giving recommendations, or do they just tell you what they like to do? A designer that doesn’t listen to you or your needs and goals often cannot produce projects that achieve your goals. So before you interview any designer, you should have your questions written down. It’s perfectly acceptable to have them out during an interview too so that you ensure you get all the information you need. According to Elon musk, a great question to ask for any hire is to have them tell you about the problems they worked on and how they solved them. If someone really solved the problem, they’ll be able to go into great detail, and if not they’ll get stuck.


Time –

When interviewing or working with a designer, time is always one of the most important factors. You should know when you need your project completed by. A couple of questions to consider in regards to time are the following. Will they be able to fit you in to their schedule? How many clients do they work with at once? How likely will they be able to meet self-imposed as well as client driven deadlines? Knowing the answers to these questions will help you determine if the designer you are considering is a good fit for your project.

Communication –

This is something that will matter a great deal the longer you work with a designer. Ideally, you want to build a long-lasting professional relationship with your designer so that your business operates flawlessly, and you get consistent results. So, for a designer, you need to see what their preferred method of communication is. What if they only like to communicate via email, are you fine with that? If they can’t meet in person, are they willing to talk via phone or Skype? Also, how accommodating are they to changes after initial designs are created? Are they stand-offish, or are they willing work with you on what you envision for your company? Making sure everyone on the same page will help your project run like a well oiled machine.

Experience –

Since design is an artform it can be very subjective. Sometimes a more experienced designer may not do more appealing work than a brand new designer right out of school. You as the customer need to know what you’re looking to get out of the project from a designer. Their portfolio is always a great place to start. It gives you a good idea if their skills and overall style will mesh with the message you are trying to convey with the project. You could have an amazing, edgy designer, but if you’re trying to sell brown penny loafers to a senior citizen, can they also match that look and feel? Those are questions you’ll need to address with the designer and have resolved before you decide and kick off the project. Additionally looking at resources such as their LinkedIn profile, and their website for endorsements is key. Who has recommended them in the past, and for what kind of work? It doesn’t hurt to make a two-minute phone call just to see if someone would work with them again before you award them a project that could represent your company for years to come.

Results –

This is similar to results but is more focused on you as a client. Has this designer had a history of achieving the results you are looking for with other clients? Whether that is through improved SEO and function of a website or a successful print mail piece, it is important to ask what the results have been in their past projects. Even asking for a recommendation from a past client can be a great way to make sure that the designer you’re considering can deliver what they promise.

Cost –

This comes down to two basic methodologies. The hourly model vs. the project model. With most designers, experience is the greatest factor in determining their base rates. Following that you run into quality of work, past awards, and availability. Designers who know they’re in demand typically charge a higher premium for their services than ones who are always open.

Some of the advantages to consider with the hourly model is you only pay for the exact time spent on the project. That’s typically most beneficial if it’s a smaller project that you are looking to have produced. Projects like business card layout, or maybe stationery after the concept/branding has already been determined are examples of these types of jobs. The negative aspect of this model is that you are also paying for any inefficiency in their process. Oh, forgot to wireframe that page correctly, no big deal, 15 more minutes here, 15 more minutes there. That’s where the project based pricing model is more beneficial for customers. You’re in essence paying for a result and are charged an agreed-upon rate for the entire project. You don’t care if it takes them 5 minutes or 5 hours, provided it’s done correctly by the deadline. Projects that typically fit this model are new logos, branding changes, website development, and collateral for conferences and events.

Asset Ownership –

Who owns the final product is a great question to have answered with a designer. You are going to want to own the final product, as well as all of the assets related to it. This way, you’re protected in case your company goes in a different direction in the future. Some designers want to have ownership so they can promote the piece, however you can grant them promotional rights without losing ownership of the files. You paid for the project, make sure you own what you paid for.

Process –

One of the best ways to figure out if you like a potential designer’s working process is to ask them to walk you through a project with them. It can be casual at first, see if they can tell you a story of how they’ve worked with other clients similar to you in the past on projects. Then see if they have a process written out for you to take a look at. If they don’t, is it something they have written out elsewhere? Perhaps they outline their process on their website. If not, see if you can get written documentation for the full scope of work, payment terms, turnaround times with the achievable details outlined in their proposal all prior to awarding any contracts. This will help you evaluate the likelihood they can keep all the other promises they have made throughout this process.


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