Selecting A Designer
What to look for when selecting a Graphic Designer or Web Designer… Designers come in all shapes and sizes – from freelancers to design agencies – just fresh out of college to designers with decades of experience. There are numerous designers in the industry, at various levels of experience and capability. Choosing the right designer for you project will play a major role in the outcome of the finished result. Not all designers are the same – they are all different, with different design flair, style, experience and professionalism and niche focus. Designers typically specialize in one or a handful of areas, and they seem to have a style or styles of their own that they typically create within. Finding a designer whose style closely mimics the type of design outcome you are looking for is the logical approach.
First, identify your needs and gather all the information necessary for the designer will need to make realistic suggestions and projections. This may include present marketing materials, goals, timelines vision, outcome, budget, etc. Ask for referrals from people you know, or check with the local Chamber of Commerce or small business organizations for suggestions and direction.
A designers experience runs the gambit from current college student, recent graduate to a well-seasoned designer. It’s always good to check the experience of a designer to see if they are professionally trained, and where there experience lies. Look for a designer who is familiar with your industry or a similar industry that has a proven track record of designs that can relate to your specific needs.
Good designs are a dime a dozen, and so are bad designs. A good design communicates and motivates action, it isn’t simply about decoration or looking good. Designers typically offer a portfolio of their work so prospective clients can get a sense of their style and experience. Things to keep in mind when researching a designers portfolio: Look for variety and versatility of platforms (digital, print, web, etc.) in the designs, stay clear of cookie cutter designs where every piece in the portfolio looks the same. You want to have someone who can come up with different ideas to cater to your needs. Are the designs outdated? Too busy? Do they successfully communicate the message?
A portfolio is a great indicator to measure a designer’s skills, and their style. The portfolio should resonate with prospective clients. Consider a designer whose style is similar or inline with what you are looking for. When reviewing a portfolio you will get a relatively good idea of what to expect. Having unrealistic expectations from a designer can lead you down the wrong road, resulting in misunderstandings, disagreements, unfulfilled expectations… A designer’s portfolio will give you clues and ideas as to what type, style and level of a designer they are.
When searching for a designer, the best option is always through references – someone you personally know, or know someone who knows someone personally that has had a positive experience or knowledge thereof that you can rely on. References can be asked for during the initial consultation with the designer, if they are experienced, they should have legitimate references to pass along. Another good source for reference is LinkedIn.com Professional designers who have done work before in the past can be either found on LinkedIn or you can post a status for a designer referral or use your LinkedIn connections who have similar needs to yours that can suggest references. LinkedIn’s advanced search tool is another way to find graphic designers. It is always good to have references, and follow up on them.
Another factor that both helpful and reassuring in determining the ability of a graphic designer are testimonials from previous clients. If testimonials are not readily available to you from your contacts, the designer or their website, ask for them. If the majority of the clients had positive experiences and feedback with their design work, you can expect to get a similar treatment and outcome.
Understanding the terms:
A good experienced designer will work with contracts to safeguard the clients’ and their own interests. Practically every seasoned designer has a clear set of terms they work within. A designer who does not have a set of defined terms should be a flag to possible misunderstandings during the project that could lead to serious problems, delays, legal initiatives or ill-fated outcomes and a parting of ways without you receiving the intended service…only to find you starting the process all over again. A designer without a set of standards or terms clearly spelled out typically points to a lack of experience whereas they have not experienced the types of setbacks and pitfalls to have to compensate for them. If a designers terms and conditions are not fully expressed upfront, ask specifically what they are. It is in your best interests to know and understand them before entering into any contract.
Understanding a designers process is an important element not to overlook. Choosing a designer who offers to research and learn about your company, your needs and your competition speaks volumes about the process they take when designing your project. Designers who are ready to jump right in and know what you need typically want to create what they feel looks good, but the end goal of the project is to visually communicate a message that can be conveyed and understood by your industry’s peers and potential clients. Having a clear understanding of your business and the industry you’re in creates a better understanding of your needs, and vision for the design.
A good designer will listen to your needs, ask questions to better understand your goals, make suggestions and offer advice for those who may not know what they need or want. It is always a good idea to have a contract that spells out exactly what to expect and when. A Statement Of Work (SOW) is typically a good route to take, as we all know things change as do projects, and clarity of communication is important when working with a designer/client relationship. SOW’s can be updated as the project goes along to ensure both parties are in agreement.
A good designer will explain his process and what to expect, answer any questions you may have upfront and provide you with a written agreement that specifies what services are included in the quote. This typically includes what to expect and how many revisions are included so as not to create any confusion or misunderstandings. A designers “time” is what the job quote is being based upon, avoiding typical pitfalls of inexperienced designers or clients is a good sign that they know what they are doing and have procedures in place to prevent any mishaps, setbacks or misunderstandings. Typically you will find once the agreement and initial consultation is in place, each stage will incur a fragment of the cost before the next stage begins. This ensures everything is on track and within agreement. If by some ill fated scenario there comes a disagreement resulting in a parting of ways, payment for said services will have been rendered and the initial loss to both parties is minimized.
Exceptional business skills separate a good designer from a mediocre one. Having a designer who understand business and all that goes along with it will be the difference in getting your project done correctly and for all the right reasons as opposed to just getting a good looking design. A designer who understands strategies, deadlines, budgets, ROI, etc. that is responsive to all your needs will help to make your project a seamless endeavor with an efficient outcome. A designers personal demeanor and/or interpersonal skills also plays a role and the way they will interact with their clients throughout the project; someone with has good listening skills, is easy to talk to, understands what you are saying is going to make the the perfect partner for your projects, whether it is a one time project or
Price is an important factor in any project or with any company’s budget, and in today’s economic times, everyone seems to be trying to save as much money as they can. It is possible to get a great deal on your project, but it typically comes with it’s own set of consequences. Rates run the gambit in the design world… low end costs from newly graduated designers with little experience will obviously be cheaper than those of someone who has several years experience in their field. It is safe to say you get what you pay for… for those designers who charge more, they do so typically because they can. They have a proven track record and they are worth it. You will find that trying to substantially barter their price will probably leave you looking for some other designer, as they no doubt would benefit more by not wasting their valuable time for discounted services that compare to someone with lessor skills and experience when they can simply go to the next client who is willing to pay for their worth. Simply put: They charge what they do because they can.
So, when shopping for a designer keep these points in mind to ensure you find the perfect fit, leading to the perfect project outcome and or an ongoing relationship for future endeavors.