Finding a graphic designer can sometimes feel like finding a needle in a haystack. Graphic designers appear to be around every corner, but are they who YOU are looking for? Will they provide work you are happy with? Sometimes, aesthetics just aren’t the same. SO how can you make sure you hire a designer that is the perfect fit for you? Well here are a few questions to ask to help narrow down your choices.
1) How long have you been in business or designing for clients?
When hiring a designer, you don’t necessarily have to go with the person with 20+ years of a experience and a hundred-page portfolio. But it is important to hire someone who knows what they are doing and has worked with clients before. There are some amazing designers fresh out of college with very few years in the business.
2) Do you have a portfolio?
Always, ALWAYS ask to see a designer’s previous work. How better to tell if they are a good fit for your brand? You may find that a designer is skilled but has a different style than you want.
Browsing through a designer’s portfolio will allow you to see their range of skill. A good designer should be able to design for any brand, regardless of his/her personal style. Looking through their portfolio may also give you ideas for your own brand and the aesthetic and direction you’re looking for.
Beware of designers who don’t have a portfolio put together. Even recently graduated designers know to have a portfolio to present to potential clients, even if they don’t have much to show yet.
3) Do you have experience doing the type of project I’m working on?
Say you’re a small boutique with a mostly female demographic, and you receive a proposal from a designer with corporate, big-box company experience.
While a good designer should be able to tailor their process and design to any client, it will likely be in your best interest to choose a designer who has designed for similar businesses. So when looking through their portfolio, you can see other projects similar to what you are hoping to achieve.
4) Can I have a list of references from projects you’ve worked on in the last year?
Want to find out if your designer is a dream to work with? What better way than to ask previous clients! When hiring a designer, it is important to work with someone who has knowledge, experience, and skill, but can also receive correction and critiques. There are a lot of designers out there with plenty of design skill but struggle working with others or accepting different points of view. When talking to a designer’s previous clients, be sure to ask how the designer handled critique - did he/she listen to concerns and follow direction? The last thing you want is a designer that refuses to listen to you and work within your guidelines.
Also be sure to ask previous clients about the designer’s turn-around time. Is the designer known for efficient work? Did he/she meet deadlines and fulfill all the terms listed and agreed upon in the proposal?
5) What timeline could you give this project? Can you work in my timeline?
This is an important question. Most likely you have an idea of when you’d like to launch your new logo, brand, and/or website. You need to have some idea of a realistic timeline, including initial sketches, revisions, and the final reveal. If a designer cannot give you an estimate or insists on an unnecessarily lengthy timeline, go with someone else. The last thing you want is a long, drawn out process.
6) What is included in this project quote?
This should be discussed in the very beginning. Your designer should present you with a proposal that includes deliverables, timeline, and cost. If you’re unsure or confused, be sure to ask questions in the beginning, rather than later after you’ve already agreed upon the proposal.
7) What programs do you use?
You may not know much about design programs, but you want to be sure that your designer is using a legitimate program. Many print companies will require the original Photoshop or Illustrator files when printing billboards, postcards, or even business cards. It’s also important to have the original files for later projects. Most likely the designer won’t hang around forever for future projects, so it is important to have access to all files for future changes and branding projects.
8) Do you have any questions for me?
Hiring a designer is more relational than hiring a plumber to fix your sink. You’re going to be working with this person for several weeks or even months (depending on the project). The designer will learn all about your business, and in the process learn about YOU. You want to be able to develop a relationship with your designer as someone you genuinely enjoy working with. So being able to converse and ask questions in the beginning is important. If a designer looks bored or disinterested, go with a different designer. Your business is important to you, which means your brand is important. You will be placing a lot of trust in your designer - you want to make sure that trust is well placed!
9) What are you payment terms?
Discuss this in the beginning and agree on payment terms, whether you’ll pay in full up front or in deposits over a period of time.
10) Who owns the design once completed?
Copyright is a tricky thing. Thankfully there’s plenty of information out there to help you out! With copyright law, the creator of a design is generally the owner of the design. However, under “work made for hire,” the employer (you) becomes the owner of the design. This all depends on how a contract is worded and terms agreed upon in the beginning of the project. If you do not specify “work made for hire” in the contract, then you will essentially pay your designer for the rights to use their design. For this reason, many designers include a branding guide with guidelines for proper usage of their design. For more information about copyright for graphic designers, check out this link: http://www.aiga.org/copyright-basics-for-graphic-designers/