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“Creativity, knowledge and technical expertise are valuable assets to your company”

So the relationship is ending for whatever reason. Maybe the charges are spiralling or maybe the last project lacked oomph? Or maybe you are new to working with the design industry and are looking for guidance in what can be an expensive minefield. Whatever the reason, you are looking for a new graphic design company to work on your next marketing project.

Design is often a large investment for an organisation and it is vital that your project reaches its target audience and elicits the right response. Choosing the wrong designer can mean a loss of revenue and a poor reflection of the values of your company, so choose wisely to ensure that your investment bears maximum returns. Creativity, knowledge and technical expertise are valuable assets to your company and you can add to your resources of these attributes by choosing the right designer to complement your talent pool.

It may feel a little bit intimidating to hire a graphic designer if you don’t know much about the design industry, but finding the best possible candidate isn’t simply a question of finding the right talent. You will probably hear from several applicants who have the design skills to deliver successful results, so don’t focus on what you don’t know. Instead, focus on finding a candidate who is easy to work with, finds creative solutions to design problems, and shows that they’re committed to your project’s success. Here are twelve top tips to help you make the right choice.

1: Use a professional

This may sound obvious but many smaller businesses cut corners and think they are saving money by employing an unqualified employee, student or friend to work on their design communication projects. Only that corner cutting doesn’t necessarily save money. Perversely this lack of experience of the enthusiastic amateur often costs money through production issues and ineffective design which can result in the production of a piece of work that does not reach its target audience or sends the wrong message. If you want your organisation to reflect professionalism and efficiency you will need a qualified and highly-experienced designer. For that reason check a potential candidate’s work, credentials and expertise carefully before making your decision.

2: The creative brief

Of course you want your project to realise its full potential and business objectives and you can help to achieve this by providing enough background information about your business in your creative brief. Make sure there is enough detail about your company, the aims of the project, and the specific attributes you’re looking for. Share deadlines and any potential obstacles from the beginning in a project description which will help the potential designer have a better understanding of the project and you to gauge whether they can fulfil your expectations. Providing examples of other projects can be a good way to convey what you are looking for from a design perspective. Find websites or assets that are similar to the look and feel of what you need to achieve with your project. Ask your prospective designer to provide a mood board with their suggestions to help you assess if you are singing from the same hymn sheet before starting. This will save a lot of time later on.

3: Make yourself clear

Whilst you have in-depth knowledge of your organisation and its unique selling propositions, don’t forget that your applicants are probably starting from a low-information perspective. It’s pretty much impossible for a designer to provide effective design solutions if they don’t have a clear understanding of your business, your brand and the target audience you’re trying to engage. That’s why it is vital to make sure that your final candidates have a firm grasp of your company’s products, services and branding and how they relate to your audience.

4: Do your homework

It’s extremely helpful to have a basic understanding of the design world and what types of design skills are required before you start reviewing proposals. If you do not have this understanding it is often helpful to obtain a proposal from a marketing professional who can enhance your brief and help provide direction and a strategy for the project. For instance, will your campaign use stock photography, or will the candidate take photographs to incorporate into the project? What programme will the artwork be created in? If you have an existing brand does the candidate understand the brand elements and how they work? An overall understanding of these types of questions will enable you to make a more informed decision and give your more confidence in your choice.

5: Talk face-to-face

It can be hard to get a sense of someone when you can’t see their expressions or read their body language in person. Rather than interviewing candidates on the phone, it’s a good idea to conduct interviews over a video link such as Skype or Facetime. You’ll get a better sense of the candidate’s personality and with Skype you can discuss projects by sharing screens. Since assignments usually involve sharing concepts in this manner anyway, video conferencing is a great way to get a preview of what it might be like to work with each candidate and how to share visual ideas in real time.

6: A good portfolio isn’t enough

Choosing a graphic designer based on viewing their portfolio alone is not a good strategy. Ask potential candidates about their work and the inspiration and thought processes behind it. This will help you have a better understanding of how the designer works creatively and help you sense if will make a good team. A good way to narrow your field of graphic design candidates is to ask something unexpected during the interview process. For instance, you could ask candidates to critique a competitor’s design piece and explain what they would have done differently. The answer will provide an insight into the candidate’s abilities, and the way they deliver the answer will help you better understand their creative process. The goal here is to see how well each applicant handles the unknown and thinks on their feet.

7: Who have they worked for?

It always helps if graphic design candidates have experience within your industry, even if it is as a consumer. Having this knowledge could eliminate much of the learning curve required to get up to speed on your business and make your project a success. It also helps ensure that the designer will have a good idea of how to connect with your ideal customers.

8: Design style

Choose a designer whose style matches the style you need (not the style you prefer, but the style that effectively reflects your brand and will reach your target audience). By choosing a designer based on a specific design style, you have a better chance of getting the design you need. Good designers will be happy working in various styles but most have a strong leaning towards one main approach, and will be in a better position to provide you with superior work.

9: Inspirations and enthusiasms

Very few clients have the time to get to know their designers personally. However, by understanding what inspires and motivates a designer and discovering what brands, websites, design philosophies and activities that they draw inspiration from, you will get a better appreciation of their approach. This may also help you discover additional ideas or unique design elements for your project. It may also help make your collaboration closer in the event you end up working together.

10: What more can you do?

A good designer will always outline his work process and elicit relevant information from you. It’s part of a good designer’s process to establish a coherent and accurate brief from the client. However it’s always a good idea to ask designers what they will further require from your company, in order to achieve the best possible results. This could apply to physical items like documentation and artwork, and also time-related tasks like proofing concepts, discussing design choices, and giving feedback. The more you can understand the designer’s creative and production processes, the smoother the overall project will go.

11: The small print

Before you make a final decision discuss the finer details of a potential working relationship. Tie up any loose ends by discussing fee structures, quotation content and terms of business. Crucially, put in place the understanding that ownership of any artwork and collateral files must be transferred to you upon final payment. If there is nothing in writing that mentions ownership, then ask your designer to give you this agreement in writing. It is imperative that you own the work so that you can legally use it, however you wish, in the future.

12: And finally…

Remember, there’s more to the choice than just picking the most talented designer. A good graphic designer is someone with whom you can have a dialogue and an equally balanced collaboration; someone who will take on board your ideas and give you feedback and suggestions. If you feel like a designer may not be open to your input, choose someone else! No matter how much of a creative genius they might appear, the quality of work will mean nothing if it does not accurately target your audience, help achieve your aims and objectives and give you a sense of ownership. Finally remember successful design is as much about teamwork, organisation and accuracy as it is about flashy concepts and smart talk. Just like a good salesman does not necessarily make a good President of the USA, a graphic designer that is a good salesman doesn’t necessarily make a good designer. Use your innate business acumen to see through the BS to the character that lies beyond and you will make the right choice.

If you would like any further advice on choosing the right graphic designer for you and need somebody reliable, professional and committed to providing the best quality work, please feel free to contact us to enable us to advise you further.

This article was written by Paul Dibbens at Mustard Design – please feel free to get in contact

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