How to choose (and trust) a graphic designer
With a plethora of choice out there, how is a marketer supposed to choose a graphic designer most suited to their needs?
College or University Training (?)
Many, but not all, designers will have trained for a number of years in their specific field. Whilst the basics of design e.g. colour theory, typography and layout can be taught in college, in my opinion, industry experience is actually more relevant to what you’ll need as a marketer. I came out of college with a HND in Design Communications and a Degree in Graphic Design, but was still pretty clueless when it came to putting a design together in a real-world situation. It was only once I had, maybe, three years industry experience that things really came together. (See below).
This is where a designer really gains their experience from. Take a look at their real-world industry experience. Pay particular attention to the places they've worked and the types of clients and/or industry sector they've worked in. Whilst a great designer can design for a range of industry situations, experience in a field similar to yours, such as business-to-business, or business-to-consumer can only help.
Graphic design – there’s a lot of it about. Print, brand identity, web, digital, apps, exhibition, packaging, retail, interiors. It will help you to choose a designer based on matching their area of expertise to your particular marketing needs. You’ll get the best result from using a designer who is an expert in their particular field. I specialise in branding and print design. Whilst I can turn my hand to many other design applications, those two are my areas of expertise.
Price should and will always be a consideration, but don’t make it the sole basis of your final decision. ‘Cheap’ doesn’t always equal ‘good’. You may get a cheap quote from a newer designer who lacks industry experience, or the experience of dealing with their own direct clients. Try to assess the importance of cost-saving versus getting the job done efficiently and professionally.
Always look at a designer’s past body of work in their portfolio. Their style and best work should hopefully be linked to their specialisms. If, as a marketer, you don’t generally like their style, or there are no examples of previous work similar to the job you’re looking to commission, then don’t go with them. If the reverse is true, then that’s a tick in one of the boxes for them.
Read through reviews and testimonials from existing / past clients. Admittedly, no designer is going to put a poor review on their website, but cross fingers they'll be honest. You should get a general idea if clients like working with them or not.
Word-of-mouth referral is the golden nugget that will help you to choose a designer. If you can ask someone you know, directly, if they would recommend a designer they’ve used in the past, then that’s half the decision made for you. Speak to friends and business contacts who you know have used a designer in the past. Alternatively, stalk (!) the designer you’re thinking about on LinkedIn and see if you have any shared contacts you could ask.
Make sure you’re clear what you want from your designer, preferably in the form of a creative brief you can give to and then discuss with them. What are your expectations in terms of deliverables, timescales, audience and content of the work? As well as being clear yourself, check your chosen designer is clear on the brief and asks the right sort of questions about the job you require. I’d recommend doing this face-to-face if possible (see below).
It’s not always possible, but I’d recommend meeting your chosen designer (or prospective favourite) in person, before commissioning any work. That way, you can see if you both get on. Sounds silly, but it’s a chance to vet each other from both sides. Design projects often take time to complete, requiring much discussion and development. If you generally get on, as people, this will make the whole process much more pleasant.