Commissioning design – what terrifies you?
A couple of weeks ago, I put a question out to social media asking what clients, potential clients and connections worried most about when commissioning design for their marketing materials or businesses. In this blog post I hope to demystify some of the main concerns people had.
1. Money-Munching Monsters (You’re terrified of costs that go ‘bump’ and expand in the night)
Possibly the worst way to commission a designer is to give them free reign to charge by the hour for ‘as long as it takes’ until the job is finished. Going down this route, you’ll never know what you’ll be paying for the finished job until the invoice lands on your desk with a terrifying ‘THUD’. Any professional designer will take the horror out of this situation, by providing a quote for the job prior to being commissioned. Once this quote is signed off, by you the client, both parties know exactly what’s expected in cost terms. Similarly, costs for print and/or web build should be on the quote at this stage where relevant.
2. Trick or treat? (You’re afraid of whether you’ll like what you get back)
This is indeed a ‘tricky’ one, because, if you’re using a designer for the first time, there’s no way of knowing what they’ll come back with. Marketers that have used a designer for a number of projects will have got to know, and trust, a designers work and built up a professional relationship with them. When commissioning a new designer, all you can do is look at examples of their previous work – ask them to send you some portfolio examples if there’s none on their website (but be afraid if there’s no work examples on their website!) Unless you’re commissioning an illustrator, for example, for a certain ‘style’, be wary of designers who seem to only have one style of work. Designers should be able to work with your existing brand (if you have one). They can add to, and enhance your brand, but it should all look like if fits in with your current marketing communications. If you’re after a new brand, or new campaign, then look at the different styles and themes they’ve produced in the past. Also key to ’liking what you get back’ is a decent brief from yourself to the designer, so they know exactly what you want. Watertight Marketing have written this great piece giving 10 Simple Steps to writing a Marketing Brief. Don’t be afraid of meeting face-to-face. This is an ideal situation for both parties to ask questions, agree a route forwards and start building that important client/designer relationship.
3. Time-promising invisible ghosts (You’re scared about the designer not delivering when they say they will)
Always try to give designers a deadline, even if you haven’t really got one yourself. In my experience, I work much better if I know a client needs it for a certain time or date. Clients that say, “Get it back to me whenever you can”, often get their work pushed to the back of the queue, behind the clients that have given a stricter deadline. While it may not always be practical, on longer projects regular catch-up meetings help to make sure the job stays on track, both in terms of timing and creativity. These can also be done by phone, or simple emails from the designer explaining what stage they’re at. Also, don’t be afraid of chasing up the designer if you’ve not heard from them in a while.
4. Hidden surprises under the bed (You’re terrified of hidden extras that might appear on the final invoice)
This goes back to the quote mentioned in point 1. Designers may need to charge for extras such as photography, stock images, or specific font purchases. At the quote stage, a designer probably won’t know if they’ll need some of these or not (until they’re part-way through the job). However, the possibilities of these extras should be stated on the quote and the costs for these should be run by you for sign-off BEFORE purchasing, so there shouldn’t be nasty surprises at the end.
5. Know-it-all wizards (You worry whether someone who says they can ‘do it all’ really can)
Other designers may disagree with me on this one, but I would be slightly wary of those clever wizards that say they can do everything. Whilst it’s good to have a suite of connected services, good people tend to specialise in services they’re very good at. Many ‘one-person-band’ graphic designers nowadays say they can design, build websites, copy-write, sort brand strategy, help with your marketing plan etc etc. They may be able to do all this, but will any one part of it be particularly good? If it’s a larger design agency saying this, then it may be absolutely true, as they’ll have different people, with these different skill-sets, either in-house or as specialist suppliers that they can call on and supply to you as one package. My opinion is that I’ll do the things I’m good at, such as graphic design and branding and if any of my clients require other services such as web-build, copy-writing or 3D modeling, I’ll call upon the services of people that I know are skilled at these things and I’ve worked with in the past to deliver a the best possible job.