graphic design

Ten Commandments to follow before you hire a graphic designer

Right from the time the Internet entered our lives, brands have been using effective designs to create a brand identity. It is virtually impossible to imagine a marketing plan without a creative design strategy. A good design can make you stand above the competition while promoting your brand values and resonating with the customers. Graphic design is not merely about making a good looking logo / creative. It involves the psycho-graphic understanding of the target consumer, among other things. Most brands hire a graphic designer to help them create a visual strategy that helps create an impact.

Brands looking to create a logo or brochure or any marketing collateral, usually look to hire a graphic designer. These professionals know the quickest and most cost-effective ways of getting designs done. Hence, when you hire a graphic designer, you save time and money. A graphic designer can help you create a design that stands out and deliver the expected results due to a good understanding of the design trends and consumer psyche. The advent of Freelance Revolution has granted access to a global pool of talent. There are thousands of graphic designers to choose from, how do you find one best suited to your needs? Here is a list of Ten Commandments that you can follow before you hire a graphic designer to sieve through the talent available.

1. Thou shall delve deep into the portfolio

This is a no-brainer. Before you initiate any communication with the designer, ensure that you check their portfolio. Komal Makhija, a professional graphic designer offers a handy tip: “The creativity of the designer can be assessed by looking at the various elements of designs created by him. Choice of color and overall aesthetics can give you a glimpse into his creative vision.” A focused brand knows its design requirements and the message that needs to be conveyed through the design. A designer who has worked on different kinds of designs comes equipped with the relevant expertise to create a visual strategy that resonates with the brand.

In the words of the famous H.G.Wells – “It is a law of nature that we overlook that versatility is the compensation for change, danger and trouble.” A versatile designer will always have a solution on hand if you decide to change/amend your visual strategy or are faced with unexpected events leading to a forced change. This is beyond doubt the most important aspect to look for before you hire a graphic designer.

2. Thou shall carefully analyze prior work experience

A portfolio, usually, is a super-set of commissioned and non-commissioned work. Designers usually create a lot of designs in their free time to highlight their creative prowess. After checking that, it is imperative that you shift your focus to the designer’s prior work experience [commissioned work].

Check the overall portfolio to get a flavor of the designer’s creative abilities.
Look at prior work experience to assess his understanding of the non-creative elements of design creation.

Remember, the designer always works on the brief provided by the brand owner. Hence, it is important to ask the designer about the brief provided by the brand and assess the output yourself.

A designer who has primarily worked with agencies has different skill sets as compared an in-house designer with a corporate. Typically, agency designers are good with time management while corporate in-house designers have experience with various design requirements of a single brand. This isn’t sacrosanct but is usually the case. Understanding the prior work experience will help you zero in on the designer that suits your needs.

3. Thou shall be wary of unskilled designers to save costs

Talking about the design and cost equation, Dr Ralph Speth, the CEO of Jaguar Land Rover says, “If you think good design is expensive, you should look at the COST of bad design.” Many bootstrapped brands find themselves cutting corners when it comes to designing costs. They try to fate the rates to justify the magnitude of work as understood by them. This leads to hiring an unskilled designer or a designer who lacks the domain expertise.

A skilled designer will constantly interact with the online community contributing and learning in the process. Creativity is a skill that can only be bettered with time and exchanging ideas. Look for designers who are active on social media/blogs. It will also give you an insight into the way they think and approach a design.

4. Thou shall hire a graphic designer who is accessible

Design creation requires a structured approach and involvement of both the brand owner and the designer. A unidirectional approach can lead to a design that does not work well with the brand identity. The designer, initially, tries to understand your vision and perception of the brand. This initial communication helps him create a skeleton of the final output. Some designers start giving form to these ideas and submit the first cut of the design without any further inputs from you. This usually leads to a design that is not in sync with your perception.

Hence, it is important to hire a graphic designer who is both accessible and approachable. Regular communication, through phone, email or face-to-face meetings, can ensure that the designer is working in tandem with your inputs. Assess these aspects during your initial discussion with the designer. Look for flexibility and ‘red flag’ any rigidity of approach that you observe during these discussions.

5. Thou shall hire a graphic designer who has a holistic approach

If a picture speaks a thousand words, then a design speaketh a million. An effective design incorporates the brand’s vision, story, identity and stems from a thorough understanding of its business objectives. When you initiate communication with a graphic designer, look for signs that can help you understand the approach. Komal Makhija suggests that you ask yourself these questions:

Is the designer too focused on the current project and is unwilling to look at the larger picture?

Is he asking you about future plans to assess the viability of the design when new products/services are launched or when new market segments are tapped?

A designer with a holistic approach will not just create an apt design but also offer valuable advice based on his understanding of the consumer psyche.

6. Thou shall not be afraid of a conflicting viewpoint

Like you are an expert in our line of business, a graphic designer has expertise in design. You might have spent weeks before arriving at a mental image of the design, but it might not be as effective as you imagine. A skilled graphic designer will offer you suggestions to align our expectations with market trends and other technicalities. When you hire a graphic designer, don’t be afraid of suggestions that challenge your viewpoint.

It is important that mutual respect and trust form the basis of your relationship with the designer. A successful design is not just good for your brand, it also adds a feather in the cap of the designer. Work as a team and be prepared to be proven wrong in your design expectations. Remember, be afraid of someone who doesn’t ask questions or challenge ideas. Such designers don’t create memorable designs.

7. Thou shall not kill creativity

When you hire a graphic designer, you hire a creative professional. Most designers are passionate about their work. They are in the profession because it allows them to express their creativity. Having reference images is good to give the designer a visual insight into your expectation, but desiring a replica [of a creative or a logo] is not just bad for your brand but also preposterously unfair to the creativity of the designer.

Designers today do a great job confining their creative talents within the limits of the demographics and psycho-graphics of consumers. Creating a design is like tending to a plant. Like a sapling needs water, good soil and sunshine to grow, a designer needs a good brief, interaction, and creative liberty to create an impactful design.

8. Thou shall treat the designer as thy partner

Many brand owners do the mistake of treating a designer like a service provider alone; not a creative partner.

By the sheer definition of the word, a partner refers to a business relationship based on trust, honesty, and shared risk and reward that yields a competitive advantage. Such a relationship with a designer can deliver outstanding results. A service provider, on the other hand, works on a project under pre-defined T&C’s and is focused on the completion of the project alone. While this relationship can get work done too, a creative partnership has the potential to do wonders.

Strive for a creative partnership and you will be amazed by the increased levels of commitment and creativity that the designer brings to the table.

9. Communicate and thou shall receive a great design

Most business owners commit the mistake of not creating a congenial environment for developing an interactive relationship with the designer,” says Komal. She further adds, “A two-way communication is, was and always will be the nucleus of a great design.” An interactive relationship often leads to an exchange of ideas and brands getting more than what they would in the absence of one.

A designer needs to understand your likes, dislikes, brand’s history and the reasons behind certain business decisions. This enables the designer to create a visual strategy that resonates with your brand. These elements cannot be listed down in a questionnaire or mentioned in the design brief. This needs communication which flows both ways between you and the designer.

10. Thou shall not expect miracles

A new logo or a marketing collateral should be in sync with your earlier brand image. Unless you are a start-up organization with little or no market presence, looking to initiate a brand identity, designers shouldn’t be expected to work at a tangent to your current brand image.

While sharing some experiences with us, Komal Makhija expresses her concern over brands making statements like –

I need an OUT OF THE WORLD design!

I don’t understand the technicalities, just give me a GREAT looking design.

If I were to tell you these things, then why am I paying you?

Designers can work their creative magic if the expectation and inputs are discussed and agreed upon. They do not possess a magic wand which can be swung in the air to create a design. Graphic design software is only as good as the designer and not the other way round. Be a part of the journey and shoulder the responsibility of creating an awesome design.

These tips can ensure that you are in a good spot when you hire a graphic designer. Before you go, here is an insight into the type of brand owners designers love to work with. It is important to understand this aspect as it can result in increased levels of commitment and contribution from the designer.

Be the Brand Owner that designers love to work with

Without beating around the bush, these are the four attributes that designers look for in a client:-

  1. Detailed project brief,
  2. Proper Communication,
  3. Regular Interaction,
  4. Becoming a part of the process

This may sound elementary to most, but it is surprising to see the number of brand owners who don’t offer these elements to graphic designers. Whether you are well-researched or oblivious to design, offering these attributes to the designer can certainly lead to a design which exceeds your expectations.

Don’t forget to test the waters

If you are unsure about the designer, then start with a smaller project; a logo or a brochure. Be transparent and inform the designer about the fact that you are doing this to ensure that the initial hiccups don’t affect your bigger project. This will ensure that the designer gives his 100% and attempts to build a relationship and not treat it like a one-time task.

A business that usually starts with an idea, goes through hell and high water before reaching a place where the brand establishes an image in the market. There can be nothing more rewarding than the experience of watching your brand take a visual identity. Get involved and ensure that it looks exactly like you imagined and narrates your brand story optimally.  Follow these commandments and THOU SHALT SUCCEED.

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