We probably don't have to tell you that having a professional, qualified designer around can hugely benefit your business. Heck, this isn't even the first time we've brought it up! Slice veterans will remember when we've said that investing in design help is a great idea, because:
The key to making that investment worth your time, however, is to make sure your working relationship with your designer is as awesome-sauce as it can be. Use this tips to ensure that you hire a designer who really understands your needs, can work with your work style, and is fully empowered to deliver the best deliverables.
First, make sure you know yourself:
If your brand identity has already been established in the form of preferred colors, favorite fonts, clear copy and a kick-ass logo, the designer you hire will have a fabulous starting point for crafting graphics or print materials that fit right in. And big bonus points if you’ve got some sort of branding deck/style guide together that explain everything clearly.
In addition to those style guidelines, though, make sure you’ve got these key questions answered:
Who is your target audience?
What makes your product/service different from your peers and competitors?
What adjectives best describe your business and your mission?
It’s okay if you don’t have everything perfectly organized; a good designer will work with whatever you’ve got, so gather any visual or written assets you’ve been using for your brand and put them in one folder. A mood board is also a great way to help a designer understand your ideas, points of reference, and preferences so they can better conceptualize your brand aesthetic.
Be as clear as you can be:
A designer’s purpose is to help you achieve your goals and communicate your values by creating visuals that excite your audience and capture their attention. But what kinds of visuals should they create? What size? How many? By when?
Be clear on what you want from a designer by asking yourself these questions:
What kind of visual content does my target audience tend to like? If you understand your audience well, you’ll know if they prefer a modern, hip aesthetic or something classic and timeless, or if they’re more likely to see your content on a mobile device versus on their desktop. Don't waste time or money having a designer create something your audience doesn't really want.
How will my content be seen? If you’re looking to design an annual report, do you want it to be printed or posted on your website? Do you want it to be interactive or static? Think through these details of what you want created and how your audience will interact with it first, so you can make sure you hire a designer who can deliver what you want.
How quickly do you need this content created? Springing surprise deadlines on designers is ALWAYS a no-no, and can easily translate to rush fees, additional costs, or terminated contracts. A good designer will work with you to create manageable deadlines, but be as upfront and honest as possible about how quickly you need something done from the very beginning, even before you sign a contract, to save everyone headaches and stress. If you have to work a rush fee into your budget, it's better to know that going in!
And don't forget to involve your other team members in answering these questions, either; your copywriters, program managers, salespeople, and even your interns all might have good feedback or insight to share. Not to mention, this is a good way to make sure your entire team is clear about what you’re really doing! If they have wildly different goals than you, or a totally different understanding of what your audience wants to see, then it’s time for you to do some better communicating internally.
Think you're ready to hire?
Ask your colleagues in your industry for recommendations. Word of mouth is the number one way that most designers (and heck, most consultants) get referrals, but the key is to make sure you ask someone who understands your particular industry. A designer who works with high fashion brands may not be the best fit for your non-profit! Find designers who really get what you're about, and who have experience with others in your industry; it will save you time, and they may have useful ideas or inspiration to help you stand out more.
If you don’t have that many colleagues to ask, find a Facebook group, a LinkedIn group, or a list-serv with industry peers on it and ask there. As we’ve said before, there are lots of ways to connect with others digitally; all you have to do is research, find some good ones, and join on up.
Behance is an all-in-one portfolio service for graphic designers and illustrators. Think of it as LinkedIn for creatives: you can click through works from featured and up-and-coming designers and view their profiles to connect and network. The site also offers daily design challenges from Adobe, as well as livestreams from industry professionals to help you learn new design components and trends.
Happy hiring! As always, if you need a recommendation for a good designer, you can always give us a shout.