If you’ve been on the fence about hiring a professional graphic artist in the past, the New Year is a good time to take the leap and find one. The start of a new year offers you the opportunity to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to your company’s design and marketing strategy. Ask yourself whether or not the image your company is projecting is equal to or better than your competition’s. Is your logo outdated? What about your business cards? Your advertisements? Are you really appealing to your target market? If any of these pieces are out of line, it’s time to bring in a designer to help you get on the right track. The more professional and current your identity and promotional materials are, the more comfortable potential clients will be working with you.
Once you’ve decided you need a designer, how do you find the talent? Here are some simple tips to finding and hiring a designer you’ll love.
1) Network, Network, Network. If you’re reading this blog, chances are you’re also on Facebook, Twitter and/or LinkedIn. Out of all of your web-based connections, it’s likely that someone you already know is either a designer or knows a good one. Most of the designers I know (both firms and freelancers, including myself) are very good friends with the internet and work hard to expand their online presence. It’s good for us because we can meet potential clients, and it’s good for you because the ones who are marketing are usually pretty talented folks. Get connected, get talking, get networking.
2) You don’t have to go big or go home. Some people think that in order to get good design, you have to work with a firm and you have to spend a ton of money. Neither of those are true and one does not necessarily equal the other. Working with a firm can get you good design in a cost-effective manner, and they are generally a one stop shop. Firms usually offer web and interactive services, print design and sometimes even photography all in-house. The downside is that they also have a lot of mouths to feed and, sometimes, a hefty rent to pay so they may be a little higher than what your budget allows. The alternative to working with a firm is to work with a freelance designer. One of the nice things about working with a freelancer is that you get to build a relationship with the person that’s actually doing your design, as opposed to having to go through a project manager or some other middle man. I think most freelancers eventually start to specialize in one area, but don’t worry about having to find a different specialist for different projects–most freelance designers have connections to other designers that can take care of other pieces of the puzzle. For example, I specialize in all facets of print design, but I’m not as strong in interactive. That’s where my connections come in. If I have a project that requires interactive, I either send the work straight to someone in my network or bill my clients for the other designer’s time and we collaborate. There are pros and cons to working with either a firm or a freelance artist, but that’s an entirely different post. Just know that you have options.
3) You get what you pay for. This old catch phrase is so so so true when it comes to design. Yes, you could use a crowd sourcing website to get a new logo for $5, but how much time and thought really went into it? My guess is that you could find that same logo on about ten other request pages with a name and font change. It is not unreasonable to be asked to spend $500+ for a good logo because of the amount of work that goes into creating it. There are meetings, research, conceptual drawings, digital renderings, color studies and revisions that wind up being hours and hours of work that $5 simply won’t pay for. Think about it this way: if you paid your accountant $5 to take care of your tax return, would you have confidence in their work, or would you be expecting an audit? Graphic designers are trained professionals who put their heart into what they do, just like accountants and doctors and lawyers. You can definitely get graphic design at a low cost, but it will be reflected in the quality of the finished product.
4) Love the One You’re With. When you’re on the search for a designer, do not pick someone you can’t get along with. It’s likely that you’ll be communicating with this person fairly frequently, and if you can’t stand them, well…that doesn’t bode well for what kind of work you’ll be getting. You heard it here first: Designers/artists don’t have to be mean to be good at what they do and most of us are actually really nice people. There seems to be a stigma floating around that we artists have to be jerks, like Being Mean 101 is a class we take in college, and that’s simply not true. Pick a designer with a rockin’ portfolio AND a rockin’ personality and you’re sure to have a good experience. Design should be FUN! Remember that.
5) Just because something’s not in their portfolio doesn’t mean they can’t do the job. As you go through a designer’s portfolio of work, either online or in person, make sure not to discount them if you don’t see the kind of project you’re looking to have done. If you’re impressed with their work and with their style, but they haven’t done a mailer, for example, and that’s what you need to have created, don’t write them off. If they don’t have it in their body of work, that just means no one’s hired them to do it yet. The same principles that apply with a logo, a brochure or a magazine advertisement translate into all areas of graphic design. Graphic designers are notoriously up for a challenge, so if they haven’t done something before, most likely they’ll be excited to take it on (unless, of course, it’s something totally out of their realm of expertise).
If it happens now or five years from now, I think it’s always important for businesses to consult a designer. A lot of people have this “I’ll do it myself to save money” mentality and that actually ends up hurting them in the end. Writing a business plan creates a strong foundation and hiring a designer builds the ideal facade of your successful company. You need a logo, you need business cards, you need a website. Making sure that all of these things look their best and communicate effectively is key in keeping up with the competition.
Designers: What are some other tips you would offer potential clients about hiring a graphic artist (other than “PICK ME! PICK ME!”)?