hiring graphic designer

7 Things to Consider Before Hiring a Graphic Designer

Hiring for creative roles like a graphic designer can be daunting, and often a big leap of faith for many businesses. Here are 7 crucial items to consider, and some questions to seek out answers to from potential designers.

Are you looking at hiring a graphic designer soon?

Then there’s a bunch of important factors to look for to ensure you get the correct solution you are after.

Hiring is a major headache, especially if it’s for a role you are not experienced in or have little understanding of.

In this post, I’ll show you 7 of the most important questions you need to have answered, whether you want to outsource graphic design or hire internally.

1. What is their experience?

experience graphic

Experience is always the foremost item on my list when hiring.

There is no teacher like experience!

It’s no different with graphic designers.

You don’t necessarily need to go for the most experienced in terms of years in the profession or in business, but rather a demonstrated type of work.

For example, some designers excel at logo design and focus primarily on branding projects. But if you need a flyer, they won’t necessarily be your best option for that.

Here’s 3 ways to gauge experience:

  • Review a portfolio of work, or visit the website and social media pages of previous employers or clients of theirs to try to find previous contributions
  • Ask about their experience with different types of work
  • Ask about their design process. The detail of the answer will help you determine if they have made changes to it that demonstrate experience.

Vague responses can indicate lack of experience.

Finally – and it pains me to say – but the industry has a low barrier to entry which leads to unethical or desperate behavior.

Designers will steal work for their portfolio and try to pass it off as their own. So it’s important to take extra steps to ask about relevant samples. A major tell is if 1 or 2 designs are substantially better than others.

I don’t want to scare you. It’s not an extreme problem, but rather one of those things to be weary of especially when looking at newcomers to freelancing sites for example.

2. What is the quality of design like?

Design quality is a difficult one.

Designers are often tasked with jobs where the client makes pretty absurd requests, and they have to adapt. And sometimes quality gets lost with client-requested changes.

This is why it’s important to have guidelines in place to ensure both designer and client have a solid idea of what to expect prior to actually seeing any concepts.

So while quality is great, what you also get is an indicator of how well the designer has communicated their reasons for why they made certain decisions.

Aside from that, there are also some pretty basic design principles which should always be adhered to.

These may not be super obvious to the non design-savvy marketer. Four of the most common are as follows – known as the PARC principles:

  • Proximity – item organization and grouping. Related items should be grouped so they are viewed as one visual unit.
  • Alignment – no arbitrary placement of items and every element should have visual connection with other elements.
  • Repetition – the application of brand elements which helps deliver visual consistency
  • Contrast – ensure elements on the page are differentiated well enough. This is often considered the most important factor for a visually pleasing outcome.

One principles that applies to all of these is balance. There has to be a balance of items, color, shapes, textures and so on.

Not adhering to these will lead to a confusing experience, and you don’t want that.

That’s basically how you can determine quality from a brief technical point of view, as opposed to a gut feeling or first impression.

If you want to delve deeper into understanding design quality, I highly recommend checking out this video:

Over time you will become a better judge of quality.

3. What tools do they use?

Another question to have answered before you hire a graphic designer is to confirm they have access to the tools and software you require or prefer.

The most common tool is the Adobe Creative Suite – that’s Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign among others.

adobe tools

Keep in mind there are plenty of other tools available, but if you wish to have access to source files for edits to be made later then the Adobe file formats will be the best option to be able to pass on to a new designer down the track.

I can tell you, trying to convert from another tool’s format is a considerable task. There are converters on the market but it often ends up being a far from straightforward process. So avoid it where possible.

4. What is the scope of work they will provide?

Generally, graphic design refers to the planning and projecting of ideas in to visual context.

However many people will group graphic designers together with web designers, web developers and maybe even video editors.

All designers are not made equal.

In fact most graphic designers will only complete static imagery – that is any composition that does not involve coding or animations (video or gifs). Both of these are very different and require an extra skillset and development tools.

Some will design websites for you to pass off to a developer.

Others will take care of design and development, although they would normally refer to themselves as graphic and web designers instead.

It’s important to understand what sort of work you expect them to be able to complete and ensure you know that they can.

You can find out by researching their website, profile, resume (or whatever information you have). Look for FAQ’s. Otherwise just ask the question of them.

It’s also worth noting that, if for example, your demand for graphics is high but web dev work is low, look for different solutions for each requirement.

creative team

A competent one size fits all designer is a rare find. My recommendation is to find an expert in each area and get them working together to amplify your results!

This leads us to the next one.

5. How much do they cost?

The cost of a graphic designer will vary considerably.

Of course, all the other factors I go through here affect the cost of hiring a graphic designer.

I would not focus on price however, as a standalone factor. Or even with experience and quality taken into account (although that’s a good place to start).

Here’s what I recommend.

You have goals in mind for whatever you need help from a designer for. So start with whatever your reason is and factor in either the time it takes for you to do this, or estimate an opportunity cost of it not being done.

I have listed a few examples below.

  • To grow your social media following and engagement
  • Build a community to reach more of your target audience
  • Complete a content or advertising campaign

Establish what you need to invest to ensure a quality outcome, and commit to a budget that will achieve that.

Then you know what price range you have to work with and you can find the best solution.

6. What are their reviews like?

This is an important thing to look for.

Reviews are an external validation. You want to see examples from previous clients who have had success with the graphic designer you are considering.

These should be easy to find on the potential designer’s website. Freelancing sites will request reviews at the completion of each project, so they’re normally easy to find on their profile.

Screenshot 031519 043454 PM

This sample is from Upwork.

For services, agencies or solo operators you’ll have to look at their website. Any decent option will have at least a few reviews listed.

You can also search for reviews on social media. If they are set up with Google My Business you should be able to find some reviews on Google, even through a quick search for the business online. Facebook is also a good place.

Keep in mind not all businesses are actively focusing on these platforms. If they don’t have reviews on social media that’s not a bad sign, but as a rule the more testimonials you can see the better.

7. What is the contract terms?

designer contract

Depending on your requirements you may need a contract with your designer.

I prefer to refer to this as an agreement. It’s a friendlier term and not as intimidating to bring up in conversation.

If you hire directly you will need an employment agreement. This is best done up with the help of a lawyer familiar with your local contract laws.

However if you use a freelancer, the most important aspects of your agreement are taken care of through the platform. Further terms will need to be negotiated with the designer personally.

With design services or online agencies, you acknowledge and follow the terms and conditions supplied when you sign up.

In all cases, it is generally a fair agreement that doesn’t need to get too crazy. But there are a couple of items you should have in mind to seek out or ask about:

Guarantees

Do they provide a money-back offer and how likely are you to be able to use it? A lot of terms around guarantees will void it, if a particular step is taken or download is made for example, so keep a look out for a satisfaction guarantee that you can actually take advantage of if things don’t work out.

Copyright Ownership

This is a tricky one as laws differ from one place to another. If you hire a designer directly, you’ll need a clause stating that all work completed by the designer is owned by you (or your company). It’s also important to ensure that the designer has correct licenses for resources they use, or you are able to compensate them.

Delivery

Confirm that you will get your approved artwork delivered in the required format (including source files if requested) in a decent time frame. If you are paying by the hour, it is recommended to have access to proof of work (eg. like UpWork).

Contracts are definitely one of the harder areas to get your head around. I hate to use the cliche “talk with your lawyer”, but for larger projects having the right agreement in place could save you a lot of heartache down the track.

Conclusion

The above questions are the key considerations for hiring a graphic designer.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution, but it’s important to be able to answer the questions I list above to set up a sort of checklist you can use to rule in or out potential options.

In other words, you have to find a designer who is an ideal fit.

Hopefully this gives you a great starting point to establish your requirements and find a designer suitable for your business.

If you want to see if Unlimitly is a good fit, find out more here.