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If you’re thinking of starting a new business, already own your own business, or are merely embarking on a personal venture, you may have considered availing of the services of a designer to help get you started with your project.

Question is, how do you go about finding a quality designer who really knows their stuff and who won’t rip you off? How do you weed out the good from the bad?

In this day and age with the prevalence of the Web and various social media marketing platforms, the commercial design industry has never been so competitive. In an industry with such limited regulation, we are unfortunately beginning to hear more and more horror stories. There’ll always be those few individuals who own a computer, installed some free software and have completed a 6-week educational course marketing themselves as “professional and experienced” designers. However tread carefully! Not only does this devalue the work of highly qualified and experienced designers, but unknowing and unsuspecting clients could be taken for a ride by amateur (or god forbid “cowboy”) designers – with unfortunate consequences.

We rarely get a second chance to make a first impression and design has a large part to play in this regard. Design however isn’t about merely making things look pretty. It’s an equal mixture of aesthetics and function and when done right, engages and connects with your viewers. So finding a solid client-designer match is important, abeit a little daunting if you don’t know what to look out for…

So, how do I determine if a particular designer is right for me I hear you ask? The answer is quite simple really…. you have to do your homework. Below is a list of some aspects to consider before making your decision:

1. Specialised or Multi-disciplined?
There are as many types of creatives out there as there are cars brands. You’ll find designers, developers, illustrators, copywriters, and animators to name just a few. Because of this you need to carefully consider everything you will require for your project currently and for the foreseeable future. Do you need just a logo, or do you require complete branding, print, marketing and web design services? While there are many creatives out there who specialise in one particular field, there are also ample multi-disciplined creatives who offer various services across many mediums. No matter which option you choose, you should always aim to maintain a consistent style and message across all your material/projects. Brand consistency is vital to the success of any business.

2. Do you like what you see?
Showcases and portfolios are how designers sell themselves, so this is one of the most important resources available to potential clients when researching a designer’s skill, aptitude and suitability for their project. Qualities to look for include variety, originality, creativity and whether you consider their style of design effective and suitable for your business.

3. Is it up to scratch?
If you’re searching for a designer, it’s most likely because this type of work is out of your realm of your own personal skills or something you require professional advice and guidance on. When browsing a portfolio, try to determine if a designers past work is of a high quality and suitable for its purpose. The quality of the work you view is what you should expect to receive.

4. Is The Price Too Good To Be True?
Price is often one of the biggest concerns when starting a project or business, so you must always be particularly cautious when receiving a quote that’s very low or very high. Every designer is unique and come with their own skills, experience and price. There will always be those who charge on the higher end for their work, while there are equally as many who will offer work for ‘next-to-nothing’ prices, both of which you should be weary of. If you deem a quote to be rather low, it may indicate that the designer may not fully understand your project requirements or may be cutting corners. Price should never be your only determining factor, however more than not you get what you pay for. As the saying goes “pay peanuts, get monkeys”. My advice is to shop around and compare price with quality and always ask what exactly you’re getting for your money.

5. Evaluate their Experience!
If you’re happy with all of the above, then it’s time to consider the individuals background. Do they have much experience? Where have they worked previously? For how long? What was their position? (director, lead designer, intern etc). Ask for a CV/resume if applicable. What did their education entail? Have they any other skills that you might find attractive or relevant? Remember though that you want someone who can think and work creatively so don’t be discouraged if they don’t hold any degree or diploma. It’s their work that is often more relevant.

6. Do they seem interested?
You send through a project proposal and don’t hear anything for over two weeks! This should set off alarm bells. It’s important that a designer responds to your requests and queries in a timely manner where possible, so you know that you and your business are important to them. If they don’t respond they are either too busy, unprofessional in their work manner or simply not interested. Presuming they are interested however, determine whether or not they plan on building a working relationship with your for future projects. Have they repeat clients? This will help you to determine whether or not they will be in it for the long haul.

7. Do they understand your the project requirements?
There’s nothing worse than have a mental picture of what you want or need to achieve, only to get back solutions that are so far from the brief that you can’t fathom what went so wrong. A professional designer will try to ascertain your project requirements by asking appropriate questions and gathering all the information they require before commencing any work. Although you should listen to a designer’s suggestions, they also need to listen to yours and guide you on the right path. Their job is to find a medium between your ideas and their expertise.

8. Do you get along?
It’s important that you take the time to talk to or even meet with your designer to ensure that you work well together and that your personalities don’t clash. This may seem rather obvious, but having a good working relationship is critically important, as you will need to communicate effectively with one another to achieve the desired result. There’s no sense in having the world’s best designer if you can’t work together.

9. Get Referrals!
There are many ways to search for a designer (local directory, social media, online search engine etc), however one of the means is to simply talk to friends, family, colleagues and associates and ask for personal recommendations. Word of mouth referrals often do go a long way! You may also want to follow up on their previous client testimonials.

10. Legalities
Always a good idea to ensure you both agree upon (and sign) a project contract or terms of service agreement. It’s important to have the specific details in writing in the unfortunate case that should anything go awry. If a designer is unwilling to sign some form of agreement you may want to question why?

Designers are the people who will be designing the face of your business or brand so it’s important you find one that’s right for you – the result of which will hopefully be an effective solution and a great working relationship.

Post by Sheena Oosten,

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