Finding the right graphic designer for you – dos and don’ts

This post was originally written for Your Radiant Business – a blog created by my homeopath, Tracy Karkut-Law, and I, born out of our shared passion for the web and social media. On the blog we share everything we know about building a great online presence. It’s targeted towards homeopaths but a lot of the content is transferable for people building a business in other fields. This post fits that bill and I thought I’d repurpose it a little to share with you.

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People are naturally very visual and, like it or not, many of us make judgements based on how something looks. ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’ is a common warning for a reason!

It’s important to think about whether your communication materials are aligned with the personality of your business, your values, what you want to be known for and how you want to make people feel. All of these things can be expressed through the design decisions you make, be it the colours and fonts you choose, the style of your imagery and how you put all of these elements together.

Let’s face it, this can be fiddly. And it’s hard to know if you’ve got it right. What might seem sufficient in your eyes, may not be effective in communicating your message to the world and, specifically, to your prospective clients/customers.

How can you create materials that let people know that you’re the right option for them (and keep your sanity at the same time)?


Why hire a professional graphic designer?

As you know, we’re big advocates of working with professionals and here are some reasons why:

  • By doing so you’re able to focus your energies on what you do best – and what only you can do for your business. In our books, that’s a wise investment.
  • If you think of how much you earn from working with a client for an hour, every moment you spend on something you could outsource, you’re not earning that amount. Often, when you put things in this perspective, you realise that you’re losing more by not investing in a professional.
  • Because graphic design may not be your area of expertise, you’re likely to spend a lot of time figuring things out and struggling to make decisions, meaning that it will take you longer than it would do a professional.
  • The obvious one: by working with a professional graphic designer, you will get professional graphic design.

Now that you’re convinced to look into this opportunity, where do you begin? There are thousands and thousands of graphic designers out there and, you will find that, as with professionals in your field, no two designers are the same.

 

How to find the right graphic designer for you – some dos and don’ts

Ultimately, you want to find somebody who is a good match for what you want to create.

 

Do:

  • Have you seen some design that you like the look of that is in keeping with the look and feel that you would like for your business? Try and find out who designed it.
  • Look at the designer’s portfolio to get a sense of other work they’ve created. Does it resonate with you?
  • When going through a designer’s portfolio, see if he/she is able to present a design concept in a variety of formats. For example, along with designing branding materials (e.g. a logo), are they able to adapt that visual identity for use on a website or blog; or to create graphics for your social media pages such as on Facebook and Twitter; or to brand your email templates (such as ours, for those of you who are signed up to our mailing list); or to create an advert. The list goes on. A graphic designer’s versatility is important if they are to work with you long-term. They will need to be able to respond to your evolving needs and the subsequent changes required for your communications materials.
  • Arrange to have a conversation with the designer. If they’re local, you can do this in real life. However, the beautiful thing about our present times is that, you can work with people all over the world, conducting conversations over Skype or Google Hangouts. Lulu has worked with clients in Afghanistan, Australia, Ghana and the U.S., to name a few, all from her studio in London.
  • During this conversation, observe whether there is a rapport between you.
  • Tell the designer about what you are looking to achieve. Not just the physical outcomes you’re interested in but, on a higher level, what objectives you have for your business. A good designer will then be able to make recommendations as to appropriate solutions. You may think you need a brochure but, perhaps there’s a better format to communicate a particular message to a particular audience? Lulu has often had a client assume they need one thing but, upon digging deeper together, her and her client have come up with a more effective solution for solving the problem. Tracy wanted some ideas for a compliments slip that would fit inside a small Jiffy bag when posting remedies. Her designer came up with the idea of a folded card which, she’s thrilled with. It’s lovely to write inside, and her clients always comment on it. Attention to detail is not just ‘window-dressing’, it creates an impression that we’re professional and that we care.
  • Pay attention to the questions the designer asks you. Are they demonstrating an understanding of your business and empathy regarding what you need?
  • Ask them about their process. Does it allow for you to feedback along the way? This is important for both you and the designer. It means that you can share your unique insights which can inform the work (you are the expert when it comes to your business) and it also means that you won’t be surprised (in a negative way), with the end result. As much as you are outsourcing graphic design to the professional, it’s important for it to be a collaborative process.

 

Don’t:

  • Nowadays, there are plenty of auction sites where you can share your brief and designers will bid for the work, often coming up with designs for you to look at before you choose somebody. While on the surface it may seem like a bargain, and you are getting to try before you buy, there are several reasons why we don’t recommend this:
  • We believe in relationships. As you’ve probably discovered with your business, you are able to deliver the most value to somebody when you have a strong relationship with them. It’s the same with design. Remember, you will need design for the duration of your working life. Having a relationship with a graphic designer means that they can support you as your business grows and evolves. As they get to know you  and your business, more and more, over time, they will be even better placed to create design that supports your goals.
  • You may choose a designer and need them to rework the ideas they’ve proposed. This means that the cost you initially anticipated may go up. Lulu has had a client come to her after attempting to work with somebody from an auction site and having already spent quite a lot of money. Part of the reason for this was to do with the next point.
  • With auction sites, there isn’t an opportunity for the designer to really engage with and have conversations about you and your brief, before the ideas are presented. This means that the designer may not truly have an understanding about what you need. It’s like a homeopath prescribing a remedy without having a comprehensive picture of their client’s current ailments and broader medical history!
  • Lastly, and for many of the reasons above, we are of the opinion that that auction sites undermine the graphic design profession.
  • Don’t pick a graphic designer without first looking at examples of other work they’ve done. It’s important that their style/styles are in line with what you would like for your design. This will prevent a lot of frustration for both parties, once you start working together.
  • Don’t commission your neighbour’s cousin’s sister-in-law’s daughter who happens to have photoshop on her computer. Unless of course she fits all the criteria in the ‘do’ section above! There is a huge difference between having the necessary computer programmes and being a professional designer. It’s like your client having a remedy kit and assuming they can then advise others.
  • Don’t hire someone, leave them to it and then show up a month later. As discussed above, the best design is a result of a collaborative process between designer and client.

 

There’s so much more we could discuss regarding getting the most from your graphic designer but, we’ll leave things there as, we’ve given you plenty to digest and think about.

I’d love to hear from you if you have any particular questions. Please share them in the comments section below.

On a final note, remember that this process should be fun. You’re taking all the passion you have for what you do and sharing it with somebody who, will help you to package and present it, so that you can touch more people. That’s a very special thing.

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