Enlisting your first designer

So this morning I had someone ask me what the best way was to enlist my services. It's a very open question, but it got me thinking! When I get enquiries through it's almost impossible to predict the pattern they will take. It seems everyone has either a different problem or a different vision that I need to find out how best to fulfil. I love the challenge that every new enquiry has, and quite often there is no right answer to the problem, it requires simply trying to satisfy the vision of the customer.

Needless to say if you have a vision of any sort, or need someone to be creative for you, then a Graphic Designer can help. But how would you go about finding one, then getting them to deliver your vision? Even though you may not know what that vision is yet? Here are five tips that will help you find the right Graphic Designer and get the most from them.

Finding a Graphic Designer

So how do you find the perfect designer for you? There are a lot of independent designers out there as well as design agencies who would all love to work on your project. Finding someone that's good and that you will enjoy working with is difficult to tell from just looking at the website! Generally speaking, agencies are much more expensive, but they keep a wider array of skills in-house. A freelancer is much more flexible, but if you have a vast project they may not have the resource to do it in a reasonable timeframe.

Firstly, the best way to find a designer is a 'word of mouth' recommendation from someone you know. Having someone be recommend is the surest way to know if they are professional, have done a good job and are easy to get on with. Remember to ask about the specific details of your friend's/colleague's project so you can find out more about the designer and their skills.

Secondly, look for a designer that has worked on similar projects. It doesn't have to be too similar, there's no need to try and find someone who has experience doing lithographic prints of 15th century archways for an enthusiasts bi-monthly newsletter! But consider the medium you want the final product to be in, or the subject. If a designer has some beautiful printed posters for an arts fair, they will most probably be able to help you with your wedding stationary. Most designers pride themselves on flexibility, but finding someone whose work you like is a great way to get started!

A common pitfall to avoid is if you know someone that's either a friend or relative who's done design or art recreationally. They may be very talented, but more often than not they won't be able to deliver a professional quality of service that a working designer can. Creation of artwork is one part, but there is also the interpretation of your needs, flexibility in style, providing the final print ready artwork and many other skills that require more experience than just an artistic flair.

Getting in touch

Getting in contact with the designer is the easy bit. Most will provide multiple forms of communication and there is no right or wrong way to get in touch. If you want to email through an enquiry, or if you want to speak to them over the phone, it doesn't matter!

I would suggest after you make initial contact, to outline your project roughly to see what their availability is and whether you would be happy working with them. But after that you will be required to supply specific details about the project to them. I highly recommend you to supply this in writing, and save these documents or emails. This means they have all the information to hand and it gives you both something to refer to during the creative process to make sure you are both on track! Don't be afraid to chat face to face about anything you need as it is often much easier to explain, but make sure you follow up in writing.

Your Project

Now you have your designer, how do you start? The first thing is not to be afraid of what you want to ask from them. I have had clients who know exactly what they want down to the placement of the full stop at the end, to clients who need (and I quote) 'something' to go with their product to help promote it. Neither of these are better or worse, both can be equally as easy to deliver or equally as hard to get right. 

Brief

A good designer will have a list of questions for you to ask at the start of a project to give them an idea of what is required. This is referred to as a briefing. There are no rules about which questions they will ask, but it is vital to answer as best you can. Personally I vary the questions based on the job and person I'm talking to, but generally some of the questions I like to ask are:

  • What makes your business unique?
  • Do you have existing brand guidelines?
  • Any specific colours or brands you like / dislike?
  • What problem is it solving?
  • Who is your audience?
  • Who is the best in the world at what you do?
  • How will you measure success?

A great tip I can give you at this point is to is to ask the Designer to sign off the written brief they have, after you have given all the information on your project. This will allow you to make sure they have the brief in writing, and check they have interpreted all the information you've given them correctly before they start.

Price

I'm sure you are wondering how much your job will cost you ... unfortunately there is no easy answer to this question! Most designers will not have a 'menu' of set prices as jobs can vary so much between different clients. The easiest thing for you to do before you start is just google it. You may be able to find some rough ballpark estimates to work out approximately what the project will cost.

However, if you have followed the above steps and found a designer you like, and given a thorough brief, you should be able to be given a relatively accurate quote for the work. The more specific you can be with the job, usually the cheaper it can be! Unfortunately the nature of creative work, and people's opinions mean that if a job is vague at the start you will be charged for the time it takes to hammer out the specific details as the project goes along.

Getting it right

So now you have a Graphic Designer busily working away on your project, and they have sent you a first draft. Is it right? What do you ask them to do next?

Usually the best thing to do is to listen to what they say. They may well have a favourite option for you, or a recommendation on the projects direction. Listen! You are paying for an expert to work on your project so they usually have an intuition on what works best. That said, if you are unhappy with the work then say so. At the end of the day they have to meet your project brief, and if you feel it's going off track then it's in both your best interests to discuss this as soon as possible.

This is where the documentation I have been talking about comes in. This is the bible as far as your project goes, as it is easy to get caught up in the creative process and lose sight of the objectives. Both you and the Designer should refer back to this and tick off the designs to make certain they are right. This will also help you understand the decision making process behind the work too. You may hate the colour green, but the colour green used by the Designer could be absolutely necessary for your project to communicate its message properly and will therefore be the best option.

Delivery

Getting the final artwork from the Designer is the most exciting part, but there are a few things to bear in mind when you are getting to the end of your project.

If you have agreed to get the final physical item delivered by the Designer, then no worries! Check to make sure all is present and correct, that you have been delivered what you have agreed and you are good to go!

If you have decided to have the artwork supplied digitally to you and then find a printer yourself, that's fine but remember to keep talking to your designer. They have a lot of experience working with printers and will be able to help you if you need it to make sure the final product is exactly what you want! It is the same for the web if you are using a third party, don't be afraid to ask the designer for help because at the end of the day they want their artwork to look the best it can just as much as you do!

Final thoughts

At the end of the day a designer is a human being that just wants to do the best possible job for you. Be polite and friendly, and don't be afraid to be obtuse! The creative process is a great, exciting and varied experience to be involved in and no two jobs will be the same. 

Thanks for reading! For more blog posts about my thoughts on many design related subjects check out:www.blackwolfcreative.com/blog/ 

If you are interested in any of the issues discussed, and would like to speak to me, please feel free to get in touch. You can comment below, email luke@blackwolfcreative.com or even give me a call on 07742 990524.