How to Hire a Graphic Designer

Hiring a graphic designer can seem like a daunting task. Some graphic designers have a more classical art background, whereas some double as website designers. Some have many years of experience, some only a few months. Each variable presents different pros and cons. How do you know who to choose and if they’re right for your organization?

Here are nine tips to help you navigate the world of graphic design.

  1. View the designer’s portfolio. Any graphic designer worth their salt will have an online portfolio. This allows you to consider many individuals or firms before picking up the phone. Finding a designer with examples in their portfolio that you like is key. Without this, nothing else matters.
  2. Inquire about a consultation. Some designers charge for an initial consultation and some do not. Some may credit you back the consultation fee if you choose to work with them. Make sure you check if they intend to charge before you book.
  3. Ask about their experience. Although this question can generally be answered by their portfolio, it’s good to know the designer’s background and experience. If you see items in their portfolio similar to something you have in mind, quiz them about that project. Find out what their involvement was. Were they the sole designer or part of a team?
  4. Personality check. Do your personalities mesh? You need to trust this individual and feel comfortable enough to ask questions and they need to feel the same way about you. A professional designer will take into consideration your vision and your message. If the two do not fit together, he/she needs to be able to suggest ways to bridge that gap.
  5. Quotes, estimates and hourly rates. There is a significant difference between quotes and estimates. Quotes are firm prices and estimates are just that, an estimation of cost. Some firms may just quote an hourly rate. Ask how their pricing system works. What is their payment breakdown? Payments are usually broken up over the timeline of the project and the first payment is generally required to start the project.
  6. Compare costs. Don’t be surprised if the quotes you get vary. The old adage, “you get what you pay for,” does not hold true in this instance. A more experienced freelance designer with very little overhead may be cheaper than a large firm and produce the same quality of work or better. Larger firms will likely charge the most, but does that mean you’re getting the best work? They could be breaking in junior designers on your project. The upside? Large firms may have access to resources that an individual designer may not.
  7. Ask about the project scope. How many rough concepts will you see? How many opportunities will you get to make changes? An experienced designer will limit the number of concepts and revisions you get. This indicates they are used to hitting the nail on the head the first time. The premium price you pay for experienced designer is offset with intuitive, superb design and succinct project management skills. You know your project will be done right the first time and your time won’t be wasted with an endless parade of confusing proofs, phone calls and emails.
  8. Ask about final deliverables. What is it that you’re actually taking home? This answer varies depending on the project:

    a. Brochures: will you get a PDF copy to put on your website in addition to the 500 being printed?
    b. Logos: how many logo files will you receive and what types? When a logo is created, you should receive not one logo file, but upwards of seven to ten. Different logos are required for different mediums: process printing, digital printing, web, plus a version for dark backgrounds and black and white. Will you receive a guide that explains what each file is used for and how the logo should be treated to maintain a consistent brand?

  9. Ask about file ownership. What is the designer’s policy on file ownership? What if you need something reprinted down the road? Must you return to them? Many designers retain the files as theirs, providing only the final deliverable. Some designers grant their clients ownership of the files but don’t hand them out unless requested, usually because there is never much demand for it. Knowing the designer’s position on this policy may be a determining factor in whether or not you choose to do business with them.

Graphic design is an investment and finding that designer you can build a relationship with, will benefit your brand and your organization for years to come. At the end of the day, what is most important is that you find a designer that you trust and feel comfortable with, who does work you feel is appropriate for your business.