5 questions to ask before hiring a graphic designer

July 11, 2018

First impressions matter. Nine times out of ten, the first impression your customer has of your business is your logo. From your logo, they will form an opinion about your business. Research shows that 93% of purchase judgments are made based on visual perceptions. If there were ever a place to cut corners, your logo design is not it.

The design decisions you make when crafting your brand’s image will inform the look of what you build as your business grows. Things like signage, flyers, business cards, and website should share a consistent look that clearly articulates your brand. Unified designs driven by a proper logo can make a small company feel much larger and more professional.

Hiring a graphic designer is the only surefire way to make sure your logo and branding represents your business as well as you do. But with so many designers out there, how can you find the right person to bring your vision to life? Start with these five important questions to ask when interviewing graphic designers.

1. What experience do you have?

This question may seem obvious—but it’s important for a few different reasons. First, it gives you some background about a designer’s level of experience. Generally, you don’t need a designer with 20 years of experience to do a simple logo, but you should expect that younger or less experienced designers may not actually save you money. Less experience may lend itself to lower rates, but freelancers who are new to the field may not always ask the right questions to guide your vision. In the long run, designers with less experience may end up costing you more as you go through the design process.

The other layer to this question is that it helps determine what a graphic designer can and cannot do for you. If you’ve never worked with a graphic designer before, it’s important to clarify what skills they bring to the table. Generally, expect a designer to be able to visualize the look, feel, and layout of your logo or website—but they cannot code or develop a page for you from scratch. Ask them what skills they will bring to the table from their past experience, and make sure to adjust your expectations accordingly.

2. Can I see your portfolio and examples of your work?

A designer’s portfolio is one of the quickest ways to tell if their style of work is going to be compatible with the look and feel of your business. Ask for a portfolio to see if a designer has the level of experience they say they have, and to see if they’ve done work in your industry before. A portfolio can also give you a sampling of the type of work they do—if you see lots of advertising work, but not as many logos, you can assume they might have a distinct specialty.

When you work with a designer, expect to bring some of your own homework to the table. If you have an inkling or vision of what you want your designer to bring to life, try to bring some samples of that vision to the interview. Use Pinterest to create a mood board with images and graphics you feel represent your brand. You can compare the things you’ve pinned with a designer’s past portfolio to see if this partnership is a match made in design heaven. Their portfolio should be in a style that complements your business—and make sure you like it.

3. How, and how much, do you charge?

Unfortunately, there’s no standard pricing scheme that every designer abides. Different designers will set prices based on experience, the project scope, and the competitive market. Few designers will actually charge an hourly rate; many prefer to go based on a set project fee. This usually works out to be beneficial for you, as there are rarely hidden costs and you don’t need to micromanage the designer’s working hours.

There are other variables you should ask about when negotiating a designer’s fee. Will they use stock images, licensed fonts, or other proprietary tools? This should be agreed upon at the beginning of your relationship: will you need to pay a fee up-front, pay ongoing as images are used, or expect a bill for the images at the end of the project?

Lastly, when negotiating a pay rate, ask about the payment terms. Does the designer expect payment in full? A deposit with balance due on completion? Or a deposit with regular installments? Have a conversation about edits and rework. Most designers will already have a policy in place for how many rounds of edits they are willing to commit to, so you need to clarify the specifics.

4. What is your working process?

The interview is the best time to learn about a particular designer’s process. By understanding how the graphic designer works, you’ll get a better sense of what to expect: how they will prioritize your business, and how they intend to translate your ideas to images.

Some designers will have a questionnaire for you to fill out, while others might ask you to make a Pinterest board or creative brief. If a designer doesn’t have some process to understand the feel of your business, they most likely won’t be able to give you exactly what you’re looking for. When you interview a designer, take note of how they see this specific project fitting into your overall business goals. Are they thinking about this as a one-off project, or can they commit to building a design that will grow with your unique business?

Other aspects to consider: how long will it take to complete your project? How often will they share progress with you? And how do you get in contact with them to discuss the project?

5. Do you have any questions for me?

Lastly, ask the designer if they have any questions for you. Working with a designer is a lot like getting a haircut. The more information you can give them before they start the design process, the better the outcome—especially if you have a vision in mind for what you want your brand to convey. There might also be information a designer needs to know before they decide if they want to work with you. Their reputation is at stake when they take on a new client! Answer anything they ask and provide as much information as you can.

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