Foundations for Success

Picking the right designer

I’ll be writing an article to go into depth on what I think should be the defining principles for choosing the right designer for a project, but I want to touch on it briefly here. Essentially, don’t let price alone be your deciding factor. If you have reached a stage where hiring a designer is a possibility, you should try to allocate enough to hire the best you can.

While cheap might sound like a good idea, it generally will only lead you to issues later on. For example, a logo you purchased for little on the internet-might later on be found to be a plagiaristic logo that will get you in hot copyright water. It might be delivered to you in a jpeg format only, which limits how much you can size it for different applications without getting pixelated. It might also only get you a designer who never seems to answer their email or phone and makes the entire process frustrating as most likely if they have skill, they will have over committed themselves to cheap projects making you just one of the herd of clients they are trying to take care of.

And let’s not forget skill: hiring a designer that knows how to use the programs and “draw some stuff” is not comparable to a designer that has been educated to understand design principles, understand usage in different applications (Like what if this logo was made into a sign? Will it still work?), and understands using design to market to different people. These are important elements to consider when you hire a designer.

Discuss, Discuss, Discuss, Design Brief  

You and your designer should have some conversations about the project. While sending notes over that say “I need a logo” might work, you’ll need to be able to clarify this. The best way to avoid ending up unhappy is prevention. I use the phrase “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” quite frequently. This is true in many elements of designing for logos, websites, brochures, etc. If you just went on a “new logo” note, you’re probably not going to be happy with the end result. What’s the market? Who are we reaching? How will it be used most often? What is it you’d like to say about your organization? Is it user friendly?

If this is your first time working with a designer, don’t be afraid to ask for a design brief. Any of my projects that are of a substantial size, I do this anyhow. What is a design brief? A design brief essentially outlines the problem you’re having with your current materials (be it brochure, website etc.), outlines the goals of what you hope to achieve with the redesign, and then explains at least in general terms what the designer intends to do in order to accomplish this. For smaller projects I’ll just send over an email with the information in it, and for larger projects, I’ll do a more formal document. Either option requires either an email “Yes, we’re on the same page. Let’s do it!”, or a signed version faxed/emailed.

Taking the time to discuss things at the outset is one of the absolute best ways to avoid ending up unhappy later. And for any designers reading this, by doing a design brief you’ve ensured that you have something to hold your clients to if they’ve changed the parameters of the project later on.

Know what you need, to the best of your ability

One thing that I as a designer have at times had issues with clients over is knowing what they need or want out of a project. I had a meeting several years ago that clearly illustrated this. I was told that they needed 2 brochures. One for one group of users, another for another group of users. We were instructed to not treat one as special and give it any sort of “flair” despite the fact that it was targeting a higher eschelon of users that would hopefully donate money. So that’s what we did. Then we were called into a meeting where the clients voiced a great deal of non-satisfaction with what we had come up with. Specifically, our lack of treating them differently and no “flair”.

What later came to light was the different stakeholders in the project hadn’t all weighed in when we were developing the design plan, and so when they were presented with non-flair, they were not happy. So you as a client need to do your best to get feedback from the parties that have enough weight to change the breadth of the design. This will go a long way to smoothing out the process overall. It will create a solid foundation for which the design brief can be built upon thereby preventing some uncomfortable situations later on.

Another element to consider is knowing who you want to accomplish with your design. If you’re looking to get more donations on a website, then that’s something that you need to convey to your designer. Even things that you think might not be important to communicate to your designer, might very well be. So don’t be afraid to tell your designer as much as you can about your overall plan for the site, but even your intentions down the road for your organization. We may very well have some additional solutions to make it happen or come up with even better solutions. So please share as much as you can. It really can make a difference.

#design #graphicdesign #successfuldesignproject