Thursday, April 15, 2010

client tips : how to choose a designer

one of the most difficult tasks in life is to hire an expert in something you know little or nothing about. how do you know if your accountant is really efficient? if your financial advisor is the best he can be? how about your doctor? many professional fields require client confidentiality, hence how do you really know how well they perform? there are ways of course, like referrals and word-of-mouths. but here is the really good news about designers, and artists in general: they wear their work with pride for all to see ~> their portfolio.

a portfolio is the culmination of a designer’s accomplishments. it is specifically tailored to showcase one’s capacity for doing great work, their style of design, and the various projects and accounts they have worked on. nothing hidden. it is the best possible way for potential clients to assess the talent of a designer and whether they are a perfect fit for their needs.

hiring the right designer
• first, you must look at their portfolio; every designer has one. (if they don’t, move on)
• assess if you like the quality of the work that you see; not just one particular piece or project, but their work overall. that is crucially important. you are looking for consistency.
• is the style of design one that you appreciate? although most designers have a specific style, many can create versatility in their work, and that can be seen in their portfolio. however if their style is hyundai and you’re looking for bmw, keep looking. if it’s the other way around, then you needn’t be worried, you’ll be well served.
• for the rest, it is a question of personal interaction assessment.

a word about budgets
although you might be a small or start-up business, or in this economy a struggling one, you do not need to put your budget in the driver’s seat when choosing a designer — not ever. a talented designer will always be able to create an excellent product with the budget you present them. it is most crucial to hire someone that is experienced and that can produce quality work when your dollars are most precious. a good designer will always give you much better options on how to spend your budget than a cheap one. and yes, it might not quite be the brand new bmw you were aiming at, but rather a brand new vw instead. is that really a bad compromise?

i for one am a strong believer that good quality and effective design can be created with any budget. that is why i also believe that it is always best to choose a designer based on their talent and commitment, not on their hourly rate. then give them the budget you had planned for your project and work together in figuring out how your needs can best be served. i can guarantee that you will be much further ahead without ever compromising or jeopardizing your brand.

a hypothetical scenario : you need a logo
a. you don’t see any logos that you like in the portfolio in front of you. then it is most likely that the designer will not produce a logo for you that you will like. that’s a no-brainer.

b. there are no logos in the portfolio. then you must assess if you really like the other stuff in there. if you are dealing with a designer who’s work is excellent in your eyes, but the exact type of work you need is not featured, it is extremely likely that he/she will do some excellent work for you as well. besides, you can always ask the designer if they have samples of something close to what you need: remember, the portfolio only holds the best and most relevant pieces, so not everything the designer has ever done is included in there!

a word to the wise
lastly, please do not ever ask a designer to create some layouts for you, for free, to see if they are a right fit. it is extremely unethical and disrespectful (formally trained designers have the same level of education as lawyers), and besides, that is exactly what their portfolio is there for. after all, the portfolio showcases the designer’s absolute best; if you like what you see, you are definitely in good hands.

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