line drawing of a light bulb

Logos, photos, your new website design These are all things that probably mean you need to go looking for a graphic designer.  Well, I know for a fact – since everyone that’s ever hired me (at Plan Left or otherwise) has felt this way – that it can be a bit of a daunting a task to try and communicate your needs to a creative person (We’re not that easy to communicate with all the time!).  It’s the nature of the beast, but it can be helped if you know what to look for and what to expect.  Here are my tips for hiring someone good, and getting what you want:

#1 – The obvious – ask for a portfolio.  HOWEVER, when people ask for portfolios, the biggest thing that really gets overlooked isn’t the work itself, but references*.  Portfolios aren’t just a chance for artists to show what they do (which most think this is the case), they’re a resume at a glance.  If a portfolio doesn’t come with them, ask for them.  My best suggestion here would be to go to LinkedIn and see industry specific endorsements.  This is my reference tool, and I learned from my mentors how to use it this way.  When I get an RFP, I send a resume that outlines experience with people and management as well as the graphics/production. People can see and hear what you do creatively, what they need more of is how you work with others.  The best thing a creative can do to communicate they’re worth the job, is to offer testimonials, endorsements, or references – anything that says “I play well with others”.  If your potential candidate doesn’t have this, I guarantee you’re in for a difficult relationship.

#2 – Set clear goals and expectations out of the gate.  This is something I’ve only recently begun applying, and it’s because of my brother, Matt, that I now implement this to all of my work.  When a client calls and asks for a logo, but they don’t know what it is they want to do with this logo, or how they will use it, the next question is always to clear this up, but not all creatives are going to do this, or even know that they should.  If you’re shopping for creative materials, before meeting with someone – or even looking for someone to meet – you want to have an outline of what you expect the work to look like, how it should operate, where it should go, and be able to answer “Why?” for all of these things.  For example, you say:  I want it to look like a penguin.  I say: Why?  You say:  Because Mr. Poppers penguins was my favorite book growing up.  Now I know the reason behind your vision, and I get a little insight to the psychology that applies.

It may seem like a ridiculous example, but sometimes it is just that simple, and as a person who’s creatively translating what you are seeing in your head first, I can’t operate effectively unless I know what is expected of me and what your goals are for me.  But, you take it that little step further and clarify your vision by simply asking that question, “Why?”, and it might just save the day, and your logo.

#3 – Being a creative means being a good listener.  If you’re giving your potential designer some notes on what you want, or you tell him one thing and he gives you something different, chances are he never even heard what you asked for.  Whether there were church bells or sirens going off in their ears while they were on the phone with you, or they simply didn’t hear because they weren’t listening, the communication got LOST.   Abandoned with no trace of evidence it was even there.  I, myself am guilty of this, so I can relate to all excuses – but it’s no sweat off my back when someone calls me out, or asks for the same thing a different way.

This is the best advice I can give – be sure to say what you want and when you want it.  Simple and clear communication is the best way to get what you’re looking for.  Outside of that, make sure the designer is listening by maybe throwing in a curve ball everyone once and awhile…  “Can I have a mushroom forest in the background? And if they click on the Quote button, maybe a little singing unicorn would float across the screen?”  Riiiiiiigghhht.

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