You are a business or start-up and know you need some help with the design side of things...You have a particular goal in mind and realise that some creative input and ‘designer knowledge’ would help you on your way.
But where to start…? You’ve never worked with a designer before (or worse, have previously had a bad experience) and you don’t know any personally. There seem to be so many design places around, but the jargon they use can be confusing and do they all offer the same thing? Read on, hopefully this post will put you at ease...
1. What would you like a designer to do for you, what can they add to your business?
Designers can help in many ways, and will generally tell you this, but below are some examples of how good design can step your business up to the next level.
- Give your business a stronger identity and confidence
- Help you to connect with your customers or clients
- Build your presence online – your website, blog, social media… and also in the ‘real’ world through more traditional marketing methods
- Help you achieve consistency across your brand - everything you output should come from the same place and become easily recognisable as you
- Work with you to develop strategies for the future
It helps to be clear on what it is you are looking for, but sometimes that isn’t quite so easy. It could be that you also need a designer to be a ‘creative consultant’ and provide a more objective view of your business, giving a steer on what it is you business could actually benefit from.
2. Independent designer or design agency?
This really comes down to what you feel comfortable with, how you would prefer to work and possibly the scale/complexity of the project.
An independent or freelance designer will have particular skills, and may work with others should a project require additional expertise. The level of experience will vary between designers, but this should be easy to check by looking at their website and previous projects they have worked on. By choosing an individual, you know who you will be working with and communication tends to be direct with them.
A design agency will have a team of creatives offering a broad range of expertise. They should assign the most suited individual/s to the project and will often have an account handler coordinating the project.
It doesn’t always follow, but often the size of design ‘outfit’ you need equates to the size of your own business: A small business or start-up will probably get more for their money with an independent designer or small agency, whereas a bigger corporation may look to work with a larger, full service design agency who can offer more people power.
3. Look around you
Window shop. Have you noticed any creative work that you’ve liked – a website, a flyer or an advert in a magazine? Look at companies in similar fields as you, not necessarily competitors - are there any that stand out for their overall image?... Try to find out who does their design.
Ask around – any friends or colleagues that may have had experience of working with a designer? A recommendation from someone you trust is a great place to start.
And failing that, the internet search. Start by searching locally, if only so that potentially you could easily meet up and discuss the project.
4. Check out a bunch of designers’ work
Bookmark the websites of designers and agencies you like the look of. Go through them one by one to get a general feel for each.
- Do you like the sort of work they do?
- Have they done projects similar to yours?
- Read what they say about themselves – Do they seem professional, and with the level of experience your project will need?
- Is there anything else on their website that particularly draws you to them – a general approach, the way they describe the projects they have worked on, or a particular piece of work?
You are looking for an individual or company who will be good to work with, and ideally who you can build an on-going relationship with over time.
From all the sites you look at, try to pick out the ones you think would be best suited to your specific needs.
5. Making Contact
Give your potential designer/s a call or drop them an email.
It is perfectly feasible to make contact with more than one designer, just for an initial chat and to get a feel for whether they might be right for your project, as well as whether they would be interested in working with you.
Outline your project and what you’re trying to achieve. If you have a timescale or budget in mind it is useful to share this information too.
6. Get an idea of how they work and the process involved.
- Ask them to describe how they would approach the project you have described
- How would they communicate with you, and how many stages of 'work in progress' would they intend to show? Is there room for you to give feedback at each stage?
- If you have ideas, are they willing to take them on board?
- You should remember here though, the ideal is to find someone who you think can bring something to your business and not simply do what you tell them - if they don't think your ideas are suitable, they should be able to explain their reasoning and will offer alternative solutions.
- If they were given go ahead, roughly what would their timeframe be? - when would they likely be able to start your work, and how long should it take.
If all sounds good and you're happy with the attitude and approach of the potential designer/s, ask if they could put a quote together for the project.
8. Decision time
You should now be in a position to make a more informed decision about who to work with and who best to design for your project/business. Some suggestions of what to consider:
- Do you instinctively have a preference? From looking at the designer's previous work and discussion with them ?
- Is there a particular designer who seemed to understand the project, and who most grasped what you are trying to achieve?
- Was there anyone you felt was on you wavelength? Communication is key to a good working relationship, this is generally a whole lot easier when there is a mutual understanding.
- Look at the quotes. Check if they cover the same things. Make sure you have a clear idea of what is covered and what is not. If certain elements aren't itemised they may be charged additionally, so clarify.
- Costs should be weighed up against the quality and experience of the designer.
- If your preferred designer isn't able to start straight away, are you prepared to wait for them? If not, are you happy to go with an alternative who can do the work quicker ? You could try asking if they could recommend any other designers who work in a similar way.
Hopefully this is the start of a positive working relationship with the designer or design agency you choose, where you work together towards a common goal/s.
Like with any relationship, there will be give and take, and things might not always go as you expect, but by being open-minded, listening and considering each others needs and ideas the outcome should work out well for you and your business.
I am only just starting to write posts like this, which I hope will be useful to individuals or businesses looking to work with designers. If you found this interesting please do follow me, to be kept up to date with future posts. Or if you have any feedback, comments or questions feel free to contact me.
Thanks for reading!