How to Find and Keep a Great Designer

Fuel Your Creativity is mostly about inspiration – however, sometimes we need to come up with something different for the readers and this is the perfect chance to open up a great discussion within the community. I received an email from a small marketing company a couple weeks ago wondering one thing: How do I find and keep a great designer? Seems like a simple question to me, but to other small companies the task can be daunting. Even ridiculously so, unless you have 100’s of thousands of dollars to throw around – your on your own.

In the email the client said, “So rather than wallow, I have decided to insert myself in with the best of the design community and learn how it works..”

And I thought to myself, I wish everyone was like this! I had to find answers for him, sure I could have written him an email back stating my thoughts & probably pitch him my services – but then it hit me. Use the community and involve everyone, this way we can get different opinions on these questions. I contacted a couple of friends whom I value & trust their opinion. Below you will see the questions I asked each of them and their responses.

I also urge everyone to please jump in and comment your thoughts to some of these questions, whether you agree or don’t agree, or want to say something that wasn’t even mentioned!

Before we get to the Q&A I will leave you with one more quote from the client, “This maybe Design 101 stuff but there are so many companies out there who struggle with these questions when trying to get something done, and unless you are heavily educated in the design world & culture, or have the money to throw at a sizable agency to figure out for you, it can be daunting! So in support of freelancers and small studios I would be really interested in starting or participating in this type of conversation. I do realize that many of these concerns are resolved when you pair up with a/some ‘great’ designer(s), but getting to that point can be hard and expensive.”

Some of the questions from a client’s perspective:

1. How do you go about finding great designers (best place to find them or research)?
2. What are industry standards for communicating?
3. How does someone normally navigate the nuances between developer & designer?
4. Most quotes/timelines I get back from designers tend to be months out… yet the quote stipulates that it will only take 40-50hrs. How does a person get to the front of a designers line to get things done quickly?
5. What does a designer or developer want a client to know up front, what do they expect the client to provide?
6. What stuff falls in with the designer and what goes to a developer…. Who manages this?
7. What type of parameters for setting up a budget are helpful to the designer?
8. What types of ‘rules’ can be built into a project to protect the designer while still helping the client get what they need and come in under budget?


David Airey, davidairey.com + logodesignlove.com

How do you go about finding great designers?
Their portfolio should speak volumes. Also, drop them an email or give them a call. How they communicate will offer a great insight into their professionalism.

What are industry standards for communicating?
Face-to-face, telephone, email, Skype chats, snail mail — everything you’d expect. With many clients it’s not feasible to meet in person, due to geographical locations, and much of my client contact takes place through email. Whilst it’s always nice to shake hands when doing business, the value of email communication cannot be underestimated. When everything is recorded in writing, both parties should be 100% clear on what to expect.

Most quotes/timelines I get back from designers tend to be months out… yet the quote stipulates that it will only take 40-50hrs. How does a person get to the front of a designers line to get things done quickly?
Many times it’s simply not possible to shorten the timeframe. A designer should have enough respect for his current clients not to delay their projects any more than is absolutely necessary. With that said, a ‘rush fee’ can be implemented, whereby the designer will continue outwith their normal working hours for adequate compensation.

What type of parameters for setting up a budget are helpful to the designer?
Where logo design is concerned, the number of initial ideas requested makes a big difference to the project cost. Most clients will want a choice of at least two logos, which obviously requires more involvement than presenting just one design.

Brian Lovin, Elite By Design

What are industry standards for communicating?
Email above all. If your designer can’t respond to an email with 24 hours – 36 max – you may want to rethink who you are hiring and who you are paying to communicate their ideas and perspectives with you.

What type of parameters for setting up a budget are helpful to the designer?
A lot of the basic things fall into play with this question: timeline, client budget, number of pages etc. More importantly however is how well the client want’s their business to be analyzed and studied by the designer to receive the best results. A designer who knows the target audience and what they want to see on a website is much better than the designer who designs from his or her own perspective. As designers, we get paid for our time and skills. The more time we spend analyzing your company and customers, the more money it will cost.

Jeff Finley, Go Media

How do you go about finding great designers?
There are lots of magazines or blogs that highlight designers. CSS galleries are also a good place to find great looking sites – for which you can also find out how designed it.

What are industry standards for communicating?
I think most people communicate through email. Although we use a web-based project management app that keeps key communication related to the project organized.

Most quotes/timelines I get back from designers tend to be months out… yet the quote stipulates that it will only take 40-50hrs. How does a person get to the front of a designers line to get things done quickly?
If they are hiring a single individual, chances are they could be really busy and simply don’t have the resources to complete projects that fast. If you hire a firm with a whole staff capable of handling your project, there is a good chance that someone is available to take on your project right away. I know that our typical start time on a project is 3-4 business days after the deposit is paid. Sometimes we get started next day.

What does a designer or developer want a client to know up front, what do they expect the client to provide?
The client is expected to pay a deposit up front to get the project started. Also, the designer needs all resources such as copy, photos, etc that might be applicable to the project. We cannot get started without it.

What type of parameters for setting up a budget are helpful to the designer?
Mostly the designer needs to know how long it will take to complete and if there are any other 3rd party products that need to be purchased such as fonts, stock imagery, software, etc. The client also needs to keep in mind printing costs if they’re getting a print job completed.

What types of ‘rules’ can be built into a project to protect the designer while still helping the client get what they need and come in under budget?
We always aim to get 50% of the estimate up front. And sometimes you can put a cap on revisions. If the client’s budget is low, limiting the number of revisions can help. This often forces the client to make better decisions with their feedback. And the designer should not release any source files until the final balance is paid. Also, hard deadlines are helpful because it forces the designer to budget their time accordingly and get a project out the door in a timely manner. If a client doesn’t have a deadline, oftentimes the project can drag on unintentionally because there is no rush. And chances are, the designers has other rush jobs that come in simultaneously that take priority over non-deadline driven jobs.

Ryan Downie, Ryandownie.com

Most quotes/timelines I get back from designers tend to be months out… yet the quote stipulates that it will only take 40-50hrs. How does a person get to the front of a designers line to get things done quickly?
As a designer myself I can answer this question from a designers perspective. We will have a few projects in the pipeline before we pitch or get asked to do said work. If there is three projects in the pipeline its only fair that you get a allocated spot. Depending on the timeline of the projects depends on the how fat said project gets completed.

If you want to get the designers attention the project needs to be more valuable and higher priority to us. If the project is morale sucking and not great pay we are always going to push other projects up the queue if they are simply higher paid or more creative to work on. It really is that simple.

If you want to get right to the font of the line, make sure the designer has a fair amount of creative freedom and make sure you give the budget to put the design to the front of the designer queue.

What stuff falls in with the designer and what goes to a developer…. Who manages this?

If your on about the website designer and not per say a graphic designer, the designer (if a good one) should take care of all the design process. Talking with the client, rearch, wireframing, design comps, xhtml and css and if needed the cms implementation. Developer should really be in my opinion the backend (PHP, Database etc).
If your working with a agency they will have someone of a few people who also manage the projects and allowcate certain jobs out. When working with a freelancer it is usually the freelancer himself who will decide this maybe as early as pitching for the project.

Calvin Lee, Mayhem Studios + Blog

How do you go about finding great designers (best place to find them or research)?
There are many free online portfolio gallery sites that a client can browse through. They are filled with some awesome artists/designers that the client can choose from. On the down side, you don’t know how reliable these designers are. The best way is to choose a designer that the client feels may be a good fit and try them out on a smaller project first.

Other great resources, referrals from friends, family and design forums/communities. Below are a few samples of portfolio web sites, which clients can check out and start the process of finding a designer.
What are industry standards for communicating?
With the introduction of the internet. Everything is online now. You don’t need to be in the same city, state or country to conduct business. It’s the same for design/development work. It’s very standard and common practice to communicate with clients through email, video chat, instant messenger or telephone.
What does a designer or developer want a client to know up front, what do they expect the client to provide?
As a designer, I want to be honest and upfront. Let the client know what they will be expecting in deliverables and how much the project will cost. This can be accomplished with a signed contract and 50% deposit before starting any project, with the exact details of what the client will be receiving.
The client is expected to provide the signed contract with the 50% deposit. Plus, provide the designer with all the content, photos and anything else related to the project. Most of the time when projects stall, is because the client don’t have their materials ready.

It’s also a good idea to get some background information about your client before starting on any project. It will help to met client goals and expectations. Using a creative brief will help accomplish this.

A creative brief lays out the visual design directions to explore and the objectives of the project. Using the information on the form to make sure that we are both focused and are on the same page throughout the creative process to deliver the clients message.

A few things to consider on what should be included in a creative brief.

+ Client information
+ Client budget
+ Who are you?
+ What do you do?
+ What are your goals?
+ What is your budget?
+ How would you like to be perceived?
+ Who is your audience, demographics?
+ Who is your primary competitor?
+ What do you want this project to say about you?
+ What’s your favorite/least favorite color and why?
+ List logos you like and why?
+ What would you like produced?
+ What keywords describe your business?

Calvin has been gracious enough to send me his Creative Brief & Contract. If you would like to download it, please do so!

So what do YOU think? We would like to hear from you! Drop us a comment, my hope is that the whole community will get involved to add on to the list we have started. I also want to thank Brian, Ryan, David, Jeff & Cal for helping me out to get this going!

 

If you liked this article, please help spread the news on the following sites:

  • Bump It
  • Blend It
  • Bookmark on Delicious
  • Stumble It
  • Float This
  • Reddit This
  • Share on FriendFeed
  • Clip to Evernote