If you are considering hiring a graphic designer or working with a new designer for the first time, its important to lay all of the cards out on the table up front so that there are no surprises later.
We think that you should develop a checklist of questions that you want to ask a new hire or a potential designer. Do this ahead of time so you have some time to properly think things out, and then bring that list to you to the initial consultation, whether it be on the phone or in person. Make sure you have a notepad to take notes and jot down items of interest, and as you go through your list check off your questions when they are answered to your satisfaction.
The reason that you should come to the table prepared is to insure that you get the best ROI (return on investment). You are hiring the designer that is going to help to promote your business and create your image. It is very important that you do your homework first.
Below is a general list of questions that you should consider asking and other items you need to consider:
Do you have a portfolio that I can view?
A designer should be able to show you examples of his or her work. It should be in form of a website or a PDF sent to you via email. In fact, you should review the work before setting up the initial consultation so that you can get a sense for the quality of design that will be provided. At any point it is okay to ask for project-specific examples. So, you can say “I am in the market for a brochure design, can you send me examples of any brochures, sell sheets, or other print items you have done?”
What type of software would you be using to create graphics?
The industry standard for graphic design software is the Adobe brand. Your potential designer should be saying something along the lines of “I am proficient in Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign” (for print) and “Adobe Dreamweaver, and Adobe Flash” (for web). There are other programs out there that provide high quality graphics, but I would make sure some Adobe products are mentioned. If a potential designer says to you “Oh, I design in Microsoft Publisher and Microsoft Word” run! Unless you specifically ask for something to be outlined in Publisher or Word for formatting reasons, under no circumstances should these programs come at the top of their list.
What is your availability for your freelance/contract projects?
Some designers work on a part time basis and may only be available after normal business hours. Others you will have access to throughout the day. It’s important to know up front when your designer will be available and the best way to get in contact with them (phone, email, smoke signals, etc). If you have quick changes will they have a quick turn around? If you are entering into an hourly rate contract, it would also be good establish how many hours per week (even if this is an estimate) that the designer can dedicate to your project.
How will you deliver files to me?
Are they going to come electronically to you (as email attachments) or will they be provided to you via FedEx on a CD or on an FTP site? This is important. Will your designer be able to provide print and web ready files? Also, if you yourself have a version of the software that your designer is using, make sure you let them know what version that is (for file compatibility). The last thing you need is to get your final design files and then find out that you cannot view them or your production department cannot open them because of version discrepancies.
Can you provide me with any standards, color codes, or instructions?
Your designer should be able to provide you with color codes for print and web (CMYK for print, RGB for web, and Pantone colors for high-end printing). This color code information will help for your image to remain consistent across several different mediums. If your designer is creating a logo or corporate identity, they also need to be able to provide brand guidelines/standards that can be followed once all the files are delivered to you. This can be a PDF of a few pages detailing the uniqueness of your logo or corporate identity and how it should be used for various different mediums and materials to insure your brand integrity.
When can you start my project?
A designer is usually working on more than one project at a given time. But even with this in mind, their goal is to make you feel like their priority and to take care of your design needs. If you have a rush project or a tight deadline, it is your responsibility to say that up front (and also the designer’s responsibility to ask). It is absolutely okay for you to ask the question “what’s a reasonable timeline for preliminary design concepts for this project?” and it also okay to ask “Is it possible to have it in two weeks instead of three?” Only ask that if you really need it (for maybe a presentation or meeting) and not because you just want things in a hasty fashion.
What is your price quote for this project?
Some designers can tell you on the phone or in person, others prefer to work up a quote and email it to you so they have a written record of what they submitted. You should be okay with both forms, as both are considered professional. Don’t leave this open-ended. If you decide to go with a particular designer and feel it is necessary, set up a contract to the terms that you will both agree upon and then sign it. It is okay to ask the designer questions about any part of the contract or to ask them to amend a part of the contract if you have good cause for concern. You have to talk money here, and when it comes to $$, the terms need to be clear.
Also inquire as to what the price includes and does not include (a designer should tell you this upfront, but ask if they do not). In many cases, if it is a project that requires photography or services to be purchased, that will not be included in the price quote and will be billed separately. Also inquire about how many revisions are included in the contract if the project calls for it. These are also terms that would need to be outlined in the contract.
These questions should definitely get you thinking about the importance of hiring the right designer for your project, and making sure you and the designer are on the same page. You are creating a relationship with the professional that is going to help to shape and direct a part of your business through their creative expertise. If you are in the market for a new designer, we invite you to contact us for a free consultation, where we can insure you that we have all the right answers to the questions above.