Working with a graphic or web designer is uncharted territory for many business owners. If you're new in business, you've probably tried to DIY your logo and website, and used templates from Vistaprint for postcards. Now, you're wanting to level up your design and hire a designer! But, you don't know what to expect or where to start.
Where do I find a designer?
There are several places you could look! In order, this is how I would recommend you conduct your search for a designer:
- Ask colleagues for recommendations. They are a trusted resource, and can help steer you in the right direction (or away from the wrong people).
- Ask in Facebook groups. You may not know these people, so their suggestions could be biased (or self-promotion), but still a great resource pool.
- Search on Thumbtack or Angie's List for designers in your area.
- You could try posting on Upwork or eLance, but you will get a myriad of results, and not all will be credible.
What programs do designers use?
Across the board, a majority of designers work with Adobe Creative Suite - Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign. There are some other newer, lesser-known programs being used, but Adobe is still king, currently.
What this really means is that we (probably) don't use Publisher. This can vary from person to person, but I don't even have Publisher on my computer. If someone were to send me a file, I couldn't open it. Most designers probably also don't design in Microsoft word, either.
Depending on the designer's experience, there are other software or programs that they may be familiar with. For example, I have used CreateSpace before - Amazon's self-publishing platform.
WHAT CAN DESIGNERS DO EXACTLY?
This can vary from person to person. Some designers are more versatile, some focus in one area. For instance, I am a graphic and web designer and I can do almost everything from banners to cards, books and magazines, logos and full websites. What can I not do? I don't really do package design, I'm not an illustrator, I don't do apps or animation, and I don't custom-code websites.
I've realized over the years, that a lot of the general public considers the term "graphic designer" to encompass a wide range of projects -- like even motion/animation design. Not to say that a graphic designer can't also do motion/animation, but if that person focuses on animation, they probably call themselves a Motion Designer (or even a Graphic and Motion Designer).
If you're not sure if the designer can do a project or not, just ask! It's likely not all of their projects are on their website. But, if you're talking to a Motion Designer about doing a cookbook, you're probably barking up the wrong tree. If they have no experience whatsoever with the general type of project, it's better to find someone else. But, if you see a designer who does have examples of publication design, even if it's not specifically a cookbook, they can likely manage the project very easily.
Why don't some designers send editable files?
This is a question I get far too often, and in the past, has prevented people from working with me. But, 99.9% of the time, I don't send my clients editable design files. This is for two main reasons:
- It's unlikely that you, the client, have Adobe software. If I send you an Illustrator file, you won't be able to open it in Publisher.
- I can't guarantee that you won't take my design and turn everything neon green, and use Comic Sans. If people know that I worked with Company ABC (either hearing it from you or me), and they start seeing neon green Comic Sans, that reflects poorly on me. (And frankly, you, for using neon green Comic Sans. Shame, shame...)
What is the average production time for a design?
This can vary greatly from designer to designer. The timeline can differ due to the designer's process, the amount of revisions, and the designer's project workload. If you are their only client, I imagine the timeline would move quickly.
For logos and websites, I would say that, on average, you can expect about a month, if not more. For smaller design projects like a postcard or website banner, around 2-3 weeks. But again, these are estimates and can vary greatly.
How do I find the right designer for my style?
Simply put, look at their portfolio. If you're looking for an illustrative look, make sure you see examples of some illustrative work they've done. If you want something really clean and simple, don't hire someone that has a portfolio full of grunge work.
Now, there can be some exceptions. My portfolio is largely full of clean design, much of it with white backgrounds and clean lines. Does that mean I can't do a "dark" website with texture? Absolutely not.
DO I NEED TO FIND A DESIGNER THAT HAS EXPERIENCE IN MY SPECIFIC INDUSTRY?
Many designers will probably disagree with me on this, but I don't believe you do. If you were hiring a business coach or marketing manager, then perhaps, yes. If you own a clothing store, you would probably want someone who has experience in getting more customers, choosing the right clothing brands, etc. But, a designer is a designer. A part of the design process for many designers is to do research on our clients and others in their industry. I don't believe that if I haven't designed a website for a business coach or an event planner before, I'm not qualified to do so now.
But, if you are looking for a very particular look (like many coaches do, for example), then it goes back to looking at a designer's portfolio. If you don't like what you see, or don't think they can achieve the look you want, don't hire them. There are designers who niche down and work with a particular industry - authors, coaches, etc. These are a great option, but they aren't your only option.
WHY DO PRICES VARY SO MUCH?
Each designer sets their own prices in different ways and for different reasons. The biggest components are experience, and what they are specifically providing in their service package (just a logo vs. a branding suite). But, then you also have to factor in the value they think their packages are worth, where they live (someone in NYC has a higher cost of living than someone in rural Nebraska), etc.
Remember that your brand and website are an investment, and should always be viewed as such. I would say that you should expect to pay a least several hundred dollars for branding, and at least a thousand dollars for a website.* Always remember that you get what you pay for!
(*Exceptions can be made if someone is "building their portfolio" and offering a few lower-cost spots.)
DO I NEED A WEB DESIGNER OR A DEVELOPER?
A web designer (like me) can build and design websites, usually up to medium complexity. For the most part, we focus on the look of the site, and have some experience with HTML and CSS. Developers on the other hand, can build more complex functions within a site, and have experience and knowledge of PHP, HTML, and CSS.
Sometimes, designers will build a website in Photoshop, and hand it off to a developer to build the functionality. Other times, designers will build a website with a template, and outsource certain aspects to a developer as needed - which is what I do. Some people consider themselves a designer and developer all-in-one, and build 100% custom websites. (I don't call myself a developer, as those skills are far above my pay grade.)
WHY DO SO MANY WEB DESIGNERS ONLY BUILD WEBSITES ON SQUARESPACE AND WORDPRESS?
These two websites platforms are the most commonly recommended because they are easy to update, mobile-responsive, SEO-friendly, and reputable. You can easily have a blog and shop as part of your website on both of these platforms.
There are many more website builders out there - Wix, Weebly, Portfoliositez, GoDaddy's website builder, etc. While many business owners use these platforms, they are not as user-friendly, or perhaps not mobile-friendly. For me, I only work with Wordpress and Squarespace because I'm not doing my client's any favors if I allow them to use a platform that will not serve them well.
What should I expect at the end of a project?
Again, this can vary from project to project, and designer to designer. But, here are a few things that I would consider fairly standard.
- You will most likely have to pay your final invoice before getting deliverables.
- You should get final files of your logo in various formats for print and web. JPG, PNG, PDF, etc.
- Your website should be fully mobile-responsive. No ifs, ands, or buts. Don't let them finish without ensuring this is the case.
- Unless they are maintaining it for you on a monthly retainer, you should have full access to edit/update your website.
will working with a designer be fun / easy?
It should be! Like I said above, try to get recommendations from friends or colleagues. Before hiring a designer, even if they come recommended, try to talk with them on the phone or over Skype to see if your personalities jive. This will help ensure that you two work well together, and help the project run more smoothly. Your designer should not make you feel like you are inconveniencing them during your project. And if they do, you need to find a different designer... and I know a good one! ;)