I’ve had too many clients reaching out to me after having a negative experience with several other designers / creative agencies, which resulted in their wasted nerves and resources. Of course both parties are often equally wrong in such situations, but it always makes sense to do your homework as a client in order to know what to expect from the service provider that you’re going to hire, and minimize the unknowns. That’s the reason that motivated me to write this brief guide, it will hopefully help you find that perfect designer for your project from any location on earth.
1. Make sure you’re ready for it
What it means is simply that you have some kind of a business plan and you’re settled with a rough idea of what your product/service is going to represent, who it’s meant for, and what problems it will solve. There’s nothing more frustrating than say starting a brand identity campaign just to find out that you want to completely change your brand soon after you get the visual identity system in place.
2. Define your project needs / expected results
Graphic design is an extremely wide-ranging field, it includes dozens of sub-fields each requiring its own set of skills. A corporate identity specialist will not necessarily be well-versed in infographic design and vice versa. Here’s just some of the subfields:
- Logo and brand identity design
- Website design
- UI/UX design
- Editorial / print design
- Packaging / label design
- Typeface design
- Motion graphics
- Pictogram / icon design
- Data visualization design
Once you identify which subfield(s) you’re after with your project, it’s time to find the right expert.
3. Find the best design expert suited for your project
In 9 cases out of 10 you’ll win by searching for a specialized expert rather than a ‘jack of all trades’ generalist. The reason is simple: depth of skill. Just ask yourself a simple question: Where would you go to have some nice pizza— a restaurant or a well-established pizzeria? Same here: you‘ll be that much more confident in what to expect from an identity designer if you know brand identity is his/her primary focus and passion. You can evaluate the depth of skill by analyzing the given designer’s portfolio and looking at the work that he/she specializes in.
3.1. Portfolio platforms
The most logical and effective way to find the right design specialist is searching through the best portfolio platforms which are full of top notch design talent from pretty much any design subfield. Behance and Dribbble are considered to be the most streamlined portfolio platforms for both hosting creative work and finding a cutting edge design specialist for your project needs. You can either find and DM the best candidates by yourself for free, or post a job and have the candidates apply instead ($399 a month on Behance and $299 a month on Dribbble at the time of writing this article).
Behance: Detailed project presentation, case studies, more mockups and process.
Dribbble: Quick “shots” instead of long scrolling projects, invite-only system.
3.2. Freelance design marketplaces
Another approach is using design marketplaces. The biggest benefit is that it’s sometimes more convenient to host a project and let the platform help you with the whole process. The flipside though is that you pay an extra fee to the platform, and many Class A designers aren’t really hanging out on those platforms as they do on Behance/Dribbble.
The top two working freelance marketplace options from my experience would be:
Toptal: An overall more exclusive choice, only 3% of designers who apply to the platform are accepted.
Upwork: The most popular choice, not nearly as exclusive but can be convenient for smaller projects.
4. Let the designer do what he’s best at
So you made the hiring decision and you’ve filled in the project questionnaire. Now it’s in your best interest to trust the expertise of the designer of your choice without trying to handhold and direct design choices at every stage of the project. There’s no point in hiring a design specialist to tell him/her what colors should be used and how big the logo should be in relation to other elements — that’s just a waste of potential and also waste of your hard earned money.
Anyone and their cat can push pixels with some basic knowledge of Illustrator / Photoshop, and for the very same reason that you don’t tell your dentist what he should do during a root canal treatment procedure, it would also be silly to hire a design expert with deep knowledge of typography, composition, hierarchy, color, shape, space and other design principles / visual problem solving skills, to simply bypass all that body of knowledge and experience and just use his software skills.
A few words on one-size-fit-all ‘solutions’ and spec work
And lastly, I wouldn’t recommend you waste your time on those fishy solutions if your goal is to solve specific problems of your business instead of adding new problems to it. It includes template graphics, the so-called “AI” logo makers, “professional” $15 Fiverr graphics… Thousands of other offers that are simply too good to be true. Apart from getting an ineffective piece of visual communication, chance is very high that it’s also been used and abused by hundreds of other scammed businesses.
There is a reason a professional logo cannot cost $15 and be done overnight without a proper amount of communication, research, ideation process, strategic thinking and pure skill.
Same goes to “design contest” spec-work sites like the infamous 99designs. No serious professional designer will work for free / sell himself short.