How to evaluate a graphic designer (before you hire them)

Whether or not you choose to work with Chalkbox, we want you to find the right graphic designer for your organization and your project.

Why? Because we understand what’s at stake for your business. In addition to being designers, we’re running a business, too, and we know these kinds of decisions have a lasting impact. Besides, healthy competition motivates us all to be at our best, which benefits everyone—especially clients.

Finding the right graphic designer, though, isn’t as easy as you might think. Many people make a choice based solely on price, which is not always the best criteria. Others choose based on a small selection of a designer’s previous work online; if those examples are good, the thinking goes, the designer will do good work for my project too.

In reality, it’s a little more complex than that. Here are six questions to help you make the right choice for your business.

  1. Do you like this person? You’d be amazed how often this question is overlooked. Get to know your prospective designer as much as you can to get a sense of how they communicate and how they interact with others. You’re going to be involved in this process (see the next question) so select someone you enjoy working with.
  2. What is their process? Professional designers who know what they’re doing have a well-defined process, which includes you—the client. (Note: “Take it or leave it” does not qualify as a process, at least to us.) In fact, this process should begin before the design work itself, with a proposal that is clear and includes protections for all parties. You can read about our process here.
  3. Have they done the kind of work you need? This could mean work in your particular industry, experience designing the types of pieces you’re seeking, a certain level of sophistication or a specific style—or all of the above. For example, if you need a large banner for an event, you probably don’t want a designer who has never done one. And if your competitors have polished-looking websites, branding and collateral, you should be looking for examples of work that reach that level. (Don’t hesitate to ask for more examples, too: The work you see displayed online typically is only a small cross-section, and a designer could have other work that matches your needs more closely.)
  4. Are they recommended by people you trust? Everybody, it seems, knows a graphic designer. Did you ask people in your network for a referral? Have you looked at online review sites? The reviewers there might not necessarily be “people you trust,” but there is strength (and truth) in numbers. If many people have similar impressions, good or bad, you can probably expect your experience to follow suit. You also can ask for references—past clients who are willing to talk about their experience. It isn’t common, but if there’s a lot at stake, it may be worthwhile.
  5. Do you see any red flags? Outside of bad customer reviews, there are other things that might indicate a designer isn’t a good fit—or good at all. First, how do their own materials look? “The cobbler’s children have no shoes” is the idea that someone is too busy working for others to do things for themselves. There are occasional exceptions, but a graphic designer who can’t even be bothered to create a professional and appealing website for their own business might be one to avoid. Additional issues can include basic errors, such as typos, that show a lack of attention to detail. (Now excuse us for a moment while we spell-check this post again.)
  6. Are they snobs? We’re only kind of joking here. Yes, we have strong opinions about good design and bad design. (Does that make us snobs?) But we don’t have big egos, and we will never be disrespectful—even if you bring us in to fix a do-it-yourself project gone horribly wrong. Remember, you’re the client, and your questions and ideas are important. They should not be dismissed, no matter how talented the designer is.

At Chalkbox, we’re happy to help you find the answers to these and other questions, because we want you to be happy and successful in your search for design help. Contact us today and ask away.

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