After exploring the topic of whether designers should be friends with clients, or just friendly recently, it’s a good place to lead from and discuss how to choose a designer to work with.

You’ve identified a business need for a designer - perhaps to create a brand identity, re-brand an existing one, launch a brand magazine or design a website - but how do you go about finding the right person to fulfil that need?

Looking at it from a clients perspective there are a lot to choose from, whether you’re looking for an individual designer, a studio or an agency. Especially confusing if you’ve not commissioned design before. Add to that the fact that you need to find a designer you can trust your company’s reputation with, because what they create will give potential customers one of the first impressions of your business and it can seem like a daunting process. So, how do you pick the right designer for you and your specific project? 

Understand what you need
Think about what makes your business different and the message/s you want to communicate to your customers/clients above everything else. Spend as long as you need on this, as it’s really important and one of the first things a designer will ask you.

Write a full brief
Once you’ve thought about your business and the image you want to portray, write a brief: Include company info, goals, deliverables, timescale and a budget (if known). The brief doesn’t have to be perfect, it doesn’t need to be a defined route to follow describing the exact outcome of the project. Ideally it would actually be a little open, leaving some room for interpretation for the designer to show you ideas and options you haven’t yet thought of. 

Who do you already know?
Now you’ve thought about your project in depth, it’s time to start seeing who might be a good fit in the circles you already know, on Twitter or LinkedIn, speak to your contacts too. Personal recommendation is one of the best ways to find a designer. If your project’s pretty niche - exhibition design for example - research the design industry’s press to see who does this kind of work.

Look for a designer whose work reflects the style you are looking for
If you are a fan of a minimal aesthetic, choose a designer whose portfolio reflects your style. Although designers are flexible, adept at working in different mediums, on different projects, most still have an inherent style across their work.

If you want design which is very colourful, with super detailed graphics, I wouldn’t suggest choosing a designer whose portfolio is mostly monochrome, clean or typography based. They would be working out of their comfort zone and the style you are looking for might not come naturally to them. Note: this is less of an issue if you are choosing a larger studio rather than an individual, as they would pair you with a designer who would suit your style. 

Read their writing
A lot of designers write, whether that’s their own blog or articles in the design press. Taking some time to read some of their writing will reveal their personality and ways of thinking, beyond what their ‘About’ page, or ‘Process’ page ever could.

Once you’ve identified a shortlist of maybes:

  • Look at their portfolio in-depth
  • Read and/or request relevant case studies
  • Give them a call, arrange a meeting or Skype
  • Depending on the size of the project, invite a few companies to take part in a (paid) pitch

Lastly... look for the spark
After meeting with them, trust your instincts and go with the person, or company who gives you the best feeling when you leave. If you enjoyed meeting them, they were enthusiastic, focused on thinking about your business, they made you think about the brief differently AND you left with a smile on your face, then you’ve probably found the right designer.  

Image credit

Written by Charlee Sully, Brand Consultant, The Usual Studio
I work across design, ideas, strategy and content, writing about branding, design, innovation and entrepreneurship. I love sushi, tea's my cuppa of choice and BBC6 music's always on. Unlike a former housemate - I do find comedy funny. 

Twitter @TheUsualStudio