Research Your Options To Make Your Impression!

By Zoë-Lynn Cohen

This is your image.
This is your business.
You have a project.
You want to do it right.
You recognize that presenting your “image” is an investment, not an expense.
You need to hire a graphic designer.

But, where do you begin? How do you know the questions to ask?

When you start looking for a graphic designer there are many things to consider.

A good place to start is on the internet. Some designers have their portfolios on their websites, so check that out first to see if you should even take the time to meet with them.

If they don’t have one on the internet, at least ask to see a sample of their portfolio, which usually contains what the artist believes to be his or her best work. The portfolio is a glimpse into what they have done artistically, as well as a sampling of their clients.

Is their portfolio complete with a variety of projects or do they tend to do similar projects and design for everyone? Do you like what you see? Do you think their style of design will be an appropriate fit for your company?

Graphic designers all take different approaches. Some are more artsy, some are minimalists, some are need to ask. If they cannot describe their style then they are not seasoned designers.

Also, think about “style” from a personality standpoint. It’s no secret, some people “click” better than others. Additionally, as in any business, some artists are serious business people; others do art more as a hobby or as a way to make extra spending money. Which is right for you?

Don’t be afraid to ask for references. A true professional will not be offended by such a request. And, don’t only ask about the artist’s design ability, but his or her ability to keep promises/meet deadlines. Also, inquire about the person’s work ethic and style to make sure it matches well with yours.

Once you believe you have made the “right” choice or choices, ask project-specific questions and relationship-specific questions. What does the graphic designer expect from you, the client, in order to do his or her job? Does the designer give you options to meet your needs and budget? Is email the preferred manner of communication for questions and/or PDF proofs? If you’re the type person who needs face-to-face meetings at all stages of the project (which may increase your costs), make sure your artist can accommodate this.

Ask for estimates, at least ballparks, up front so you know you are both on the same page. Find our how many revisions their estimate includes. Most designers place a limit on revisions to prevent never-ending projects. Does the designer have a minimum charge and what is the hourly rate? If you require mailed color proofs, are those charges included in the estimates?

Inquire about timing-- how long it will take and what you can expect in terms of turn-time once you give him or her your feedback to a proof. Can your deadlines be met without “rush” charges? If they cannot fit your time frame, ask yourself if you have set a realistic goal or is the designer just really busy? Keep in mind that most designers will offer alternatives to meet your deadlines. This may include a short run of color copies or a few in-house copies to get you through a particular presentation or event (assuming there is not enough time to finish the design and get it professionally printed to meet your deadline).

Find out if the designer will be able to take the design through to the final product. Not all graphic designers handle the printing of their files. Some will hand you a disk, assuming you will take it to your printer. If the designer is handling the printing, who is responsible for reviewing the blue line, which is a proof sent by the printer once the negatives have been shot. If your piece needs to be mailed, can your designer coordinate the delivery to the mail house, the postage and your mail list? If you need these services, find out what the scope of the designer’s services is up front. This will save on any confusion later.

And finally, find out who owns the files once the art is done and the job is paid. If you own the product, determine how the artist will supply it to you. Will you get a disk or will the designer archive it for you and for how long? As a back up you may want to get a CD of the files just to be safe. Some designers charge additional fees for disk preparation, so ask in advance.

As you can see, due diligence is key to a successful relationship with a designer, just as it is for other business services. Work with a professional and make sure the fit is a good one. Of course, not every project will take this much effort. If you are typesetting an office form or scanning in your company picnic photos just about any designer will be able to accommodate your needs. But, when it comes to your main corporate identity and core marketing materials (brochures, website, trade show booths, etc.)—your image—remember that first impressions are lasting ones, so invest wisely. And, never forget the old saying, “you get what you pay for…”.



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