Finding a designer is hard. The industry is flooded with all sorts of riffraff toting their wares alongside the studied professionals. This can make it difficult to know where to look.
Do not despair! Many of these designers are very talented individuals making a name for themselves in an industry that is too often characterized by mediocrity. So, how might you go about find the good ones?
The best way to learn who you should hire is to learn about design. The more you understand about your needs the better equipped you will be to find a solution.
If you were planning to buy wine for a fancy party, but didn’t know what good wine tasted like, what would you do to make sure yours was up to par? Even after tasting the selection, you would be no better off unless you were taught what makes good wine good. The same is true for design.
If you want to ensure that the design you are paying for is high-caliber, you have to understand what that means. Do this by studying the basic principles of design. Remember, you only have to be able identify good design, not recreate it. Leave that part up to your designer.
Look at their portfolio. If you need a logo designed, look at the logos they have made. If you need a site, look at the sites. Nothing will tell you more about a designer’s capacity then work that they have done previously. Keep in mind that projects done in large groups may be less representative of the abilities of that particular designer.
Now take everything you’ve learned about design and consider it when you look at their work. Pick it apart, and evaluate how effective they are at communicating. Look for flaws, clutter, overly decorated, and out of place elements. Consider how well they follow existing design conventions.
Get a Recommendation
Ask people you trust who they hire. Networking is one of the best ways to find a good designer because people will only recommend someone they have had a good experience with.
Talk with people that know more than you do. Show them some of the work you are looking at and get their take. Ask them whether they would hire the designer and have them explain why or why not. Because of the subconscious nature of design, gut feelings can sometimes be useful in making these decisions. However, you should try to rely on solid evidence as much as possible.
You are just as responsible for hiring a competent designer as they are for the product they deliver. You need to know who to look for in order to ensure your own success. The more you understand about what you are paying for, the less likely you are to get burned.
When you aren’t completely sure about someone you can always hire them for a small job to learn about their process and see how good they are. If you are satisfied with their work then keep hiring them.