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How to Hire a Graphic Designer 101

how to hire a graphic designer photo of tablet with foo foo coffee and graphic doodles.Maybe on the onset your secretary’s business card designs helped get the word out about your company. Now that you are past the launch stage you are curious about how to hire a graphic designer – a professional graphic designer who can present the company at a higher level. Whether your small business needs an updated logo design, sales sheets, brochures, or digital artwork created for websites and social media, knowing how to hire a graphic designer will save you time and money.

How To Hire a Graphic Designer Checklist

First, ask around, ask for referrals from trusted colleagues. Next, refer to this checklist. Clear communication up front will make for an enjoyable exchange of creativity and successful graphic design solutions for your company.

  1. Does the graphic designer have samples to review? Graphic artists (aka graphic designers) love to show off their talent. Ask them for samples of similar work to your project or view their website.
  2. Can they provide references or testimonialsEstablished firms and freelance graphic designers will have client testimonials for your review.
  3. What services does the graphic designer provide? There are specialty graphic design services such as website design, animation, and companies who offer logo design only. Make sure the graphic design firm you choose offers the services you need.
  4. Do you need to hire other professionals? Graphic designers are responsible for design. Typically they are not editors, copywriters or even photography retouchers. These are all elements that may be needed as part of your project but are not necessarily the role of all graphic designers or from every graphic design firm. Clarify upfront what you think you need and determine who  is responsible for each role.
  5. What are the steps in their creative process? How many concepts will be presented at the initial design stage? How many proofs will be provided as part of the estimate? How many and what types of changes are included in the estimate? Are proofs provided electronically or through hard copies or in person?
  6. How much time is allotted for the graphic design consultation? To build a new corporate brand image for your small business or provide elements in support of an established company brand such as a brochure or catalog it is important for the graphic designer to consult with someone in the company prior to beginning the project. How much consultation time is included in the estimate? This will usually depend on the scope of the project. Less time is allocated for a brochure and more will be needed for a complete campaign. Is additional consultation time available for a fee if needed via phone, in person or emails?
  7. What if you don’t like the design? If you have done your diligence, viewed the graphic designers work and determined their design style fits your style you’ll probably get a winning design right off the bat. If the design is not what you are looking for first ask yourself why, what’s working, what’s missing, etc. Provide the designer with this feedback. Try not to be vague – have concrete feedback to avoid wasted time and additional design fees.
  8. How much do graphic designers charge? Graphic designers charge hourly and by the project. With established clients graphic designers may also work on retainer or hold an annual contract. Fees vary from agency to freelancer. Keep in mind just because you are hiring a freelancer doesn’t mean you are paying less than a firm may charge.
  9. What is availability and turn around time? Turn around time for design projects is often based on first come first serve but exceptions can be made with rush projects. Additional rush fees may be added and you may not get lead designers on your rush graphic design project. The more time you have to create your project the better to allow for the full creative process. Keep in mind that freelancers may work full time jobs and have a limited amount of time to work on your projects. It is also important for you or your staff to be available to respond timely to proofs and keep the project moving forward without delay.
  10. How many edits/changes are included in estimate? This is an important variable when pricing your project. Proofs and changes take time and additional fees can add up quickly. Find out how many are included, what types are included and what the charge is if additional changes are needed beyond the original set amount. To reduce changes and proofs, make sure all of the copy is proofread and have received final approval before sending it to the graphic design stage.
  11. What are payment terms?  Standard industry practice is 50% of the estimated cost at the start of the project and rest upon completion. If a project is larger in scope such as an annual campaign or new branding campaign a three part payment term may be utilized or monthly fees can be determined. If printing or website hosting is required the design is usually expected to be paid in full prior to release. Cost of printing may be required to be paid up front or may have 30 day terms.
  12. What files will you receive at the end of the project? Standard graphic design industry practice is to provide final approved files in high quality print pdf for all printed pieces and jpg, png files for digital projects. Original concepts, working files, software, fonts or limited use stock photography are not released but may be negotiated outside of the original contract dependent on copyright and availability. Often if a file is needed for use in another media graphic designers and design firms will release them if applicable.
  13. Who owns the graphic design copyright? Original logo designs, publications and website designs are applicable to submit for copyright. Some graphic design and advertising firms retain full ownership where others like Connection Group maintains that once you’ve paid in full for the work, you should own it. As mentioned above software, fonts, limited use stock photos, etc. may be subject to copyright by the original creators.
  14. Is printing, writing, editing provided? This is an important question to ask in the beginning. Most design firms can offer printing also but typically do not include it in their design fees. Some firms hand you the electronic files and then have you contract the printing. Same with copy writing and editing as mentioned previously. Make sure everyone knows who is responsible for what stage.
  15. Can the files be used in other formats after the initial order? Often when a clever design solution is created a small business may decide to use it in multiple promotions or create a full ad campaign around it. If files are originally created for the web or online use a complete recreation may be order to meet print resolution requirements. SInce the creative has already been established at this point you are paying for production, not design time so you will still see a savings.  In opposite circumstances, when going from a print design to web, designs may only need to be adjusted to fit online dimensions.
  16. How are additions to the project handled? If part way through the project the customer adds new items, for instance you add a letterhead and brochure to a business design project,  you will want to get additional bids for these pieces and determine time line. Also, if you are foreseeing many edits because a design will be reviewed by a committee, etc. get an idea of expenses up front if possible. Please review caution about edits and changes.

Don’t play the field when it comes to hiring graphic designers.

Once you’ve learned how to hire a graphic designer, sit back and enjoy. A good designer, who really GETS YOU and your business is an important part of your success team. Build loyally, save money, reduce errors and present consistent branding images throughout all of your company marketing, promotions and advertising – in print and online. You’ll enjoy cost savings when you are able to keep your marketing and advertising campaigns with the same design firm. Plus, you’ll avoid costly surprises and know where to find all your files instead of spending time chasing them down each year.

As one of a handful of graphic design companies in Lansing, Michigan area we’ve served a variety of non-profit and for profit clients in the over 17 years in business. We continue to provide graphic design solutions for small businesses and organizations across the United States and Canada. As budgets get tighter, company staff must handle projects they are not trained to manage. We hope this ‘how to hire a graphic designer  checklist’ will be a helpful guide to key personnel who are not familiar with how to hire a graphic designer. Please connect with us today if you have any questions. We appreciate the opportunity to design online and print marketing solutions that connect with your customers.

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