The most important thing that my first client taught me is that there is a difference between a graphic designer and a conceptual designer.
When he said this, I had no idea what he meant. (Nor did I give a damn about fonts and their meaning either, but that is another story.) After a grueling year of searching for the perfect designer for his project, the light finally dawned. There are many graphic artists out there who call themselves "designers". They have fantastic portfolios that look like they can win every design award out there. But ask them to create a concept from scratch and what you often get is scratches (or a blob of nothingness depending upon whose screen you walk in front of). How does that happen? You liked what you saw, in fact you LOVED what you saw on their portfolio. But there it ends. How can that be? You weren't duped. It was their work. But they were ART DIRECTED by the conceptual designer at their agency. So, how to find a great conceptual designer? It ain't easy, but their are some steps you can take to prevent hiring someone without the knowledge of their conceptual abilities. Here is what we do:
Yes, we still look at portfolios. However, we delve into exactly what they worked on in the portfolio and what they were thinking to concept the design.
How do they inspire themselves to concept something they do not relate to? For example, can a 25 year old guy who loves hockey design a Bat Mitzvah site that will appeal to a teenage girl? You'd be surprised. (If they are not constantly seeking inspiration through websites, photos, billboards, etc., ) it may be a sign to pass.
- Client references
Ask to speak to someone whose project they designed. Ask indepth questions concerning ability to translate their needs, brand identity, timing of delivery, etc. Most importantly, ask if they would hire this designer for other projects.
- Test their skill
I always ask a designer to come up with a design for a project that we have worked on. I will pay them for a four hour job just to get an idea of whether or not this person has the ability to work under pressure and deliver a unique interpretation. I can also see if their deliverable matches what their portfolio says.
- Hire them on a trial basis
Sometimes it is difficult to determine a designer's true ability from a 4 hour test, so we will hire them for a longer 2 to 4 week period. Usually during this time we can determine their ability and whether or not they have the skill set for a permanent placement.
Hope these tips help you to save time and money AND get a good designer.