Finding and Working With the Right Designer
In the next few sections I will try to shed some light on what a designer is, how we work, and what makes us tick. I'll also give you some tips on how to find the right designer for your project, and how to best communicate with them.
So... Let's jump into it shall we?
We are not JUST pixel pushers
There is a perception that designers don't understand the mechanics of the product cycle or marketing principles. Many think that all a designer cares about is making things look "pretty". This is not true.
An experienced designer is trained to listen, offer opinions and options, keep your brand intact, and help your developers solve issues.
User experience and information architecture is also something a designer is exposed to on a daily basis therefore making him/her a useful resource to your team.
Most designers wear many hats, and have to in order to stay competitive and survive. All designers will have strengths and weaknesses though. Some of us see ourselves primarily as web designers, or user interface designers, others as experience designers, or print designers, illustrators etc.
For someone looking to hire a designer, this can all be a bit complicated. There are so many types of designers out there with so many different backgrounds and skill sets, you may wonder how you will ever know who is right for you. Well, I can give you a few tips that might help you pick the right designer and avoid wasting time or money on the wrong one.
Use the right Designer for the right job
Before you even start looking for a designer, make sure you yourself have a clear vision of what you are trying to create. Make sure your brand, target audience, and goals are clear. Is this just a branding package? Will you also need a web site, a web application, phone app? This can help narrow down your choices when choosing a designer.
Take the time to research a designer and review some of their past work. Many times I get requests for work that I don't do. These are projects outside of my style, scope or interest as a designer, things someone would know if they looked through my past work. Designers have to be very diverse, but most will have a specific style and strength as I mentioned above. Hiring someone and asking him or her to do something that they have no past experience or interest could have its challenges.
I would however like to state the obvious and say that we all start somewhere. If you would like to work with someone who may be in a learning situation, or has not worked on a similar project in the past, yet you can see their true potential then by all means give it a go. Challenges make designers better especially those who wish to succeed. If you enter into a project with someone of this level, just be aware that there is a learning curve so the timeline may need to account for that. I know I have learned so much over the years and I have enjoyed pushing myself to new levels, as designers we are always new to something. As long as we are up front about what we know, then the process will be that much smoother.
Educating designers (Give us the info)
As designers we depend on you and the imformation you give us. Having as much information, and being as clear as possible about what you are trying to achieve with your project is crucial. This helps us design around your goals and your target audience. Leaving the project open ended with a foggy idea about what you are trying to accomplish makes it very difficult for us as designers because the options could be endless. We're creative, but we're not mind readers. And we usually bill by the hour! The more detailed and specific you are at the start, the better the designer can tailor the project to your needs.
Designers need guidelines and limits or borders in order to design. Sure, there are fun times when we can be completely creative, but reality dictates that every project has guidelines and borders. Set them and we will follow.
And another thing, make sure your designer is aware of your ultimate goals. Projects have different philosophies; some are focused on the dollar, some on the user experience, or simply the positioning/branding. There are many ways to design a product.
Keeping it simple
Look for designers that work smart and don't just make "fancy" things. Some designers in an attempt to just please the project owners, give in and do all of those unnecessary things that look cool but cut content and usability. That is not beneficial for anyone, and as a business owner you trust your designer to give you the best available solutions to your problem.
Designing for your customers
As designers our ultimate goal is to please your end user. It's far more beneficial to your business goals and bottom line, if we design for your users and not your tastes. Please don't take it personally. Our goal is to make them buy your product, and services.
When we ask for demographic data or user feedback don't look at us like we're crazy. These are things we need just as much as your marketing team. In fact, think of us as part of your marketing team.
The marketing team and the owner should strive to do a better job at including members of the design/development team early on in the process. The business unit should stop thinking of the designers and developers as labor, as most designers and developers these days are running their own businesses.
The reason designers often times detach themselves from the work, is because we feel we have no control. We're merely constructing, not designing.
Make sure your designers get familiar with your development team
Bringing in an outside designer to work with your developers is tricky, because the designer might not know the strengths and weaknesses of your team, and their backgrounds. So, as designers we might design a certain way thinking its possible when in reality it's not due to the team limitations or time constraints.
Introducing the designer to your team should always be done early in the design process.
What not to do!
Do not, I repeat Do not ask for FREE Spec work. I do not have time to entertain your wild ideas on my dime, I have a business to run. If you trust me as a designer, you have done your homework, seen my work, and you are serious about your project, then please be respectful and pay me for my time and ideas.
Tell us what you need NOT how to design.
As designers we try our best with the information we are given to understand your business, your target, your corporate culture, your needs. But we will never be able to understand it as much as you do. So guidance is critical. But...
Do not tell the designer how to design. That's not your area of expertise. We need the freedom to be creative. Michelangelo could have painted what Pope Julius II wanted him to paint on the ceiling of the Sistine chapel but instead; he gave the pope a masterpiece while still achieving the pope's ultimate goal.
Now by no means am I saying let us do whatever the hell we want to do. I just mean that having someone that understands your vision, your branding, and your product, can give you the results you want! So make sure they do understand, they ask questions, and this goes back to what we discussed earlier, finding the right designer. Then trust them to deliver!
Don't ask for a site just like someone else's.
Be open to new, unexpected ideas. Don't trap the designer in a box. We don't work well that way. Don't be afraid of something different, and let the designer explore and discover. Show us what you like and why, and then let us work. Let the designer tailor the product to your needs. The site you may like will reflect their goals, their target, while your site will need to reflect yours.
I hope this helps you on your search for the next designer. Good luck!