Branding Agency; Design, Communications, Web

Photoshop Logo
Five questions before you hire a designer

Some of our clients have had some shocking experiences with a previous designer or agency. They come to us ‘burned’, having wasted so much time, effort and money. We often have to spend time building the trust back up before we get to work with them.

It’s frustrating that there is no professional body, quality-control or certification needed and that anyone with a Mac and a ‘borrowed’ copy of Adobe suite can set up as a ‘designer’. As the barrier to entry is so low, quality is highly variable.

Also, if we’re honest, many business owners don’t know how good things can look when done properly, so they accept a sub-standard output because it’s better than they could do or imagine. To many, design is just seen as a commodity, awarded to the cheapest supplier (please start this article again to see how that can pan out!)

If you care about quality though, here are five questions to ask which will help you find a good designer or agency.

  1. “What is the difference between branding and a logo?”

They are not the same, and anyone who says they are is to be avoided. Branding is more than just your logo and your designer should understand this. Branding should be integrated into everything you do and across every element of your communications – your business name, strapline, imagery, colour, typefaces – even the language you use – in order to communicate clearly what you do, and who for.

If you are serious about your business, be prepared to invest up to 5% of your turnover into the process. Any significant investment should serve you at least 3 years, although websites do need refreshing more frequently.

Try and find a company which can help you with your entire branding strategy. I’ve had clients who have gone to one designer for their logo, another for their brochure, another for their website and another for their book. If no-one is looking at the business as a whole, you will end up with a mish-mash of varying quality, no cohesiveness and you cannot build a consistent brand.

2. “Can you explain to me the difference between Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop and InDesign?”

Other design programmes are available, but these are the accepted industry-standards, so your designer should know the differences.

Illustrator, Photoshop and InDesign logos

  • Illustrator is best for ‘vector’ (or line-based) illustrations and logos, so you can scale them up infinitely with no loss of clarity. You may also use Illustrator for single-page designs e.g. flyers and posters.
  • Photoshop produces ‘rasterised’ or ‘bitmapped’ images (i.e. made up of pixels) with a fixed resolution. Scaled up, they go blurry and lose quality. As its name implies, Photoshop is best for digital manipulation of photographs or images.
  • Indesign deals with any multi-page layouts like brochures, magazines, books and brand guidelines.

If they claim Photoshop is great for logo design, or use Illustrator for brochure work, move on: they do not know what they are doing.

3. “How did you become a designer?”

With less educational investment in creative fields and the rising cost of university study, good designers truly are getting harder to find: here’s why.

Now, whilst a university degree is certainly no guarantee of a better designer, logic is that you should get a higher quality of thinking and output from someone who’s studied the subject for a few years.

Online schools claim they can train people for a new career in design in weeks, but although they may teach the mechanical techniques for creating something on a computer, any level of critical thinking, drawing skills and knowledge of design history, theory and strategy will be impossible to develop and achieve this quickly.

4. (A question to silently ask yourself) “Do they ‘get’ me?”

Does your designer ask lots of questions in order to try and understand you, your business and your ambitions?Ask questions picHave they worked with clients like you before? Do they understand how what they do needs to communicate to your target market?

To get the best result for you, a good designer or agency should take the time to get to know you, your background, what you like and don’t like, who you sell to and what you are trying to achieve in your business.

We are constantly amazed when clients say we’re the first agency to show a real interest in their business!

Trust your instincts. If the people you are considering don’t impress you, don’t communicate clearly to you and aren’t interested in your business goals, how can you expect their work to achieve anything for your business?

5. “Can I speak to any of your clients?”

Any potential designer/agency should be able to provide not just written testimonials, but also contact details of three current/recent clients so you can speak to them directly.

Ask them about their long-term client relationships – you are looking for a designer or agency you can trust, who can partner with you, be a part of your team, develop your brand and help your business grow.

Ask these five questions and if your designer or agency struggles with any of them proceed with caution. Lastly, a personal bugbear of mine, if they spell it ‘stationary’, do the opposite and RUN!!!

For a more intelligent approach to design and branding, get in touch.


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