Finding the right designer or design studio to work with your business on a long term basis is a challenge and a half. It is actually the same for the creatives: having a client that listens and takes our professional advice and let us do what we judge as best for their project is rare.
When you reach out to a designer or a studio, you need to be clear on what your goals are and what your project entails. Your business goals, expectations, and of course, an introduction about you and your business. By any means, never think you already know what the solution is — that is why you are reaching out to a design specialist in first place. If you are looking to work with an expert in the field, always state your objectives, expectations, budget and timeline.Approaching an expert with an empty request will likely get it ignored, since there are probably others flowing in. On the other hand, having the attention of a rookie designer by not giving such information will lead to a load of headache for you. That is generally what experienced designers and studios are trying to avoid: miscommunication. A lack of introduction, financial standpoint and business goals are a major red flag for great designers and studios.Even if the experienced designer or studio cannot hire you, they will know whom to direct you to.
This communication necessity apply to all design fields. Designers are problem solvers, and we can not solve problems if we do not know the whole scope. We are going to talk about the specialisations within the graphic design industry first so that you understand what they entail and what you should to watch for when communicating with your designer.
You are not hiring someone to design a graphic, but to solve a problem that will help your business grow. It might be even that you thinkyou need something in your business but in fact, it could be something completely different. That’s why you hire a specialist in first place.
Our association, AIGA, explains in a short paragraph
You want the solution to work.Hiring the wrong studio or designer can result in the opposite and even loss of money.
In this article, we will be talking about logo designers, brand designers and web designers specifically.
The three types of Design
There are three types of design?
We have Design that is intended for digital media and design that is intended for printing purposes. They require different techniques and knowledge when preparing a file. Sometimes, the same Design needs to work on both print and digital, which is where it gets interesting. Colours need to be similar on all medias, letters legible in all medias and sizes.
The third type of designers are the facilitators. They Design solutions that aren’t translated only to visuals, but to real life experiences. Those are the raw strategists, art directors and brand consultants.
The design fields
A designer will typically choose one specialisation and then find a niche to work in. A studio, however, will have one or more specialists in each category.
1 – Logo designers
Logo Designers design logos only (duh). They are not working on the strategy for you, that is something you need to have cleared out before hand so you can present it to them.
Logos need to work on both print and digital these days, so you need to make sure your Designer understands the requirements — a sign is when they offer you different variations of a logo.
What do you need to watch for:
– too many revisions: you need to hire someone who can tackle your solution without losing time. A specialist does not need validation from you.
– be able to work with typography and icons alike. Logo lockups are made of different parts and there are different combinations to watch out for. For example, your logo could be comprised of a monogram and a logotype (like Louis Vuitton) or an icon with a logotype. They need to be able to work out what is best for your case.
– they do not understand intellectual property. There is a chance that you do not understand it either, which is ok. It is not your job to know everything about it. It is theirs. Ask them how it works. If they are charging you little, they probably don’t fully grasp it.
2 – Brand designers
Brand designers are focusing on creating the whole brand experience. We call it a “brand system”, which comprises of a simple strategy, colours, typography and deliverables to support it.
I’m inherently a brand designer and strategist (they call me The Branding Girl); my past experiences with business have shown me that for true branding solutions, business and design are in their best when walking hand in hand. Personally, I don’t do logos or brands without strategy, and this whole studio’s core is on that approach.
What you need to watch for:
– logo designers who are selling branding: they are selling branding but they are not brand designers. It’s a subtle distinction. You can investigate their social media and website to gauge if they are speaking about logo design or also talking about marketing, brand strategy and things that you most likely do not understand, like USP (uh)?
– they don’t give you anything to put your logo on: no business card or letterhead in the package? AWK-WARD.
– They don’t provide you with brand guidelines: brand guidelines are a booklet that tells you and others about your company’s image, positioning, story and voice. It also includes rules on how to use and not use the logo, colours and typography.
3 – Web designers and Web developers
With the boom of web builders, the distinction between the two is clearer inside our industry than for those who are hiring us.
Web designers create the interface, icons and position your content on the page so that it appeals to your audience. A web developer is a person who codesthat website.
Before we continue, there are three ways your website project could go:
– you hire a designer who uses WordPress with a builder and a theme or Squarespace to make the design come alive. They have no coding knowledge what so ever, and aren’t fully aware of optimisations that need to be put in place for the website to be compliant with Google, safe and fast.
– you hire a designer who uses the same tools, but it fully aware of all these parameters – you hire a designer who has a personal developer or indicates you one.
Our studio offers the option to use existing tools such as WordPress and Squarespace because different businesses require different solutions. However, our team of developers work hard on optimising the page and the Design in order to make it safe, compliant and fast for your audience. The other option, a more lengthy solution, is to build a platform from the ground up. That means there will be two teams working on your project: a design team and a dev team.
What you need to watch out for:
– No admin access: that is a biggie for us. Freelance web designers who give you the full solution will close down the administration in fear you will ruin “their” Design. The reason why that happens is that they are not in full control of your project. Asking for the admin access for your platform should not be required, and if it is, walk away. If they created something, delivered to you and are afraid that it will not do long term (thus require your change), chances are they do not fully understand the process and usage of the website. Also, they are responsible for your page up until the point it is delivered to you. After that, it is not their business anymore unless you are paying them to maintain it.
– No guides on how to use your new page: always ask what the delivery entails. Normally at Truu we walk you through your new website and send you a booklet with all the required information on everything you need to know.
– They do not set up a backing up system for you: hacking can happen. You may do an update that breaks the website. Things might run out support and you need to rollback a plugin or theme. It happens, and it is real.
In our studio, when we design and develop a website you and your team will have full control of your project after we deliver it. We like to offer an adjustment time of 1 months, which our team will be available to fix things for you if they go wrong. Since you will be walked through your page, have a guide in hand and the option to restore from backups, it is unlikelywe will be even needed. But it can happen and that is why we offer it.
You cannot expect the designer to update your site all the time, unless offered and agreed upon. After the project is delivered the job to keep the content updated is yours. Of course, taking in consideration that they did an on boarding session with you.
Things to stay clear of when thinking of your Design project
Trends are not made to stay. Therefore, in Truu, we don’t work with trends for long term projects, like websites and brands. It simply means that your goal of building something that last goes down the drain with trends.
They areuseful when thinking of short term engagements, like ads and other types of campaigns. They are temporal, meaning that they have pre determined time to run for.
Pre made / existing designs by you, a friend or family member, another designer or copyrighted content from other companies
An idea is just as good as its application. If you are hiring a Designer and you have an idea, that is great! Communication between you and the Designer is crucial.
However, don’t go about the execution by yourself. You are wasting your time and everyone else’s. In Truu, a prospect that comes with a solution to our table and is adamant about it, not listening to us gets to walk away without a project. You never go to a doctor with the prescription already in hand, do you? Why waste everyone’s time like that?
However, if you do happen to have a sketch of your idea, do not show it to your designer. Ever. That not only is a massive red flag for us as professionals, it will cause your project to go south.
Design is about problem solving. Maybe you think your problem is a logo or a website, but it might be the positioning of your brand and of your business.Your goal setting might be unrealistic and you need to rethink about it, which means your initial problem was not the real problem. That is our job: point you out to the right direction. Going with an idea that was done before hand hinders you from getting the rightsolution.
No, it is not our egos. It is about not being able to do our jobs in a proper way. Therefore, if you get turned down by a designer when you came to them with an idea, let you know that your ego prevented you from getting a solution from an expert in the field.
The other scenario is approaching a designer and wanting to have a “similar” logo from another company. Again, it touches the point of the (possible) wrong assessment of your issue but also a legal problem.
You see, you cannot mimic copyrighted and other people’s work. That is called Intellectual Property infringement. And if you think you will not get caught, you should not be in business in first place. In business, you want to diminish liabilities, not foolishly create one. That mindset can get the Designer and the client both in legal trouble.
Watch out for cheap designers, because that’s what they may do. Design is expensive when it is done well. In platforms like Fiverr, UpWork, Freelancer, you will get a cheap design but… It might just be from a template, which not only breaks the point of a logo (being unique), it is lazy and unprofessional. The problem is that with Photoshop, Illustrator and a few templates from the internet, everybody becomes a “designer” and clients get fooled. It’s hard to know when you are hiring a real designer versus someone who is looking for their own interest, as in: maybe starting out and trying to acquire experience. Reviews are sometimes biased and not knowledgeable, and it is mostly a shot in the dark.
We have been approached before by people who used services as those and wasted way too much money. Others are happy or maybe just ignorant to the fact they might have been scammed or aren’t really getting what they need. Any decent designer will reverse Google image search their concept before even presenting it to the client just to make sure they are not entirely copying or making something similar to what another fellow has already created.
We do agree that if you are on a tight budget and bootstrapping your business, a cheaper option is your best bet. Not because you shouldn’t have a great design for your new venture, but your focus should be on growing your business in order to afford a proper brand design. Focusing on your offer, product and/or service in the beginning is the way to go.
That said, you should be able to weigh in what path you will be following for you design project.
Have any thoughts? Share with us!