5 Criteria for Hiring a Great Graphic Designer

bright ideas

There are no quantifiable metrics for measuring creative talent. That’s for good reason. If you want to produce inspired materials that set you apart, you need someone who isn’t going to be entirely technical and formulaic. Designers need to be smart and reliable, but they also need to be genuinely creative. It can be daunting to assess all of this when you’re faced with the important choice of whom to entrust with your branding, website and marketing materials.

Here are 5 simple guidelines to help you choose a designer you can trust:

Experience

No amount of talent can make up for knowledge that is hard-won in the field. Students and junior designers play a very important role in the design world, and they may be eager to work for less money, but a more experienced designer is essential if you wish to see efficiency and confidence reflected in your branded materials. 

Experienced designers have learned to integrate the many elements that go into successful branding, including design strategy, hierarchy of content, the subtleties and power of color, and how to express grand ideas with maximum efficiency and impact. Just like in most areas of life, with design, you typically get what you pay for.

Portfolio

Each designer’s work speaks for itself. Look for a professional whose work excites you.

You should be able to answer many questions by reviewing a person’s portfolio. Have they worked across a broad range of industries, or do they specialize in a particular niche? Are they experienced in print work, web design, interactive or some combination? Is their preferred style edgy and gritty? Sparse and clean? Handmade and illustrative? Is this designer good at typesetting and layout, or are they really better at logos?

Designers who display a good deal of breadth across styles and industries are more likely to be adaptable. And those who serve a more particular niche can also provide excellent, well informed results for businesses that fit their wheelhouse.

Clarity

This is perhaps the most difficult quality to find in a designer, especially those who are more green. To some extent, all designers are intuitive and even capricious. We like to experiment and have fun with what we’re doing, which is essential to creativity. But when designers have a solid grasp of the reasoning behind whatever choices and directions they are presenting, the results are going to be vastly better than when they don’t.

Even when a designer knows why they are attempting to solve a problem in a specific manner, it can be difficult to verbalize. Visual communication is powerful precisely because it can convey so much meaning in an instant. When a designer is able to explain their thinking, it gives them and their clients the means to enter each other’s worlds and collaborate on an entirely greater level. 

It is much easier to exchange and perfect ideas that are clear to all involved.

Personality

There are a lot of tropes about creative geniuses who are difficult to get along with. This is a nice, romantic concept, but it’s certainly not a necessary reality. As with anything, work goes much more smoothly when you are dealing with someone you like. This is a good time to go with your gut.

Responsiveness

If you send a note to introduce yourself to a designer and it takes them a week to get back to you, this is not a good sign. Being that they are creatives, designers aren’t usually type-A people, but they should be reasonably well organized and deadline oriented. When you are first getting to know them, ask them how they manage project timelines and on what sort of schedule they generally communicate with clients. In a nutshell, you want to go with a designer who has good answers to your questions, not someone who stutters or stares blankly back at you.


Referrals are often the best possible way to get started on your search. Ask people you know – especially those with good taste – which designers they’ve worked with and whether there are any they would strongly recommend. And, of course, once you’ve found a designer who seems to meet your criteria, it is always valuable to go the extra mile and contact 2-3 references provided by the candidate.

Best of luck in your searching!

- Melissa