Guest Post by Catryn Painter, Sweet Horizon Studio
Have you ever tried to design your own logo? Or furthermore, tried your hand at web design? It’s not as easy as it may look. Thankfully, there are plenty of talented graphic designers ready and willing to lend their services and help you create the brand of your dreams!
I’m here to walk you through what you should expect when hiring a graphic designer, and how to get the most out of the experience.
What Is Involved
The design process and what it involves can depend quite a bit on the type of design you are seeking and the preferences of the designer with whom you are working. More often than not, your designer may wish to set up a consultation with you and have you fill out a questionnaire. This will help the designer understand the project, your intentions for the brand, and where they should begin. Most will do research and generate a mood board for you so that you both can agree on color choices, as well as the look and feel of the design. It’s important to note that no matter the type of design work, there should always be open communication between the two of you. Collaboration is key! Your input is always very important because it is your brand, after all. Designers typically ask for your input all along the way but never be afraid to speak up about what you want and don’t want, as well as any changes you deem necessary.
The Time Frame
Every designer will have a different time frame in which they work. I know you probably want that new website, like, yesterday, but most designs can’t physically be done in a very short period of time. Never forget that good design takes time and skill. You are hiring someone to put their energy and creativity into turning your brand around, not something thrown together in an hour. Make sure you and your designer have agreed upon a timeline that works for you both and then be patient with the process. Trust that the time involved will be worth the wait.
The Cost of Good Design
Ah, yes. Speaking of money, I get lots of questions about cost. When you hire a designer you are paying them to invent something completely new and beautiful for you and that takes a lot of hard work. As with any creative endeavor (photography, illustration, writing, etc.), cost has a lot to do with hours spent on a project. Between researching, designing, presentation, re-designing again and again until it’s perfect, and then coding the design, there is always work to be done. Each designer has to charge what they believe their time is worth. Remember that years of schooling and experience have gone into the designer’s ability to create what you’re paying them for. Granted, I know not everyone is ready to pay what most designers charge, especially when you are first starting out. If that’s the case, try a nice theme until you are ready to take your website to the next level. Having an initial theme may actually help when approaching a designer, because it can give you a better idea of how you want your end goal to look.
Why a Brand Document is Important
I’m sure you have seen a brand document before, either on a designer’s website or on Pinterest.. Brand documents, or brand boards (different than mood boards which only provide inspiration), usually consist of brand inspiration, a primary logo, a few sub-logos, a color scheme, font choices, patterns or other graphic elements, and a few web elements. Each component is important as together they serve as a reference sheet for you and the designer when putting together your unique brand. Take a pattern, your logo, and your font choices, and you’ll have a business card put together in no time. Want a signature after your blog posts? Good thing you have several sub-logos and web elements to choose from! It also allows the designer to make some major design choices upfront and have your approval before they spend time building something larger (like a website). You’ll never have to guess what colors or elements match your brand, ever again.
Questions You Should Ask
Never be afraid to ask your designer questions. In fact, we encourage it. It helps us know where we need to be more transparent as well as the direction we should be headed. Some important questions to ask:
Make sure you ask about price, because everyone will feel more comfortable being on the same page business-wise. When you enquire, ask if your designer will offer payment plans to help defer the cost, if needed;
Ask about the time frame, so that you know when to expect your products. This also will hold your designer accountable for getting everything to you on time. Those designers who choose to do the design work themselves, but outsource the development and coding, may have a longer timeline in mind;
Ask to see examples of a their work (although most designers usually have samples on their websites). You can tell a lot about a designer's style by what they have produced in the past and the current examples they are showcasing;
Ask the designer how the website functions. If you are nervous that your website might be too complicated for you to use, have them walk you through it, (though most do this anyway when they deliver the final product);
Be sure to ask how to make changes to the site. Some designers expect to be hired again for custom changes to their website designs, while others make it easier for the user to change. Make sure you are not violating your agreement by changing the design later on, and
Lastly, make sure you ask what is included in the package you buy. Every designer will have their own specific packages. Some will offer only a website while others will offer all the extras (social icons, banners, etc.). Have them send you a list so that you will know exactly what deliverables you will receive.
Do Your Research and Find the Right Fit
The internet is a wonderful place with so many talented people showcasing their work. And thankfully, design is not a one-size-fits-all industry. Make sure you do some research and find a designer who is really a good fit for you and in whom you have total confidence. If you like their brand, the look of their website, and examples of their previous work, why not reach out and see if they can answer any questions you might have before starting? Also, having a designer that you feel comfortable talking to can make or break the experience because, in a lot of ways, you are partners until the project is finished. While there are many well-known, established designers, don’t be afraid to try a designer who is just getting started. Their prices can be very affordable and most will go above and beyond for their clients in order to get good reviews!
Hiring a designer can make a world of difference and can alleviate a lot of the stress involved in creating or renovating your brand. A professional logo can attract a whole new audience and a beautiful website will keep viewers coming back and staying longer. If it’s something you have been thinking about, take a chance and see how a great design can change your business for the better.
About the Author
Catryn Painter is a graphic designer and blogger from Sweet Horizon Blog and Studio. After graduating with a degree in Animation and New Media from NC State University, she worked in various design related jobs before deciding to start her own company (best decision ever!). With experience in advertising, photography, and teaching, she is happiest helping small businesses and entrepreneurs with all their website development needs. On her days off, you can usually find her reading or doodling at a coffee shop, thumbing through old hardback novels at used bookstores, taking her dog swimming, or in the crowd at local concerts. Though she grew up in the Appalachian mountains, and will probably always think of them as home, she currently lives in Raleigh, NC with her incredibly supportive boyfriend and lively flat-coated retriever named Radley.