What To Look For When Hiring A Brand Designer
All designers are different, not just aesthetically, but their process and what they actually provide to you. If you are considering rebranding or if you are needing a new brand, here are some items to consider when searching for the right brand stylist.
some are just designers, not brand strategists
While brand stylist are of course graphic designers, in order to create the right brand for your business, it requires strategy. Some designers will just simply ask what you are looking for, and making the brand "you". There are many out there that will just create pretty logos, with no basis behind it. In a true brand strategy, the focus isn't on what you like personally - it should be focused on your ideal client, and what they like. The questions should be surrounding them, like their age, interests, and personality traits. When consulting with a brand stylist, make sure to ask them how they design your brand from a marketing perspective.
you get what you pay for
I see many graphic designers that will design just a logo, and that's it - no color palette, brand board, etc. It is important for every business to have branding, even in the beginning. The faster your clients can figure out who you are as a business, the more attention and potential sales you will get. Branding is an investment, and one of the top three items that every successful business has. Be careful of designers that only charge a few hundred dollars for "custom" brand work - this is the amount of effort they are putting into your design, so be sure to ask what it includes. I offer semi-custom design services for a less expensive approach, where essentially the graphics are created, however I assist with color palettes and minor tweaks to fit the business. These are perfect for newer businesses that are just starting out, who are unable to invest thousands into custom services but can still have a solid, professional brand.
If you are an established business, when you hire a brand designer your brand should last you 5 - 10 years. Make sure that the designer you are using also understands this, as you shouldn't be wanting to rebrand every 2-3 years.
Be sure to have a project start and end date
I know many designers that have open-ended branding and web design, and can take 1-2 years to complete. You should know exactly when you are launching, and have a strategy about marketing this prior to your project completion date. With a solid start and end date, this also holds your designer accountable for completing your project in a timely manner. It should never take 6 months to a year for you to receive your new brand and website from the start of the project (even a custom built site); most projects should be able to be completed in about 2 - 3 months at the most, and the designer should be able to provide you a completion date in the contract. Be sure to ask the designer about project timelines, and ensure that you have this noted in the contract before signing on with them. Don't be afraid to hold your designer accountable in the initial consult on when you will be provided everything.
Analyze their portfolio carefully
While this may be a given, be sure to look through the portfolio for overall flow and aesthetics. While they should be designing for the ideal client, the portfolio is a solid way to figure out what you will be receiving in terms of logos, alternate logos, graphics, etc. Design is about perception, and the portfolio is a good way of viewing that before you even speak with them.
Look at the designer's website
If you are looking for branding and web design, make sure you look at their site carefully as well. Does it have good flow? Does it provide a wealth of information? Is it clean and mature? Is it organized or chaotic? Is their branding reflected well throughout the site? Would your ideal client like their site? Do you feel like you trust them when looking at their site?
Make sure you are able to make changes
There are some brand designers that offer multiple concept logos, where you pick one and then they refine it. I don't recommend this method, because it is very difficult to just "choose a logo" when you can't see how it interacts with the rest of the brand. Also, my experience is that clients can become easily confused with too many choices if one of them is not completely perfect. Your brand designer, if they ask the right questions, should be able to provide you the absolute best brand that resonates with your ideal client. Most brand stylists, like myself, make it easier on the client by offering one full concept of the entire brand to view - as well as provide an explanation as to why the brand will work for them. Be careful of this method, however - there are some stylists that will only give you this concept, with no changes included with your package. Be sure to ask how many changes you are able to make. While I do the one-concept method, I do offer small refinements because while I'm the expert, I do believe it's more of a collaboration. I think that making small color or graphic tweaks is perfectly fine, as long as it follows in line with what your ideal client would like.
Interview them in advance
Whether it's via the phone, Skype, or at a coffee shop, make sure you have the opportunity to speak with them first. This is an interview, for both you and for them. You should make sure that you are the right fit for their business, and them for yours. Also, brand designers are typically passionate about creating for others, and you should be able to hear how they interact with their clients during your consultation.
Don't confuse branding with logo design
There are many out there that just do logo design, so be cautious of what services they are actually offering. Having just a logo does not work for any business, even online-only businesses or even bloggers. Make sure you are getting more than just graphic design services, and you are getting more of a strategic approach.
get all of your brand information
Several times a year, a client will come to me saying they already have a brand, and would like for me to do their website. Fantastic, I love building sites!! However, so many have said that their designer didn't give them color codes, or alternate font recommendations, or even a brand board listing everything - they just have the two logo files that were given to them. Unfortunately, this is not branding, and it makes it extremely difficult to build a purposeful website without all of the brand credentials. If you cannot find it listed, make sure you ask the potential designer everything that is included at the end. A brand designer, at minimum, should be providing you the following:
- Brand board, showing all of your files and color palette together
- Brand guidelines, explaining how your files should be used
- Brand strategy document, which will outline your ideal client and how to market to them
- Multiple logos, such as primary, alternate, and submark (icon or favicon) in multiple formats (.jpg & .png) at minimum