Whoever first said ‘you only have one chance to make a first impression,’ had no idea how true that phrase would become for websites and visitor behavior. In 2014, the CEO of Chartbeat, Tony Haile, released data taken from over 2 billion website visits, and the results are striking, if not entirely surprising. The biggest takeaway: 55% of site visitors spend less than 15 seconds actively engaged on any particular site. Talk about a short window for a first impression.
With visitors making snap judgments on whether they want to engage with a website, it’s important that all the elements of a site’s content align to create a positive impression on visitors as quickly as possible. But if you only have 15 seconds before you lose over half of your visitors, you need more than good content. As with any quick decision, visitors don’t make a choice based on logic, but on a feeling. That feeling is often defined by superficial factors. Site visitors tend to trust and give more time to a site that is easy on the eyes. In a word, visitors pay attention to beauty. That’s where graphic designers come in.
Sensory impressions are what graphic designers specialize in, and hiring a graphic designer can make all the difference in attracting visitors’ attention. Graphic designers combine images, typography, and colors to create an appealing aesthetic that draws the eye and creates a unified style across a site’s content. They can also be effective designing logos and creating a visual brand that makes a site stand out from the competition.
However, hiring a graphic designer isn’t easy. It’s a specialization that is both technical and creative, and to hire a good graphic designer, you’ll need to know how to look for both skillsets during the hiring process. The following guide will provide some tips on how to hire the best graphic designer for your team and ensure that your new hire will be a success. The first step? Simple.
Define your needs.
It sounds obvious, but you should be sure that a graphic designer is what your team needs before you hire one. If you don’t yet have a designer on your team, you may be better off with a UX or UI designer, depending on your project. Think of graphic designers as painters. They can make a house look beautiful, but they can’t build the house itself.
But say you already have your product and need that extra aesthetic touch, there are still considerations before entering the search process. First, what platform are you hiring a graphic designer for? Is it a website or an Android app? Both? Designers tend to specialize in one platform, and graphic designers are no different. The first step to identifying the best graphic designer for you is to know what technical experience you need that designer to have and directing your search with that in mind.
Then, you should ask yourself, what problems do you currently have that you want a graphic designer to fix? Do you just need a new logo or is this a larger overhaul of the entire presentation? Once you establish what you need, you can then plan out the limits of your resources: your budget and your timeline.
You should know both before hiring a designer. On one hand, the designer you hire will likely want to know the budget and timeline before signing a contract, and on the other, knowing your limits will ensure that you hire a graphic designer you can afford. There is no industry standard for salary, so knowing what you are able to pay will keep you focused on the pool of designers best suited to your needs.
Once you know the details of your project and its expectations, it’s time to:
Search in the right places.
If you lose your car keys and have no idea where they are, where do you start looking for them? The savvy person would start their search close to home. The same logic holds true for finding a graphic designer. While finding a graphic designer on your bedroom floor under your dirty underwear would be a terrifying experience (how did they get there? and how are they hiding under an article of underwear?), that’s not really what I’m talking about. The idea is that the best place to find talent is to search within your own network and local community.
There’s a reason people ask for employee referrals. They work. Not only do people trust a stranger more if they are vetted by someone they know, a hired referral will often work harder than an employee found through other channels. Ask your friends and coworkers if they know any graphic designers they can put you in touch with. Once you’ve exhausted your personal network, try local tech events and organizations. Attendees are passionate about their fields (after all, they’re going to a tech event in their free time), and they are often connected to others in the tech industry. You may just meet your future graphic designer there, or the person who knows the designer and can make the introduction.
Still no luck? The next place to try is online. Look for your graphic designer in designer-driven communities like Dribbble. These sites aren’t hiring platforms, but are instead “show and tell for designers,” to quote Dribbble’s marketing. Through these sites, designers showcase their portfolios and work to a curious audience. Even if you don’t hire through these sites, it’s worth looking through them. That way, you can get an idea of what kind of graphic design is out there and what kind you want for your project. While these sites’ primary function is not hiring, both sites have job-posting functions, so you can hire designers directly through them.
If you want a shorter hiring process, you could also try freelance platforms to tap into a network of designers who are more interested in finding work. As with any hiring medium, you should carefully screen and interview your candidates because most freelance platform’s don’t do it for you. However, if you don’t have the design knowledge yourself to handle screening, you could try a service like Toptal Designers that extensively pre-screens its freelancers for design ability, ensuring that you hire a top freelance graphic designer without having to test the designer’s skill yourself.
With all of the methods listed above, you’ll eventually have to interview the candidates, and the most important rule of thumb for the interview process is:
A designer’s portfolio is (a) key.
When screening a graphic designer, the most important thing to do is look through their portfolio. Every designer has one, and if they don’t, that’s a big warning sign that you should hire someone else. A portfolio will give you insight into a graphic designer’s style and aesthetic and the trajectory of their career. Remember that a portfolio is more than a collection of pretty images. Each image is a project with a story. During the interview, you should be asking about work listed in a portfolio and how those specific design choices solved problems for the client. A good designer’s portfolio will reveal variety and a career path in which the designer is constantly pushing and expanding his or her skillset.
Yet a designer’s portfolio is not everything. It isn’t key; rather it is a key to a designer’s career. It opens the lock, but not the door. What I mean by that is yes, a portfolio can show results and technical ability, but it reveals nothing about process. You shouldn’t hire a designer without seeing their portfolio, but nor should you hire based on portfolio alone.
A talented graphic designer is more than the final product. Talented designers need to be effective communicators, problem solvers, and team players. A successful design doesn’t appear over night. Instead, a design is implemented, analyzed, then revised. Then it is implemented, analyzed, and revised again in a continuous cycle.
A graphic designer needs to be able to communicate their design decisions as well as discuss and analyze its successes and failures to other designers on the team, to the developers, and to business stakeholders. Communication also comes into play in a designer’s need to understand a market. A good designer can’t be too attached to their work because they need to be able to dissect it and remove what isn’t working. In short, a designer needs to be adaptable to a business’s needs. You can’t identify adaptability through portfolio alone.
Hiring talent in any field isn’t easy. It takes resources and persistence in order to find the qualified candidates among the applicants who aren’t. Graphic designers in particular are tricky hires because talented designers have both technical and creative skills and their design process is as important as their results. An amazing designer doesn’t have a skillset that can be entirely quantified, so hiring the best graphic designer for your team doesn’t necessarily mean the best technical match.
Do you want your hired graphic designer to have experience in a past project related to yours? Sure. Should your hired graphic designer have an aesthetic that you like and think would match your business’s vision? Absolutely. But an amazing graphic designer is more than that.
The best graphic designer for your team instead falls into the vague term of “fit,” a fit in which the designer seems to click with the business design, can effectively coordinate with the market, the business, and the rest of the team, and can steadily chip away at the design-related problems at hand. Yes, make sure that the graphic designer you hire can finish the project and can communicate between parties, but leave some room for your instinct too. When you find the right graphic designer, you won’t just know it. You’ll feel it too.