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Choosing the Right Design Professional


Choosing a design professional for your project can be a daunting task. There are plenty of articles which detail the practical steps of choosing a designer: review their portfolio, interview them, and ask for references to verify their skills. These are all great places to start, but these practical steps alone can’t help you decide between multiple well qualified prospects. By using the criteria below, you can evaluate each designer more thoroughly and choose the best match for your job.

Knowledge is essential to every job. Knowing the practical steps to carry a project from inception to completion is the key to success. To distinguish between several design professionals, first determine what type of knowledge is needed for your job:
  • Specialist knowledge: extremely technical or unusual projects will require a designer that has specialized knowledge and skill sets. If you have an obscure or unconventional project, discuss the specific skills and experience that each designer can offer to navigate through your complex job.
  • Book knowledge: an average project may just need the very basic ‘book knowledge’ to get the job done. If you care more about the project getting completed in a standardized way than having a unique or unusual solution, then you can opt for a designer who knows their basics well. There is no need to tap a designer that caters to eccentricity and opulence if all you require is something simple.
  • Experience knowledge: some clients are willing to give young designers a chance to prove themselves, while others prefer to stick with a designer who has encountered their situation many times over. If you tend to be risk averse, look for a designer who has many years of experience to ease your concerns. If, on the other hand, you enjoy the idea of working with the latest up and coming designer, then don’t be afraid to work with a relatively new professional. A potential perk of using a lesser known designer is that they are often willing to negotiate on prices while they establish a name for themselves. In the end, you as the client need to be comfortable with the designer’s level of experience.

Creative vision is a quality that some designers have, and others may lack. Once you have determined the type of knowledge necessary for your project, it will help guide you towards the professional you need: a highly creative individual or someone who is very familiar with the basics. For standard, typical projects, a designer with basic skills is perfect. If you desire a unique solution to a challenging design problem, be sure to invest in a professional that demonstrates a high level of creativity. Review the portfolio of each designer and ask them how they approach challenging obstacles during design and implementation. Learning about their design process will give insight to their creativity. Notice whether the designer arrives at a unique conclusion for each project challenge, or if many projects look alike in their design results.

Communication is essential in good relationships. Remember that when you hire a design professional, you are paying them for their services – not just a final product. You will likely form a long term relationship with this professional, so be sure that their communication skills won’t leave you frustrated during the course of the job. Frequency, availability and clarity are all necessities for good communication. A good designer will understand your needs and desires and be able to articulate them verbally or visually in a concise way. The best designer will understand not only your project, but you as a person, allowing them to anticipate unspoken needs. Remember, communication should be both efficient and effective.

Flexibility and firmness may seem contradictory, but they can actually work in synergy with one another. A certain level of trust is needed between a client and design professional, so that the designer is allowed to make decisions with the client’s best interest in mind. A good designer will be firm in their recommendations for products, methods and concepts. They are well equipped with the knowledge and creative vision to make informed and educated decisions on your behalf. Look for a designer that you can trust: one that is confident and firm in their convictions. While firmness is an admirable quality necessary to getting a job done, be sure that your prospective designer can balance their intuitions with client values. A good designer will listen respectfully to a client’s needs and wishes, and will carefully incorporate them into their solutions. The best designer will be able to maintain their concept and convictions while accommodating your requests. They’ll be flexible in allowing your vision to shine through their expertise. Look for a designer who can make your vision a reality with both firmness and flexibility.

As you decide which design professional to hire for your upcoming project, keep in mind that personality is only one part of the equation. While sharing a few jokes with the designer can be fun, your primary concern should be whether this person is capable of seeing your project through from beginning to end; you’re paying for a service and end result, not a friendship. Another possibility is hiring a team of professionals to implement your vision. Selecting two or three design professionals that each cater to specific project goals can be a way to utilize the best talents of each person simultaneously. Talk to your prospects about the idea of working within a larger team to accomplish your goals. At the end of the day, the designer you choose should be the person you are most confident in and comfortable with.


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