Top 5 Tips to Spot an Excellent Designer

BY Glen Cone | Journal | 21/04/2022

There are lots of good designers out there. But good isn’t good enough, is it? You need excellence. How can you tell the difference?

  1. Know your onions

We’re experts in design but not expert in what you do. An excellent designer delves deep into the way your organisation works and thinks. They want to know your business challenges, and barriers that might be restricting your product or messaging success.

Here are just a few question we’re asking:

  • How do you generate revenue?
  • Do you have an overarching strategy?
  • What is your capacity for change?
  • What do your competitors do well? What do they do poorly?
  • What do you class as excellent?
  1. Know your audience

It’s almost too easy to jump straight into a design that’s on trend and up to date, but an excellent designer puts those trends and their personal aspiration to one side and asks themselves: “Is this the best approach or response for the people we’re talking to?”

Some of the question you should be hearing sound like:

  • What’s important to them?
  • What are their challenges?
  • What motivates them?
  • What drives them to make purchasing decisions?
  • Where do they hang out in the real world or online world?
  • What does excellent look like, sound like and feel like to them?
  1. Keep an eye on the prize

Establishing KPIs and project measurements will be top of the list for any designer who is looking for a long-term relationship with you and your business. As much as we are motivated by beautifully crafted design, if that design doesn’t land with the audience, or the website isn’t gaining the traffic, all the craft will be in vain. So, excellent designers will strive to understand outcomes first: then craft and polish to aesthetic perfection!

A helpful exercise is to list your objectives. Then number them by priority and importance. This will help inform the designer about the areas that need the most attention and will result in you and your designer being on the same page. 

  1. Protect the purse strings

A good designer will always be considering your budget, thinking of ways they can not only maximise your investment’s return but also stretch your budget to get maximum delivery for it.

Some simple things an excellent designer will consider:

  • Mono and duotone print
    Single and two-colour print can be more cost-effective than a full-blown four-colour job; it can also be really useful if you have a particularly difficult colour to reproduce in four-colour print and need to use an additional spot colour to get the desired result.
  • Digital over litho
    For smaller print runs it’s commonplace to print digitally rather than having the additional set up costs of four-colour litho printing. This process is swift and cost-effective.
  • Online or offline
    Understanding your audience and where they most enjoy consuming content or searching for products will inform the best places to be spending your marketing budget.
  • Inhouse design teams
    Setting up a rigorous and well tested Visual Identity with a comprehensive design style guide for example, can offer any business a cost-effective way to use design/artworkers after the initial thinking and design has been completed.

All of the above should be considerations only if they don’t impact the overall effectiveness of the design.

  1. Deal with the decision maker

Establishing early on who will make the final decision on the work is very important, and an excellent designer will want to deal with that person, understand their needs, interpret their requirements.

Direct access to the decision makers can make for a much more streamlined working relationship and generally removes feedback interpretation and costly revision to design and content.

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