A Guide to Buying Design

By Chris Wadsworth

Published in The Source issue 22

Commissioning a designer to create something for your business can be an unknown and daunting process. Most of the things that we purchase are finished products so we can see what we are getting before we buy. This is not the case when you buy design – the end product does not exist yet.

Finding the right designer

Apart from asking for referrals or reading sales materials, there is often little to guide you to make the best decision when hiring many services providers.

When interviewing a prospective designer however they will have a portfolio of work that you can appraise to gauge their experience and ability. This is very helpful because as well as judging the quality of their work you can also ask about their projects to find out what problems they faced and how their solutions worked for their clients. Talking with a designer about their previous projects will give you an insight into how they work and will help you determine if they are the right creative partner for your business.

Design experience

Experience counts in design more than most jobs. And it is not just the number of years but the range of experience too. Designers often do much more than just design so find out how much knowledge they have when it comes to strategy, production and implementation. Are they experienced in just one area of design or does their expertise extend across a range of design disciplines? You may only need a website designed initially but a designer who can then work on your brand, brochures and advertising is going to be a better choice going forward than just a web designer would be.

A good designer will ask a lot of questions about your business, target audience and market. Don’t take this as a lack of knowledge or experience on their part because an experienced designer will want to get the big picture about your business, even when they are working on a small project for you.

Design process

Find out what the schedule and process for your projects will be. What stages are involved and when will your feedback and appraisal be canvassed? A good designer will take you on the creative journey with them so you can follow progress and be part of the process with a clear understanding of how decisions can affect the final outcome.

A good designer will be looking to you for the insight and expertise that you have about your business so they can combine this with their ability to find the best solution for your unique business and project needs.

Design investment

Good design is rarely cheap and cheap design is rarely good. That said it isn’t a given that the most expensive designers are necessarily the best for you. Finding a designer with the experience and ability that you need with pricing that fits your budget is important if you are to build a long-term working relationship. Potential designers will be able to provide you with estimates or quotes for your projects so you can balance this against how well you think they are suited for your needs. Bear in mind that an estimate is not a set price and the cost for the end project could be more. Where possible it is best to get fixed price quotes so you can plan your budget without any nasty surprises when the invoice is received.

Good design is an investment, not a cost, so be realistic about how much you budget for projects. Receiving quotes from designers that you have shortlisted as suitable candidates will give you an good idea of how much the project/s should cost and help you to determine the level of investment you need for your particular design needs.

Good design

Good design is an asset for any business and the best results come when a designer gets to know your business, understands your needs and builds a relationship with you. Investing the time to get the right design team that can work with you long-term will pay-off in the future through the efficient running of projects, value for money and successful results.

Posted 4 November 2014

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