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How to commission a designer: Step 1 - Prepare yourself

How to commission a designer: Step 1 - Prepare yourself

1 May 2015

A six-part guide featuring practical tips, advice and checklists for businesses investing in design.

Design could be one of the best investments you ever make. But how do you get that investment right? How do you choose the right designer at the right price? How will the designer get to grips with the complexities of your business? How can you communicate what you want when you’re not quite sure yourself? How will you manage a designer and how will you assess whether what you get is ‘good’ design or not?

These are questions businesses ask all the time about using design. This guide aims to help you answer them.

Step 1: Prepare yourself

Remember, design isn’t just a finishing touch. It’s a process you can use to pinpoint and then overcome the challenges your business faces. Designers can help you shape your strategy and they can help you implement it through specific projects.

Whether you decide to make long-term changes or just put together a brochure, it’s important to arrive at your project by being clear about your company’s needs.

Think about your vision and strategy. What do you want your business to achieve? How will technological change and emerging trends affect your future? How do you stand out from the competition?

Research into your markets, competition and emerging trends will bring key issues into focus. Some design agencies can help here, adding valuable layers of insight to the data accumulated by market research.

Take a close look at your customers – not just the people who use your products or services but buyers, distributors and retailers. What do they really want and need? Do you spend time listening to them to find out?

Your process for developing products and services may contain lots of design opportunities. How often do you launch new offerings and why? Are you reacting to competition or pre-empting it? How do you generate ideas and develop them?

Your brand is more than a logo. It’s the sum total of all the things people associate with your product, service or organisation. It can get customers excited or turn them off before they come anywhere near what you’re selling. Can you describe your brand? Can your staff, suppliers and customers describe it? Does your literature, website and premises reflect it? Do you have guidelines for using it consistently?

Finally, design can help you shape a culture and environment for your business in which staff feel valued, challenged and inspired to share new ideas. Your customers will notice the difference too.

Prepare yourself checklist:

The big picture:

  • Where do you see your business in 2-5 years’ time?
  • What is your business good at?
  • And what do you need to improve?
  • What are the biggest threats to your business?
  • What are the biggest opportunities?
  • What is your competition doing?

Project specifics:

  • Why are you doing this project?
  • Why now?
  • How will the project help you to achieve your wider business objectives?
  • What is the budget for the project? When do you need it completed?
  • Who will be involved and how?


  • What will success look like for your company?
  • How will your customer benefit?

The Design Council offers support programmes to help organisations get the most value out of design. Learn more about our work here.

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Download a PDF of this guide that includes case studies and more tips and information.

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