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How to commission a designer: Step 3 - Choose a designer

How to commission a designer: Step 3 - Choose a designer

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 3: Choose a designer

Choosing the right designer could take your business to a new level. But choosing the wrong one could lead to a costly and frustrating experience. So how do you get the choice right?

Personal recommendations together with referrals from business support agencies or trade associations are a good starting point. Also, look for designers with experience in your sector.

Next, invite no more than three designers to pitch. With a credentials pitch, the designer presents their portfolio, emphasising the work that makes them most suitable for your project. In a creative pitch, you’re asking designers to present creative ideas to tackle the problem you want the project to solve, and you should expect to pay a fee for this. Either way, before you meet, give the candidates an outline brief spelling out your project’s objectives and your wider business goals.

Below is a checklist and possible questions to use during the pitch. They will help you judge whether the designer can deliver. Weighing up the responses, try not to be tempted by a designer who reinforces your own thoughts or one who’s already designed what you have in mind. Instead, study the thinking and methods behind their work.

Evidence of a track record in problem solving, exceeding clients’ expectations and achieving bottom line success are better yardsticks than your personal preferences.

Finally, personalities matter. Could you work with them? You could be trusting the designer with the strategic direction of your business, so there has to be chemistry and mutual respect. The right solution to a problem often comes from a good rapport, but an awkward relationship can lead to time-consuming, expensive misunderstandings.

Choose your designer checklist:

Has the designer shown you that they…

  • Have the right skills to take on the project?
  • Can fulfil your requirements within your budget?
  • Have the right experience?
  • Understand your business?
  • Understand your customer?
  • Have a good track record?

Ask the designer…

  • Why do you want to work on this project?
  • How do you work with clients?
  • Who would I be working with?
  • How experienced are you?
  • How has your work improved your clients’ business performance?
  • What process would you use on this project?
  • Have you told me all the costs?
  • Do you see any additional opportunities or potential risks?
  • When does ownership of the design pass from the designer to us and what will happen to unused concepts or designs?

Ask yourself…

  • Would I enjoy working with them?
  • Is their work of a high enough standard?
  • Have they asked the right questions?
  • Would my project be important to them?
  • Can they deliver on time, to budget and to the right standard?

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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