How to Hire a Great Graphic Designer

Working with a graphic designer is a great way to ensure that your business promotes itself with high-end visuals that will resonate with your target market. But hiring a graphic designer requires some basic knowledge about the profession, and it’s a good idea to learn how finding the right designer relates to the success of your project.

Creating Visual Messages that People Recognize

We live in a world where the communication of ideas relies heavily on visual messages. From billboards to banner ads and the bombardment of brand images on social media, businesses and organizations are hiring graphic designers to craft visual messages they hope people will recognize and remember.

Working with a graphic designer is a great way to ensure that your business promotes itself with high-end visuals that will resonate with your target market. But hiring a graphic designer requires some basic knowledge about the profession, and it’s a good idea to learn how finding the right designer relates to the success of your project.

Campaign billboard graphic design

Campaign billboard design by Bob Galmarini

What Is a Graphic Designer?

When someone says they are a graphic designer, this can mean a number of things. The title “graphic designer” is often used as an umbrella term for creative professionals that employ visual elements like visual layout and hierarchy, fonts, colors, and images to solve problems and communicate ideas.

This is crucial: Graphic designers don’t have a standardized skillset, and each individual designer will have their own strengths and weaknesses. It should also be noted that the title of visual designer has gained traction in recent years as a way of classifying designers working primarily with digital products and interfaces.

As time, tastes, and technology move forward, the skills listed under the graphic design umbrella change. Here’s a quick look at the most relevant disciplines graphic designers are practicing today.

  • Art Direction: Defining and managing the overall visual mood and style that a design project will embody
  • Typography: Arranging fonts and written words to communicate ideas in a readable and appealing way
  • Print Design: Visual messages designed specifically for physical, printed surfaces rather than digital interfaces
  • Color Design: Creating visually compelling color schemes based on color theory, market trends, and human psychology
  • UI Design: Design focused on making human interactions with machine and software interfaces as clear as possible
  • Image Editing: Manipulating images like photographs and illustrations to enhance or diminish certain features
  • Icon Design: Developing graphic icons that symbolize ideas, emotions, actions, places, etc.
  • Illustration: Stylized image-making with the intent of visually interpreting or clarifying complex concepts and processes
  • Presentation Design: Arranging text, images, ideas, and slides in a way that maximizes a presentation’s effectiveness
  • Brand Design: Visually embodying a company’s core promise with graphics, color, typography, and images

Define the Graphic Design Project Needs

A sure path to design project success starts with understanding project goals and the resources at your disposal. A good graphic designer can help add clarity and enhance the vision of a project, but it’s up to you to hire someone with the right skills, experience, availability, and rate.

Having answers to the following questions is good indicator of hiring readiness.

  1. What is the scope of the project?
  2. Does the project have specific goals it must meet in order to be considered a success?
  3. What are the project deliverables that will be expected from the designer?
  4. Are there expectations that the project should be completed within a specific timeline?
  5. How often will you and/or other decision makers be available to offer feedback?
  6. Has a project budget been established?

How to Find the Best Graphic Designer

Graphic designer website portfolio

Design portfolio of Emrich Office

With project goals clearly defined, it’s time to begin searching for a potential match. Viable candidates will have a well executed portfolio website that showcases exceptional taste and demonstrates an ability to communicate as a professional designer. Look for designers with an aesthetic and work examples that are relevant to the project goals and audience expectations of your business or organization.

Interview Questions

After making contact with a handful of candidates, it’s wise to schedule a time to have an actual conversation. Email works for initial inquiries and introductions, but for an interview, a phone call or video chat gives the opportunity to ask questions, share ideas, voice concerns, and begin forming a relationship of trust.

An experienced designer will have participated in multiple client interviews, so don’t worry about asking for one. The interview is an important part of the designer’s discovery process, a chance for each party involved to share and begin syncing vision for the project. Here’s a list of five helpful questions that a seasoned graphic designer should be able to answer with clarity and authority.

  1. Do you have any past experience designing for a similar project or client?
  2. What are your strengths as a designer, and how do you see those relating to the goals of this project?
  3. Are there any areas of the project brief that cause concern or give you pause?
  4. How will you oversee communication during the project?
  5. What is your current availability? Are you currently loaded down with projects?

How Does the Graphic Design Process Work?

Graphic design process ideation sketching

Once a hire has been made, there may be some uncertainty about how the project will unfold. Each designer will have his own way of doing things, but in general, the graphic design process has identifiable milestones to look for.

Work Agreement

  • For the protection of client and designer, it’s strongly recommended that a work agreement or service contract be signed by both parties before a project begins.

Research & Discovery

  • In this phase, the graphic designer will learn more about the project, your business, and the target audience. He may also familiarize himself with trends that others designers are using successfully and begin compiling a collection of reference material for art direction.

Art Direction

  • During art direction, the graphic designer may create a style board and a written document that outlines his vision for the project. Depending on the designer, art direction can be very detailed and granular, or it can be quite broad, consisting of only a few mood images and a handful of keywords.

Ideation & Thumbnail Sketching

  • For some projects, the graphic designer may choose to start with rough sketches to communicate how information will be presented and allow an opportunity to provide feedback while the design is still malleable.

Digital Proofs & Refinement

  • At some point, the graphic designer will present a version of their digital work and ask for feedback on specific elements of the design.

Delivery of Design Files

  • When the project is finished, the graphic designer will organize the appropriately formatted design files and deliver via email, Dropbox, Google Drive, etc.


  • There are several different ways that graphic designers handle billing. Some send out weekly or monthly invoices, some bill at pre-established project milestones, and others require a 50% deposit at the start and end of an engagement.

Maintaining the Relationship

Hand lettering typography design

Hand lettering by Jenna Bresnahan

If the project goes well and a good rapport is established, don’t hesitate to mention the possibility of working together in the future. That said, there are a few simple things you can do to keep the client/designer relationship strong.

Ask if they would be willing to work on future projects with your business.

Thank them for the work they did and how they managed the project.

Update them on the success of the project or any positive feedback it has received.

Follow up at least 2-3 weeks before your next project to see if they are available.

Maintaining an ongoing relationship a graphic designer will save time and prevent the hassle of arranging interviews whenever a new project comes along. Perhaps equally as important, it will provide future design campaigns and marketing efforts with visual and brand consistency.

See also: Toptal’s growing, community-driven list of essential Graphic design interview questions.
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