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Design is a collaboration.
It’s important to like a designer’s work; it’s at least as important to enjoy working together. Here are some things to think (and ask) about as you select a professional to help you realize your vision.

Do I love this designer’s work?
You should. Don’t let an impressive resume talk you out of your own opinions.

What do former clients say?
The designer should be happy to provide references. Ask: How was the process? Did the designer meet deadlines and budget targets? What happened when compromises had to be made? Are the clients happy with the final work? Would they use this designer again?

Do you like the designer?
You’ll work closely with your designer—best to choose someone you enjoy spending time with. In initial meetings, as you discuss what you want and the challenges you foresee, take stock of how you feel. Does the designer listen carefully? Seem enthusiastic? If you run into friction before the contract is signed, you can count on it later too.

Who will do the work?
Ask for resumes of the team, or to meet them. Will you be working with the designer whose name is on the door? An experienced employee? Sometimes the enthusiastic trainee is a great choice, but you should know that’s what you’re choosing up front.

Explore the process
Design for hire is always a complex process. Ask how the designer goes about understanding your needs, developing concepts, obtaining approvals, and building the project. Make sure you’re comfortable with the firm’s approach.

Don’t request spec work
Spec is bad business. It doesn’t really tell you what you’ll get from a full engagement; no professional can afford to spend the time for free that they would spend under contract. Besides, you don’t want to select a vendor who will, if you choose them, spend their best efforts on getting the next piece of business instead of developing yours. Ask for a proposal instead. If you like the designer, the portfolio, and the proposal, you’ll like the job.

Talk through the proposal
Make sure you understand what’s proposed, and discuss both what you like and what concerns you. This is the best opportunity before you sign a contract to be confident that the designer has fully understood your needs, and to see for yourself how he or she thinks through your requirements.


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