Have you ever witnessed a first-time mom preparing for an interview with a potential babysitter, or worse, the aftermath when they realize not one person is in existence that could handle their child's care? It might seem crazy to the bachelor observing, but this is kind of how I react during the initial branding phase to a startup or the potential collaboration with another design house. Can they really handle this? Are they picking up what I'm throwing down? How do I know I can trust my fragile new brand or project in some stranger's hands? They don't love it like I do! You know... Those kinds of thoughts. Here are some things I consider when I'm looking for custom design in Peoria:
This is something that is very important, yet kind of tricky to ascertain outside of an NSA vetting. So how do you do it? Where do you start? The old go-to is the portfolio, but, as a fellow creative, I see how misleading those can really be. Often times the portfolio pieces tell you more about their clients than the graphic designer. Don't get me wrong: always value the good work you see and watch for design fundamentals. However, at the same time, don't put too much stock in the things you don't like. All too often our creative muscles are tied and restrained by the client. I look and interview enough to get a feel for who the creative is as an individual and if I feel like it might be a right fit, I give them a little audition piece. A quick sketch will give me a feel for their creative interpretation and style flexibility.
Attention to Details and Insights
This is a tough one too. Most of our creative minds are rat's nests of thoughts, tasks, ideas, and motivational crippling perfectionism. The key to surviving and succeeding through this is the right internal OS for the creative. Use this quick sketch project to see if they were just nodding their head or if they grasp the project and/or listened to and acted on the design brief you just gave them. Your time and frustration is one thing, but if you or your client is going to be dinged for revisions, you need to make sure they can and will be on point in the first place. This is a huge part of staying on time, on budget, and blowing minds with the final artwork.
You want a 'Maybe Man,' not a 'Yes Man'
I know this is going to be hard, especially if we circle back to the beginning where I likened this process to caring for a firstborn but... Your creative isn't worth their pay if they don't give you some push back on your thoughts and ideas. After all, you are paying them for their creative services because it is outside of your scope or capabilities. It is great to get some healthy debate going. Creativity breeds creativity. Just make sure it isn't too over the top and that they are open to your thoughts as well. I have dealt with some artists who could not take a critic to save their life. You'll find the happy place.
Being a design house that prints, we take these things into consideration every day but it is something to look for in an experienced graphic artist too. What are your print and branding needs going to require in your industry or your project? How could design affect the production budget? It is a good idea to get a feel for the areas of production that they are versed in and if their suppliers are up to snuff. Your brand goes way beyond the Illustrator screen. You should make sure the creative you choose can run the entire play or at least complete the pass.