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The biggest mistake you can make when hiring a designer

The biggest mistake you can make when hiring a designer, be it a graphic designer or interior designer - www.pencilshavingsstudio.com

The scenario is the same regardless of the medium. You need a designer – maybe a graphic designer or an interior designer – and you hear of a friend of a friend who happens to be one. Your problems are solved! But hiring a designer is not a one-size-fits-all solution. And I’ve seen it play out over and over again in my own career, especially in the beginning when I was desperate to get any work experience under my belt.

Hiring a designer merely because they can create something doesn’t necessarily mean they are the right fit for your particular job. The end goal for an excellent client/designer relationship is that the client feels understood and that the designer is able to solve the client’s problem. Sounds fairly simple, right? While it’s true that it shouldn’t be only about the designer’s style, in my opinion the biggest mistake you can make as a client is not hiring a designer whose aesthetic naturally compliments yours.  Consider the designer’s talents and overall style inclination – what do they show primarily in their portfolio of work? Are they experts at neutrals and natural tones? Or more inclined to use bold and bright color? Does the designer seem to gravitate towards more traditional projects? Then maybe they won’t be the best fit for your midcentury modern redesign.

On the flip side, the biggest mistake a designer can make when being hired is to say yes to a project that’s not going to allow you to fully utilize your talents.  It’s frustrating to be completely roadblocked because you’re frankly not the best fit for this client’s needs.   One time I really wanted a particular job I was interviewing for. I had a bajillion different ideas on how I was going to design the identity for a new shop coming to town and how I was going to mold this amazing new identity for them. But then the owner said, “I really don’t like color and want everything to be black and white.” And there were a few other things said that made me know right then in my gut that I was not the right designer for this project. And so did the client.  In the end, they hired someone else who was far better suited for their aesthetic.

At the heart of this is knowing your style strengths. (spoiler alert: it isn’t always easy.) Early in our marriage we hired a designer friend to help us out at our first house. And in retrospect, we were not an aesthetic fit whatsoever. Her body of work is stunning and she chooses gorgeous, sumptuous fabrics. But it just wasn’t us.  While she excels at traditional historic homes with layers of materials, we lean more toward a light and colorful modern feel. But we weren’t able to recognize that fully at the time.  It’s taken a few years for us to hone in on what the best fit is for us – one that will continue to evolve over time.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Designers, what has your experience been?

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  • Alex Bucktin

    So pleased someone has recognised that graphic designers aren’t a one size fits all service! I find that as a designer you’re expected to be able to do EVERYTHING. Doing work for a friend of a friend and finding they want a beautifully, intricate illustrative logo for their company when you’re more of a typographer is not only daunting for you, it makes you look bad to the ‘client’ because you aren’t fulfilling their expectations. My go to move now is to always direct people to my website so that they can see what I do and my style before agreeing to work on a project. Loving your blog Rachel 🙂 xx

  • Rita

    I’m finding that this is true for artists as well. My favorite was when someone asked me to paint them a huge brown horse. This was while standing in a room full of my colorful abstract paintings. Hilarious.

  • Actually, I have two friends getting married and they both asked me to design their monograms. I told them I would love to but that I understand if they say no to my work since my style may differ from theirs. I told them I would have no hard feelings if they choose to look elsewhere after seeing my work. One friend loved it and it is used on her invitation. The other friend did not like my first sample and asked to try something a little different. We’re still in the deciding stages for that one.

    I also just wrote an article about fashion design, room decorating, and the perfect gift finding service (all part of my business at http://www.glitterbugdesigns.weebly.com). I made sure to include that everyone has different styles. I advise them to look at different photography websites and see which styles reflect them – in both the clothing that people wear and also the photographer’s style of photography.

    I tell all clients – mine and other clients – that we only want the best for them. We want them to be 100% happy. It’s all about the customer 🙂