Design is a broad and vague term.
When someone says "I'm a designer," it is not clear what they actually do, and there are different responsibilities under the umbrella term “designer.”
And you're looking to hire a designer, but not just any designer—you want a thoughtful designer who is creative, talented, but more importantly, someone who is able to translate your message into beautiful visuals.
Let's get clear...
Design related roles can range from industrial design (furniture), print (magazine, or packaging) to tech (website, and mobile apps). In today's world with its high demand of wearing multiple hats, many new design roles have emerged. It can be overwhelming, and confusing at the same time. Here's the nitty gritty:
UX Designers (User Experience Designers) are mostly concerned with the product and how it feels. Design is subjective — meaning one person may see a solution differently than others. There's no right or wrong answer, as there are many different approaches to solving a specific problem. Their role is to ensure that the product flows from one step to the next. They constantly test to find the best solution to create the best user experience.
UI Designers (User Interface Designers) are concerned with the way the product looks. They design each screen or page a user interacts with, and ensure that the user interface effectively communicates the path the user should follow. For example, they pay attention to the way the button should be interacted with, or whether the hyperlink should be a button.
Note: The boundary between UI and UX designers is fairly small, and it's common for the two roles to merge together.
Visual Designers (Graphic Designers) are the ones who push pixels. Rather than focusing on how each page should flow or how it should function, their focus is on creating beautiful icons and visual elements like a logo; choosing the right type of font; and developing a color scheme.
Front-End Developers are responsible for taking the design into a working, interactive experience. They are able to code the visual interactions that the designer comes up with.
So although the term "I'm looking for a designer" is quite common, especially from entrepreneurs and small businesses who are just starting out, it’s important to know what kind of designer you’re looking for. While it's possible to find one that does all the things above, I have to tell you—they're often expensive, but worth the investment if you want the job done right!
Pretty on Paper, BUT Terrible to Work With?
Don't let fancy words like "compatible in MAC and Microsoft" fool you.
It's about more than finding a designer that will just do the job. It's about finding a designer that connects with you, and works with you to create an unforgettable brand experience. It's about two people working together as a team.
It's about finding your person—the one who gets you, understands you, believes in you, and creates beyond what they’re asked to.
Enter a digital strategist — this person is able to identify the needs, goals, opportunities, and challenges of a business. They create and oversee the execution of a plan through specific approaches to meet the objectives of the strategy. Usually this person can do two of the following things: UX, UI, or Visual Designer together OR they can do all of the above.
Now that's pretty damn amazing! But...
Where the do I Find this Person?
Although that person is right here (me!) — I have to be honest, they're not all that easy to find, and often require doing research, and asking around. However, I wouldn't say researching is particularly difficult — it's knowing what you want, what your expectations are, and what you’re looking for in a digital strategist.
While I'm able to do most of the things listed above (I don't code) — we still may not be the right fit. It's like dating: you meet a person who has everything you want in appearance but what you NEED in a partner is not that person. It's nothing personal, it's just not the right fit. And guess what? It's better to keep looking than just settling for that one.
Work with them, Not against them.
Sure, it can get discouraging—you're excited to work on your project and you want to start NOW. While it's an awesome attitude to have, it's important to be patient and work with them, not against them.
You don't want to start off on the wrong foot and provide unrealistic expectations. The best thing to do is find a time-frame that works for you and your designer. They understand the process, and how long it takes to create a brand identity, a website, or code. It's important to trust what they're doing, and prioritize what's important. For example: it would be wise to have a solid visual identity for your brand before building your website. Also, it would be wise to get to know who you're working with, and answer some pretty important questions — a digital strategist cares about the reasons why you're doing what you're doing, NOT what you want to do. Also, their job is not to "get the job done" — they want to make sure that the "job is done right!"
Don't rush, and demand a "ballpark quote" (this is often a red flag to them, and they'll be happy to decline or refer to someone else). Be patient, and trust the timing of the process. Their intention is to provide value beyond the launch date.
How much should I pay?
Like I've already mentioned, if you're looking for a designer that does all the things, be prepared to make an investment.
In addition, this is a hard question to answer, because rates vary from designer to designer according to skill, experience, and location. Wages can start as low as $50/hr and range beyond $250/hr — you'll find most designers don't charge hourly rates and instead charge by a retainer — which varies. Obviously, the more a project's success hinges on design, the more you should invest in it.
And don’t forget that you’re not just paying for a Photoshop mock-up: you’re also paying for the designer’s years of experience.
I realize how hard it can be to hire someone in a field different from yours, especially if you’re investing your own money, so I hope this guide made the whole process clearer.
It also helps to change the mindset from, "we HAVE to hire a designer..." to "we GET to hire a designer" — give it a shot, you'll be amazed how that'll change the way you look at hiring.