You’ve picked a company name and an event planning style you wish to focus on: that’s great! Congratulations. Now you’re probably starting to think about all the collateral that will be needed to promote yourself and your new business. You’ll need a website and business cards at the very least, and you might need flyers or promo kits in the future. What’s the best way to go about ensuring that your brand identity is absolutely stunning? Hire. A. Designer.

Have you ever visited the Cake Wrecks website and winced at some of the travesties showcased on there? Graphic and web design can go just as horribly wrong, especially when business owners try to create an identity for themselves. Don’t do it. You’ll just hurt yourself and your business. Badly.

How to Find a Good Designer

1. Approaching them yourself: Check out the promotional materials used by various businesses you’re fond of and when you come across something you like—be it signage, web design, or cards—find out who designed it all and get in touch with them. Most websites will have the author’s contact info along the bottom, but if you can’t find it, contact the company and ask.

2. Referral: Talk to your peers/those whose sites and cards you admire, and ask about who designed them and what the experience was like. When and if you hear glowing reviews, contact the designer for a consultation.

3. Behance: An extensive portfolio site for creatives, it allows you to sift through freelance designers’ work to find those that you feel would be a good fit for you.

How To Tell If A Designer Is Good or Not

Well, this is a tricky one. What one person might define as “good” design will be absolutely heinous in another’s eyes, so good/not = subjective. There are some tell-tale signs that should make you pause before hiring someone:

• Charging too little: they’re not serious about their work, and they have little confidence in their abilities. You get what you pay for, so keep that in mind.

• Overabundant use of fonts

• Use of clip art

• A portfolio that’s mostly comprised of self-directed work: creativity is great, but one of the best attributes a designer can have is the ability to work from a brief. There are things that you want portrayed, and if they’re more focused on satiating their own ego-driven design ideas than putting together what you need, walk away.

Speaking of design briefs…

If you don’t yet know what a brief is, here’s a crash course: in your design brief, you will spill forth as much info as humanly possible so that you and the designer are on the same page as far as your needs and requirements go. Remember that designers are not psychic, so unless you are very, very detailed with what you’d like to portray, they’ll just go by the basic info you’ve given them, which will result in frustration, a thousand changes, and wasted time on both sides.

GO INTO DETAIL

Your design brief will be one of the few instances in which you’re encouraged to spout off and be overly verbose. In your brief, you will want to list the following:

• Project type
• Amount of collateral needed
• Background information
• Timeline to work within
• Budget
• Primary audience
• Industry you’re focusing on
• Deliverables needed (what they’ll give you)
• Items provided (i.e. your written copy)
• Attributes
• Colour Preferences
• Colours not to use
• Tone/imagery
• Message to be communicated
• Classic or modern?
• Fun or elegant?
• Misc specific instructions

You get the idea.

*Note: Not all print designers can design websites, and vice-versa. If you’re just having a website done, hone your search for web designers specifically. If you just want printed work, aim for a print specialist.

Last, but not least, one of the most important things to remember when dealing with a designer is to respect their abilities, and trust them to do what you’re hiring them to do. It’s their goal to create what’s best for your business, and your own opinions of what you might want would most likely sabotage everyone’s best efforts. In the same way that you wouldn’t hover over your mechanic to ensure they’re doing the “right job” on your car’s transmission, or make recommendations to your dentist as to what technique to use to fix a cavity, so should it be when working with a designer.

If you’re thinking “Oh, but I know good design when I see it!” then go to the nearest hardware store and get yourself a crowbar and use it to pry your head out of your arse. It takes years to learn the nuances of design principles, layout geometry/hierarchies, typography, etc… So please just respect the fact that they know what they’re doing, and let them do their job.

Best of luck.

Lana

After spending over a decade coordinating and managing events ranging from weddings to celebrity charity functions, Lana Winter-Hébert has stepped away from active event work to pursue a new direction in her career. With the event companies and home décor specialists she writes for, she has the opportunity to flex her creative muscles to conceptualise memorable celebrations, and to share inside tips with those new to the industry.

Currently, Lana divides her time between writing for various clients and doing collaborative projects with Winter-Hébert: the design studio she runs with her husband. Best described as "endearingly eccentric", she spends
most of her spare time wrestling with knitting projects, and cohabitates with two hand-raised sparrows who live in her writing-desk.

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