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Design 101: How to Tell If Your Freelance Designer Knows Their Stuff

So you’ve decided to hire a freelancer. We’re not going to poo poo that decision, it’s your business and your money. But we want to help you out. Because sometimes, freelancers aren’t all they lead you to believe. That’s why we’ve put together a list of questions and checkpoints so you can make sure your freelance designer makes the grade.

You can teach yourself a lot, but having an education from experts is important. Our education rule of thumb is at least two years of schooling in design. They have more? Great!

Understands Files
Design files are a complex world. A worthwhile designer understands the different types and how to use them. There isn’t a simple, catch-all answer to gaging your freelancers file knowledge. It’s too much to cover in one post.

But…it’s definitely not a good sign if your freelancer just sent you the new logo and it’s one small jpg file. Interested in learning more? You can find out more about logo-specific file types in our How to Use a Logo post.

Font Choices
Something an experienced designer will understand is the importance of font choice. It goes beyond style — it’s about usage. Watch out for these troubling signs:

  • Trend Centric
    • Just because a font is trendy doesn’t make it a good choice. It should evoke the personality of the brand, not the trend du jour.
  • Purposeless Style
    • Yes, the font may be this beautiful, ornate font. But is that the right choice for a construction company? Probably not.
  • Reality Check
    • Font costs vary greatly. A great designer will understand how to balance your budget and your brand personality.
  • Legal Knowhow
    • Make sure your designer understands the legalities behind fonts. There are different usage levels. If you end up using a font outside your contract, you could face fines.
  • Free for All
    • There are free fonts…but usually there’s a catch. Usually, they don’t receive the love and attention from a designer that a paid font does. Free fonts typically don’t have as many weights and alternatives. If it turns out to be a great font, then there may be a lurking fee. Aka, you can test the font for free, but have to pay to use it in anything promotional. A good freelancer will tend to avoid these free fonts fallacies.

Graphic Standards
Graphic standards are super important. They are the the usage rules surrounding your logo and brand identity. It gives your rebrand or refresh a solid foundation and shows your company how to use your logo and fonts correctly. Not all freelancers have experience making these or don’t know everything to include. Check if they have built out a graphic standards before.

Simple > Complicated
A great designer will utilize simplicity. Here are a couple of ways that you can tell.

  • Color
    • Did you get back work using the entire rainbow? Not a great sign. An experienced designer will ask about your brand palette or create an entirely new one if they’re doing a rebrand.
    • Speaking of rebrand, if your designer sends over a logo that can’t be reproduced in black (sometimes called one color), runnnnnnnnnn.
  • Simple design
    • Your logo should not feel like a storybook. Instead, it should feel more like a symbol. Maybe there’s 1 or 2 simple yet clever images within it, but anything beyond that is stretching it.

Know Their History
If your designer is worth their salt, they’ll know these design mavericks.

  • Massimo Vignelli – New York City Subway System
  • Rob Janoff – Apple logo
  • Milton Glaser – I Love NY logo

Parting Words
Most of the time, freelancers are sought out to cut costs. But it’s a gamble. A lot of times, you spend more reaching out to a design firm to fix the original product. Which is a shame. Instead of one great piece of design work, you end up with a random design with no flow or intention.

That being said, many freelancers are super talented. We just want you to find the right one. So we recommend you always ask for a portfolio and references. If their work doesn’t work out, we’re here to solve whatever problems arise. We have nothing against freelancers (our entire team has freelancing experience), but you deserve great design. Not mediocre. Therefore, we hope you found this article helpful and if you have any further questions, connect with us. We’re always happy to help.