The Guide to Hiring the Best Designer for Your Team

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December 8, 2015

5:00 pm

No one ever said hiring was easy, and in 2015, it’s only gotten harder. This past summer, employment platform Glassdoor released a study revealing that the average hiring process now takes nearly 23 days in the US. A few years ago, you could have hired someone in half the time.

Hiring is crucial to the long-term success of a business. Without it, a business can only reach so large a market before being stunted by the work hours its employees are capable of putting in. In today’s technology-driven world, it’s more important than ever to hire technical employees to reach the digital market, but this means more than just hiring developers. It means hiring designers to create a user experience that is intuitive, functional, and satisfying.

In “Design Thinking Comes of Age,” an article from the September 2015 issue of the Harvard Business Review, Jon Kolko writes about the importance of design-oriented goals in the future of business, noting, “an organizational focus on design offers unique opportunities for humanizing technology and for developing emotionally resonant products and services.”

If design is so valuable to both a product and a business, then your company should hire a designer, right? Right. If only it were that easy.

Hiring a good designer is a difficult task because not only is it technical; it’s creative. Determining if a designer is good is not as simple as checking yes or no in a list of skills. It requires a more holistic assessment of a designer’s communication skills, problem solving ability, and their portfolio.

The following guide to hiring designer will provide an outline of the hiring process that will find you the best designer for your team. Step one?

Identify The Designer You Need

Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a “designer” in the technical world. Instead, designers are broken down into several specialties. You have User Experience, User Interface, Visual, and Interaction Design, and then you have designers specializing in web, mobile, icons, and graphics, to name just a handful of the designer specializations out there.

I imagine you understand the difference between a web designer and a mobile designer, but let’s take a moment to look at some of those first specializations I mentioned.

User Experience (UX) Designers create the architecture of a design and coordinate between a business and end-users to create the most usable product. If you think of design as building a house, then UX Designers are the ones drawing the blueprints.

User Interface (UI) Designers take the UX wireframes and blueprints and begin to create a full-fledged design with all of the elements and small details that give a design its shape and identity. To go back to the house building metaphor, UI Designers are the ones building the foundations and walls of a house.

Visual Designers take the existing design, which is functional but perhaps a bit ugly, and turn it into something beautiful. Focusing on color scheme, typography, and more, visual designers work closely to catch users’ attention while making sure that those visuals aid users in understanding how to use a product. Visual Designers are the painters and interior decorators of a house.

Finally, Interaction Designers polish off a design by maximizing its usability, making sure every button and animation works, and implementing ways to make the user experience even smoother. To finish off the house metaphor, Interaction Designers make sure a person can navigate a house with ease, ensuring that every door and light switch works.

Every type of designer offers a different skill set and advantages, so it’s important to determine what kind of designer you want before beginning your hiring process. In order to do so, you first need to know exactly what kind of project you need a designer for. Are you building a website or app from the ground up?

Or are you looking to update the look and feel of something pre existing? Do you need to wow users with a beautiful page to stand out in a crowded market or do you need a highly usable service to counter its complexity? The answers to these questions will help you figure out what kind of designer is the best fit for your team.

As you figure out what kind of designer you need, you should also determine your timeline and budget. There is no industry standard for pricing, so knowing the limits of your resources will give you a better idea of what designers fit within your range.

What’s Your Budget?

Price doesn’t determine skill level, but it can be a good indicator. Don’t hire a really cheap or expensive designer. Instead, find the designer that best matches the resources at your disposable. Your designer is part of the team, not the whole team, and that should be reflected in how many resources are given to that designer.

Once you’ve established your budget, timeline, and ideal designer, it’s time to begin your search.

You wouldn’t want to hire exclusively through referrals, but, generally speaking, it’s the most cost-effective and effective methods to hiring a strong candidate.

The best place to start the hiring process is within your own network. Employee referrals often produce the best new hires, so ask your team if they know any designers who are looking for new opportunities. Referrals tend to be more talented, cheaper, and are onboarded faster, and every business should start the hiring process within their own network.

Once you’ve exhausted your own connections, online job boards are the next step (unless you have the resources to hire a recruiter). Online job boards can provide success, but they can also be tricky.

Freelance talent generally isn’t vetted on these sights, so if you’re hiring a web designer, be sure to ask the right web designer interview questions and ensure that your interview is productively screening candidates. This holds true for any design field. In order to hire successfully, you need working knowledge of the field and know how best to interview applicants.

When evaluating candidates, it’s also essential to view a designer’s portfolio. Ask designers if you can see examples of their work, whether on their own site or a designer portfolio site like Dribbble or Sortfolio. When looking at portfolios, remember that you should be looking for more than just a series of pretty images.

Use Your Own Judgement

A portfolio should reveal problems previous clients and employers had and how a design decision solved them. When examining their work, you should be asking yourself, “does this portfolio show improvement and growth over time, and how did these designs solve specific problems?”

When hiring a designer, remember too that you are not just hiring for a skillset. A designer needs to be an excellent communicator with everyone on the team. They need to understand the business and its aims, the developers and their constraints, and the users and their goals. This requires excellent communication skills between different types of people and a thorough understanding of a business as a whole.

In order to hire the best, you should know who you need to hire.

Secondly, good designers are great problem solvers and work in progressive iterations and need those skills to be successful. After prototyping a design, a developer or business-owner may approach the designer with new problems created by the latest design.

The designer then will go back and edit the design and tweak it. This process never ends. It requires the designer to not be too attached to their work. The best designers are willing to scrap a design if it doesn’t work and understand that their design will constantly be evolving alongside a business.

Their Practical Skills

If possible, give your designer a test project during the interview process or use a trial period to determine whether that designer has the problem solving and adaptability needed to best complement your team.

If you don’t have the time to go through a lengthy interview process or lack the technical ability to do so yourself, your best option then is to try a curated talent network of developers and designers. There are a few of them out there, and the process is as simple as telling a platform about your project and that you need a UX designer.

Then the service custom matches you to a few designers based on the specific skills and qualifications needed for your project. While designers on these sites may be slightly more expensive, you get what you pay for. These designers are among the best, and you don’t have to sweat the hiring process to boot.

When hiring a designer for your team, you have to remember that a successful hire is based on preparation. In order to hire the best, you should know who you need to hire, what you are hiring them for, and what resources are at your disposal.

Only then, can you begin screening applicants. Hiring is a marathon, not a sprint. Take your time and make sure all your research and preparation is taken care of before beginning the hiring process. It’ll save you resources in the long run.

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