St. Paul Graphic Designer  |  B Swift Design
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B Swift Design, located in Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota, works with  clients nationwide, as well as the following local areas:  Apple Valley , Bloomington , Brooklyn Center , Brooklyn Park , Burnsville , Cottage Grove, Eagan , Eden Prairie , Edina , Farmington , Hastings , Inver Grove Heights, Lakeville , Maple Grove , Maplewood , Mendota Heights , Minneapolis , Minnetonka, Newport , Oakdale, Richfield , Rosemount , Roseville , Saint Paul, South Saint Paul , Stillwater , Vadnais Heights , Wayzata , West Saint Paul & Woodbury.
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A Client's Guide to Design:
Part 2 - Finding the Right Designer

People with a great deal of experience - both as designers and as clients - will tell you that if you really do your homework in the selection process, the chances are excellent that what follows will bring about the hoped-for results.

What to Look For

Locating
designers to interview is a fairly uncomplicated proposition. What to look for among the potential candidates - what makes one or the other the right firm for you - is more complex. It's not a beauty contest. Seeing work that you like is important and altogether appropriate as a point of departure. But it's not enough to warrant a marriage proposal.

The nature and technology of what is designed today is changing and expanding, and so is the discipline of design. As with many businesses and professions today, there's more to know and the knowledge itself has a shrinking shelf life. Some
design firms have organized themselves to do everything, adding new capabilities as the demand warrants. Others do related things, such as corporate identity and annual reports. And still others do one thing -interactive multimedia, for example.

If you have a retail packaging project, a firm that designs only environmental graphics might not be your best choice. Why? Well, the reasons have less to do with design than with technical requirements, vendor knowledge, pricing and scheduling. The designer who knows how paint and materials hold up in weather or how signage is viewed from a moving vehicle may not know a thing about seam wraps and how products are treated on retail shelves.

Still, there is no litmus test to say one firm can do the job and the other can't, or that a firm without a certain kind of experience can't learn. In fact, some companies see a real benefit in hiring a design firm that brings neither prior experience nor preconceptions to their project. If you've identified a firm you'd like to work with and are comfortable making a leap of faith, you probably should.

The "discovery" process is where you can make that determination. And the more thorough you are, the more likely you are to find a firm with whom you can achieve great - who knows, perhaps even spectacular - results. So ask questions. Lots of them.

What's the design firm like to work with? What is its culture and how does that match up with your company's? How flexible is it? Does it want lots of direction? Or lots of latitude? And how much of either are you prepared to give? Who are its clients? And how did it get them? Does it have a thorough understanding of their businesses? What kind of working relationships does it have with them? And with its vendors - from writers to photographers,
printers, web consultants and fabricators? Is it a specialist? Or generalist? Does it have the manpower and technical capabilities to do what you need? How does it arrive at design solutions?

And don't stop here.

How effective has the design firm's work been from project to project? Does it even know? And does it know why? Can the firm demonstrate that it has done what it promised in terms of budgets and schedules? Are you talking with the people who will do the work for you? Are they the ones who did the work you liked? If not, have you seen their work? Does the firm share the credit - good and bad - for its work? Does it exhibit a good grasp of business and does the condition of the company reflect this? Do you feel that you will enjoy working with the people you've met?
Some of these questions are subjective, intuitive. Most have concrete answers. If, for example, a firm can't tell you what its clients were trying to achieve or how it arrived at its solutions, chances are it doesn't deal in ideas. If it isn't adept at running its own business, it probably won't be good at running your project. If it talks only about
itself, it may not be a good listener.

To get your answers, go first to the design firms you are considering. Then check out external references, especially clients - and not just the references provided. Get comfortable with the honesty of the firms you are talking to. Find out if their experiences and those of their clients gel. Trust is essential when you are handing over your wallet and your image to someone else.

If you find yourself wondering whether all of this is really necessary, ask yourself how seriously you want to compete in the marketplace. Because that is exactly what a good designer will help you do.

Continue to
Part 3 - The Design Brief

American Institute of Graphic Arts 164 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010 212 807 1990, www.aiga.org Copyright: AIGA 2001
 
   Top 10 Questions

   1.   How does the firm like to work?

   2.   Who are its clients?

   3.   How knowledgeable is it about
         them?

   4.   How is it viewed by them? By its
         peers?

   5.   What is its design process?

   6.   What kind of design experience
         does it have?

   7.   What kind of results has it
         achieved?

   8.   Who will work on your project?

   9.   Does the firm understand the
         business?

   10. Do you like the people you've
         met?