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How to Choose a Professional Graphic Designer

Please welcome guest blogger, Melinda Martin, whom some of you know as Musings of a Minister’s Wife. Some of you know her as The Helpy Helper. Some of you don’t know her, but we should work on that.


In our fantastic Inspired Bloggers Network Facebook group, I often see posts concerning graphic design.  I am going to give you some pointers for how to choose a professional graphic designer.




As a self-taught graphic designer, I look back at how much I’ve grown in the last three years and stand amazed.  When I started out, all I had was my natural artistic talent, my ability to self-teach, and my desire to learn.  I think I have made every mistake that a self-taught graphic designer can make.  However, there were times during my growing that I thought I was doing it right, only to find out that I had it all wrong. We have all had those face-palm moments.  “It ain’t a mistake if you learn from it,” is the motto of many self-teachers.  And it’s how we learn the best.  Hands on, full on, and all in, which is also how are mistakes are.  (Go big or go home, lol.)

The Right Tool for the Job

Yes, there was a time when I used Microsoft Word to create a printable.  Then I graduated to Adobe Photoshop, thinking that was the right tool.  Finally, I found Adobe InDesign.  Your graphic designer should have an understanding of when to use Word, when to use Photoshop, when to use Illustrator, and when to use InDesign, which is specifically for desktop publishing.  If I were hiring an assistant (or another designer to do work for my own projects), I would not hire someone who does not work in the Adobe suite.  Picmonkey and Canva are not software options for professional graphic designers.  If your work ever needs to go to a publisher, they are going to expect to see it using industry standard design software.  If it’s not up to spec, then they will need to recreate the file, which will end up raising your costs.

I do invest $50 a month into using the Adobe Creative Cloud suite.  This ensures that I have access to all of the industry standard design software and that they are up to date, allowing me to easily transfer my design files to another professional designer if needed.

Portfolio Diversity

I often check up on other designers’ portfolios.  One thing that is a turn off for me is if every project in their portfolio looks the same.  A graphic designer should be an artist first.  An artist is able to tap into the feel of the project.  It’s for this reason that I don’t submit for work to sites that have the artists compete, especially for book cover design projects.  Sites like that usually don’t allow you to really get to know the client’s personality and vision.  When I do cover designs, I at least do a quick reading of the client’s book, browse their site, and have some direct conversation with the client about any preconceived ideas and figure out what they definitely like/don’t like.  I use Behance to showcase my own portfolio and love it.

Stock Photography

A professional graphic designer will have their own stock photography account and will download the images required for your project through their account.  All images used for your project should be legally obtained, have commercial-use rights, and should be used exclusively for your project.

Business is Business

I don’t take every project that comes my way.  I also don’t keep every project that I initially accept.  If the client does not value my opinion and my design experience, then that’s not a client that I want to work with.  It’s okay to part ways.  If you are not feeling a connection with your graphic designer, then be up front about it.  She may know of other designers who may be able to capture your vision or who may work better with your personality type.  It doesn’t have to be personal.

Project Wrap-Up

If the client works with Dropbox (my personal preference—free and easy) or Google Drive, then I will share a folder with that client and move all of her files over for her to have access to.  This includes the original design file (Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator), any stock photo that I downloaded for use with their project, as well as various exports of her final image.  Since I work with bloggers, I know how they need to incorporate whole or partial elements of their design into other projects.  Make sure that your designer delivers you a high-resolution image of your final product on a transparent background.  This is essential and is required for any print project.

I also try to put together a cheat sheet (or email) that contains the names of the fonts and color codes that I used.

A Note About Fonts

While free commercial-fonts are great, they are very overused, which is the downfall of using free.  (Also, just because a font says it is free, doesn’t mean it is free for commercial use.) I invest into my business by purchasing commercial-use fonts.  Included in these fonts are characters that are only accessible through Adobe Illustrator, Adobe InDesign, or other similar software (not Photoshop).  I can’t share the font file with my client, and if the client purchases the same font, she may not be able to get it to do all the tricks if she doesn’t use the higher end software.

Always Learning

I’m sure there are still a few things that I am doing the hard way, maybe even the wrong way.  But I continue to invest my time and my money into my education and my business.  I can be both teacher and student.

Are you a graphic designer?  Please leave a comment below with a link to your portfolio.  I believe in networking and supporting each other.

Do you have any additional advice on how to choose a professional graphic designer?