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Now that your business is taking off, it’s time to make things official with a logo. So you are now trying to find a graphic designer to create that perfect image that embodies the brand and values of your company.

Sadly to find a design it may not seem as simple as scrolling through an Instagram feed and double-tapping your favorites.

It can be a headache to filter through and find the perfect design for you. It’s a little bit like being at a perfume store: after smelling the first few scents, your nose is pretty much out of order.

Before you look at designer portfolios

Start off by collecting and writing down your thoughts on things you want or like. These notes will be very handy when you need to reset your overloaded senses and refocus on what you need to achieve.

Start with the logistical questions:

  • What’s your goal?
  • What is your budget
  • What’s the desired timeline?

Next, the user and design questions:

  • Who is your audience or client, and what are they like?
  • What feelings do you want them to have when interacting with your brand?

In response, feel free to jot down a list of qualities, descriptions, and looks and feels.

Don’t forget to fine-tune this as you go.

How to evaluate a designer’s portfolio

Now that you have your notes, it’s time to start looking at designers.

When you evaluate the portfolio, you will want to consider both the “absolute” and “relative” elements. The absolute ones have to do with the skills, experience and professional level. The relative ones have to do with how well the designer’s style aligns with your brand.

A portfolio contains the visual work and the story around it which both are important.

  • Color: warm or cool? Do they clash?
  • Line: thin, elegant, bold or playful?
  • Texture: flat, modern, three-dimensional or more elaborate?
  • Shape: basic triangle or square (clean) or unique and more elaborate? If more than 1 shape, how do they interact?
  • Space: does it have room to breathe or is it compact?
  • Typography: classic or more exciting? Do different font families play well together?

Take a moment to observe and describe your thoughts using the words and categories above. You’re probably already recognizing a tight designer viewpoint and what this designer’s “space of comfort” looks like: they thrive in B&W and use color sparsely, their design is modern, sophisticated, uncluttered (minimalistic), giving the logos plenty of space to breathe, and favoring organic, innovative shapes. Note also the differences, the range: the designer seems comfortable with both flat and three-dimensional shapes, do they play with different lines from paper-thin to bold according to the topic, and they are well adept at typography that fits right with the visual logo.

As you consider different portfolios, it really boils down to two things: first, describe what you see, don’t feel like you have to hyper-analyze each portfolio and secondly, compare that with what you wrote down in the spectrum of desired design styles and feels.

Also, look for:

  • Is it easy to navigate?
  • Is it structured in a way that makes sense?
  • Did the designer build the online portfolio page themselves or is it a template?
  • Does the designer thoughtfully describe the problem and goal of the project?
  • Can you sense that they empathize with the user and have a user-centric approach?
  • Do they specifically speak to how client feedback was incorporated throughout the process?
  • Is there a method to the madness? Is the process systematic and iterative?
  • How much of it did the specific designer do?

Choosing your designer

Following these criteria, you should be able to narrow down to a shortlist of finalists. When you reach out to your favorite designers to schedule interviews, you may ask them to provide their resumes so you can get a better feel for their experience level and previous work.

During the interview, whether that’s in person, on the phone or through email always seek to understand at a high-level the creative process of the designer and to assess their interest and thoughts around your work proposal. Think of it as a first date: are you two compatible? Once it’s clear the feeling is mutual, time to seal the deal. In other words, talk about the logistics, such as expectations around timeframe, feedback, communication frequency, number of revisions, etc.

If you’re looking for a logo designer, chances are this is only the beginning of the design work for your business. Do this part thoughtfully, and you won’t simply get a snazzy logo, but you’ll also have established a relationship with a great designer who now understands your brand and can deliver beautiful and reliable results in the long term.