5 tips for comissioning design.

Smaller businesses or startups often have the biggest need for design, especially when it can help them enter, and stand out in, a busy marketplace.

Finding a designer isn’t difficult, (especially if you’ve got a good network), but as a new business it can be difficult get the best out of a process you may not have gone through before, so here’s a few quick bits of advice to help you along.


1 — Know yourself.

While it’s increasingly common for businesses to have a clear picture of what they’re doing and why they’re doing it, it’s easy to lose track of an overarching vision or mission in the day-to-day of running a business.

Reminding yourself of your goals and purpose in business, and a willingness and ability to share them with your chosen designers will foster a deeper understanding of your work, product, or service, enabling better results.


2 — Know your audience.

Along similar lines to the previous point, a firm idea of who you want to reach is important. Even knowing who you don’t want to target is really helpful to your designers.

You might not be in the same demographic as your customers, and an awareness of this might help you be more objective when reviewing the work you’ve commissioned. Eden Spiekermann put this more succinctly when they say:

“We work for your customers.
We may have to take their side at times.”

3 — Be open.

Not all organisations have a clear view of the previous two points, and that’s ok. If you’re able to be open enough to allow your designers to probe, ask questions, and tease this information out, they’ll be able to do a much better job. If you’re able to set some budget for workshop sessions to devise a vision for your company, or allow a couple of days for user/customer research, that’s even better.

It shouldn’t stop there either. Ideally your designers should be curious to learn about all aspects of your business, product, operations, customers, and team. Much like point 1, more knowledge usually means higher quality.


4 — Have a measurable outcome in mind.

Sometimes this is easier said than done, and it may sound obvious, but having a desired outcome is the easiest way to judge success. The outcome doesn’t have to be a financial one – it could be something as simple as getting more people onto your mailing list –  but it should be measurable.

Consider the tools at your disposal to judge success or failure, and allow that to inform your choice of outcome. It’s easy and mostly free to analyse digital properties but getting feedback on something like a printed campaign can be more time consuming or more costly.


5 — Work as partners.

After signing on the dotted line you’re in it together, and only by working together will you get the best work at the end of the project.

Clients: hopefully you’re hiring designers for their expertise and experience in a very specific skillset (and not just because they’re the cheapest), so be prepared to let them lead. And on the other side of the coin, designers should be respectful of their clients’ expertise and experience of their industry, product, customers, and competitors.

Questions should be driven by curiosity, not by a challenge, and mutual respect, acceptance, and hopefully admiration for each party’s work creates a comfortable environment where it’s easy to ask questions and give feedback – both crucial to generating quality.


So there you have it, hopefully this helps inform your choices, and guides your expectations when forming a new partnership around a design project.

We’re always happy to lend advice and help where we can (even if you’re not working with us) so please get in touch with any questions, or feel free to give us your feedback.