How to pick the right designer for your branding project

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You've decided it's time to take the plunge. Time to create a new brand identity for your business. And whether you're starting from scratch or rebranding a business packed with legacy, picking the right designer for your project is key. Pick the right person, someone whose work you admire and you have a great connection with, and you'll find the process that follows is rewarding and productive. Choose someone simply because they are in your business breakfast group and you feel obliged to; because they seem like nice people; or because they are prepared to barter with you and you'll find that the process is akin to wading through treacle.

Branding your business should be a fun, rewarding and inspirational experience and it all starts with picking the right partner to work with. Here are my top tips to help you get the very best out of your next investment.

How to choose the right designer for your unique project

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1. Understand what you need.  Get focused before you begin. Establish what makes you different, why your clients use you and the message you want your brand to communicate. Create a mood board that reflects how you'd like your brand to look and feel, this will help you get focused and understand what you are looking for, visually. That doesn't mean that you shouldn't listen to an expert if they can see a better way of communicating what you want, but gaining clarity upfront is essential if you're to make the right decision. I created this very stripped back mood board, below, for one of my clients, Roger Lewis, who are currently working through a rebrand. Update: Roger Lewis have now launched their fabulous new identity! You can see it here.

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This mood board for a company that makes iconic private label sofas reflects the sorts of colours that would work well to communicate their brand message. I've pulled together several more for different elements of the projects. You don't need to be this detailed unless you want to, but an overall idea of the sort of design that will work for you is invaluable. Images: Rich, Brilliant, Willing by Projects Projects; BPO Sixty Seven by GPlan Vintage; The Creative Residency by Justina Blakeney

2. Approach designers whose work reflect the style you're looking for. I know that sounds obvious, but sadly I speak to more people who are unhappy with their website/ brand than people who proud of their brand identity. Often, the root cause of this discontent is picking the wrong designer. No one sets out to do a bad job, but as business owners we have a responsibility to pick people whose portfolio reflects the style we are looking for. In the case of Roger Lewis, I'm looking for designers whose portfolio reflects this streamlined, modern, crisp and contemporary feel. Contrast that with the look for an artisan ice cream company I'm working with and it's a totally different designer we need.

3. Identify what's important to you about doing business. You're going to be working with this designer or agency for a long time: branding projects always take longer than you think. Are you a laid back sort of a person who gets stressed out if people are constantly hounding you for information? Or are you more structured? Do you need to work with someone who'll stick to their deadlines come hell or high water? You'll get a good insight into how potential partners will be to work with from the speed at which they respond to your initial enquiry as well as the tone of their proposal. How does each feel? Could you work with this company?

4. Look for chemistry. Do you get a sense that the designer/ agency is as excited about this project as you are? Can you see them really getting behind you and throwing their all in? Or are you simply another pay check? And most importantly, is the style you want reflected in their portfolio (see point 3).

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This mood board for my artisan ice cream client has a totally different look and feel to Roger Lewis, who design iconic private label sofas for companies like Heals and John Lewis. The right designer/ agency is going to be very different for this project to the one above. I'm looking for someone with a much softer, more whimsical approach. Image credits: ice cream: Bon Appetit; Bamsrudlaven Gardvis on Behance; Ruban Papier; LA Creamery via Lost at E Minor;  Cornishware via BigFish; Organic Avenue via Ash Bryant; Honey & Mackies; I am Pure via The Dieline

5. Look at value as well as price. Price comes into it, of course it does, but understand what each company is proposing to give you for your investment. What are the deliverables? What process do they work through? And which feels right for the stage your business is at?

6. Are you a good match? It's very easy to be impressed by big brand names on a potential agency's website; but if you're a small business looking for a rebrand, are you big enough for the company to take seriously? Are they set up to service you well? Do they specialise in branding or are they more focused on art-working and design? They are very different (but related) skills. Similarly, if you are a larger business with more complex needs, is a freelancer really the right match for you? Can you afford to wait whilst they work on other projects/ take a holiday or do you need a business with more capacity?

7. Look for a branding specialist. It's so tempting to prioritise the (understandable) need to keep things simple by picking a company that can provide the whole shebang: website design, branding and SEO in house, rather than working with individual experts, and if you have the budget, this can be great. But especially if you're on a tight budget, pick two or three specialists whose work blows you away to work with rather than one company who perhaps is good across the board but is not outstanding in any one area.

8. Go with your gut. Do you get the feeling that working with this person will be fun? Do you think they will deliver what you need? Do you get the sense they really 'get' you and your business?

Over to you

There's a real art to choosing a designer who will deliver above and beyond your expectations; one that'll be a joy to work with and who will create a truly compelling face for your business. What would you add to this list? I'd love to hear from you!