How to outsource graphic design without diluting your brand

Depending upon the size and structure of your organization, you may or may not have an in-house graphic designer for your marketing projects. However, if you don’t, not to worry – you can use a freelance designer and still keep a strong, consistent, brand. Here are a few tips.

Start with a brand manual. If you don’t already have a brand manual, create one. This can be the first assignment for your freelance designer, in fact. At minimum, a brand manual needs to contain the specs for your logo, logo dos and don’ts, brand-approved fonts (serif and sans serif), primary and complementary colors (including PMS, CMYK and hex codes for each) and general design aesthetic.

Ask for recommendations. Reach out to your peer group for recommendations. You’re looking for a designer with positive referrals, professional experience, and capacity to take on new clients. Request samples of their work and ask questions about their reliability, responsiveness and rates.

Interview your prospects. Meet with your prospective designers to see if they will be a good fit. You want a designer who understands your organizational culture, brand aesthetic and work style. Most importantly, you want a designer who is willing to adhere to your brand standards. Bring along samples of existing branded pieces as well as your brand manual. And trust your gut – do they seem like they will work well with your needs?

Set expectations. Make sure you clearly communicate deadlines, format, details and budget. A good designer will be willing to design to your brand, not their personal aesthetic. If at any time you feel that they are veering too far away from your brand, speak up.

Build the relationship. Relationships work both ways, so be sure to give your designer the same courtesy you expect from them – pay on time, set a reasonable schedule, and manage expectations. If you have a large number of revisions, try to build that into the pay structure and deadlines. Understand that they have other clients. If you can, ask if they will work on retainer so that you don’t have to hire them on a per-project basis.

Be realistic. If your designer is at capacity, consider bringing a second designer on for other projects. If you have a strong brand manual and clear expectations, the products they create will all look like they come from the same brand.

Having a great designer on call can be mutually beneficial, save you time and money, and take your design and brand to the next level.


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