If you are looking to hire a freelance or full-time graphic designer, it is important to follow the right process to do it, so you can make sure to hire the best candidate possible.
In the design and creative industry, there are many design disciplines and design focus areas, so it's common that while one design candidate can be a great fit for one particular design style or design discipline, the same designer can underperform on another one. Taking this into account, creating the proper graphic designer job opening, correctly evaluating all of the applicants, and properly reviewing each designer's portfolio can make a big difference and help you find a great team member.
To help you out with this, we will cover everything you should know about hiring a graphic designer. From the skills of a good graphic designer, to a sample graphic designer job description you can copy and paste to start getting applicants right away. Let's get started.
Should I hire a freelance or full-time graphic designer?
Before starting the hiring process, an important question to ask is if you are looking to hire a graphic designer full-time or freelance. While this can be a very broad question that depend on a lot of factors, we can give you some of the most common pros and cons of each:
Hiring a full-time graphic designer
Hiring full-time instead of freelance can offer many benefits, including the commitment of having a full-time resource that can execute tasks at any given moment without reviewing the scope of work and coordinating timelines. Along with that, some other pros are the following:
- Long-term commitment: When hiring full-time, you can be certain that the designer you are working with is going to be available at least for a few months (if not years), which is ideal in case you have ongoing work that needs to be completed.
- Time availability: Unlike working with freelancer's changing work schedules, you have a guaranteed time availability based on the working hours you agreed on your contract.
- Design consistency: If you have a full-time designer, as all their work produced is for your company, the level of design consistency across design deliverables is going to be much higher.
- In-depth brand knowledge: After a few months of working together, a full-time designer will know a lot about your brand and company, and being able to create designs that are more tied to it.
- Faster turnarounds: Unlike hiring freelance, in which coordinating work schedules can be difficult in certain cases, when hiring full-time you will be able to get faster turnarounds on any design task assigned.
- Cost effective for bigger projects: When hiring for bigger and longer projects, hiring full-time ends up being cheaper than hiring graphic design freelancers or agencies.
Hiring a freelance graphic designer
On the other side, hiring a freelance graphic designer can have many benefits too, especially if you are hiring for a small or temporal project. Some of the other pros of hiring freelance are:
- Faster to hire: Unlike hiring full-time (which can be a long process of getting applicants, reviewing them, interviewing them, etc), you can hire a freelance graphic designer in less than 24 hours, so if your design needs are urgent, this can be a great option to consider.
- No long-term commitments: If your design needs are urgent, but you don't expect any future work needed while hiring freelance you don't have any long-term commitments.
- Easier to get high-skill talent: High-skill talent working full-time can be harder to get, meanwhile, when hiring freelance, you can easily engage with the top 1% of freelancers without much extra work.
- Less risk of bad hires: As working hourly is an option with many freelance designers, if you are not happy with the results, you can cut your losses and try giving the project to another freelancer.
- Cost effective for smaller projects: Working with freelancers or contractors is very cost-effective for small and quick projects, as you don't need to commit for a long term full-time hire.
Skills of a good graphic designer
Just like with any other professional career, there are professional skills that great designers often have, and if you can identify them, you will quickly realize you are in front of a great candidate. Some of those skills are the following:
- Attention to Detail: Great design often differentiates on the small and subtle details, so choosing someone that really takes care even of the smallest details will definitely make a big difference.
- Communication: Design tasks often involve working with many teams inside a company, so a good designer should be very communicative and constantly listen and understand design requests even if the design direction is not perfectly clear.
- Teamwork: Designers often need to collaborate very closely with marketing and copywriting departments, among others, so teamwork skill is core otherwise the design quality may be impacted based on the friction between team members.
- Autodidact: The design industry is one of the fastest-changing industries in the world, as new software and tools are launched every day. Because of that, a great design candidate won't be scared about being an autodidact and constantly keep learning new tools as they are released.
- Creativity: Maybe a little obvious, but creativity is for sure an important skill of a good graphic designer. Designers are constantly assigned with tasks whey they need to think out of the box and solve a design problem with a creative solution, so it's important to hire someone that is not afraid of being creative and producing work that is unique and different.
- Design Taste: While it can be hard to assess, having good design taste is a very important skill for a designer. While it doesn't always happen, great designers often have very good taste in style and design in general (even in the small things such as their pen, phone case, backpack, etc), so if you notice this, chances are you are in front of a potentially good team member.
- Software Agnostic: Unlike many people think, tools are not what defines a great vs. a bad designer, but the design skills per se. A great designer can create an amazing logo on a piece of paper, without the need for any software, just like a bad designer can't do it even using Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Illustrator.
If one of the candidates you are reviewing or interviewing has all (or most) of these skills, chances are you are in luck and may have found the one. Continue reading to learn about the vetting questions and portfolio review process so you can be 100% sure you are making the best hire.
Where to hire graphic designers?
Once you know if you are going to hire a full-time graphic designer or a freelance graphic designer, and once it's clear what skills you are looking for, it's time to publish the job opening to start getting applications.
Where to hire full-time graphic designers?
If you are looking to hire full-time, the following platforms are a great choice to publish on.
- Indeed: Indeed is one of the biggest jobs and employment sites with millions of job posts available. You can post jobs for free, or if you are looking to get more applicants, sponsored jobs cost as little as $5/day.
- LinkedIn: Everyone already knows LinkedIn, but in case you were not aware, LinkedIn Jobs allows you to post free job openings and start getting applications from all over LinkedIn.
- Angelist: Angelist allows companies to create their Angelist Profile and post job posts on the platform. It is a very popular job marketplace for tech and software startups.
- Dribbble: Dribbble Full-Time Job Board allows you to post design job openings that will be seen by thousands of Dribbble visitors. It starts at $259/mo and guarantees a good amount of exposure in the Dribbble platform.
- Behance: Behance Creative Jobs Job Board allow you to post job openings that all the Behance community can explore and apply to.
Where to hire freelance graphic designers?
- UpWork: UpWork is the #1 freelance marketplace in the world. It let's you submit a freelance project for free, and once created you will receive 25-50+ freelance project proposals (including quote and timeline).
- Fiverr: Tailored for smaller projects, Fiverr is a freelance service marketplace where professionals offer their services starting at $5. It is a great marketplace for smaller projects, but if you search properly, you can find great designers for medium and big projects too.
- Toptal: Toptal is an exclusive freelance network with highly vetted design freelancers. Due to it's high-end quality and elevated pricing, it is tailored for premium projects.
- 99designs: 99designs is a popular design contest marketplace where clients submit their projects, and multiple designers compete to get their designs selected and approved.
- Dribbble: Dribbble Freelance Jobs Marketplace allows clients to post one-time freelance projects for the Dribbble community of freelancers to apply.
- Behance: Behance Creative Jobs is also full of one-time freelance projects, so you can also publish your freelance project in here too.
What should a graphic designer job description include?
If you already decided where you are going to publish your graphic design job opening, the next step would be to write the job description, and we got you covered on that front.
If your company already has a pre-defined format and template, feel free to use that, however, if it's your first time creating a graphic designer job opening and you are now sure what should be in there, we recommend you to mention the 4 points below.
- Role Name: A clear and accurate role name is important to attract the right type of designers. If you are hiring for a 'Web Designer', write that specifically, otherwise, it may be misleading or confusing for the applicants.
- Requirements: A specific set of requirements will make it easy for applicant designers to quickly identify if they fall within what you are looking for or not. Avoid copying and pasting requirements from many different places, as they may be contradictory or inaccurate.
- Responsibilities: A list of the day-to-day responsibilities of the role, so potential applicants can review if those are similar to their previous jobs and if they match the role you are looking for.
- How to Apply: If you are publishing the job opening in multiple job boards, ideally you want all the applications to be centralized, so it can be a good idea to add application instructions, so all applicants follow the same application process.
If you have these 4 sections in your job opening description, you should be all set. However, if you want to pre-filter all candidates as much as possible we also recommend adding a list of custom additional questions.
A list of custom additional questions is just some pre-filtering questions that you would typically ask in the interview process, but you ask them upfront in the application process. This can reduce the number of people applying to your job opening, however, for those who apply, you will be able to quickly filter the candidates that fit the role and the candidates that don't.
The filtering questions can be specific based on your role requirements, however, here are 3 examples that can be relevant to you:
- What software do you use for logo design?
- How many past design projects have you been involved in?
- Do you prefer Adobe Illustrator or Figma, and why?
Once candidates start applying, you will be able to filter very quickly the candidates that match the criteria your company is looking for.
Graphic designer job description template
To make it easier for you and your team, we created a pre-made graphic designer job description template. Just copy and paste the template below and customize it with your company name and additional requirements.
How to review a graphic designer application
Once you start getting applicants to your graphic design job opening, the next step is to review the graphic designers that applied and to choose the selected ones that are going to pass to the interviewing phase. For this process, we typically recommend doing 2 types of reviews, which are the following.
1. Review a graphic designer resume
The first step is to analyze the designer resume in detail to learn more about their past roles, past work experience, and any other relevant data that you are looking to gather.
Unlike many other industries, in the particular case of the design and creative industry, many times the resume actually tells a lot about the design experience of the candidate, as it is common for designers to craft highly detailed resumes that match their personal branding and portfolio.
2. Review graphic designer portfolio
After checking their resume, it's now time to review their portfolio, which in this particular creative industry is even more relevant than the resume itself.
A good indicator that the portfolio is correctly structured and presented is that it's sent to you as a website, or as a compressed PDF that you can easily browse without much effort. If on the other side, you receive a compressed .ZIP file or a folder with dozens of separated images and assets, chances are that the disorganization of the portfolio speaks a lot about the organizational skills of the candidate.
Once you review the portfolio, pay a lot of attention not just to the design aesthetics and design quality, but also to the text context around the design decisions that were made to arrive at that result. As the design is contextual and a good design is always relative, understanding the context behind the portfolio will make a great difference.
Graphic designer interview questions
Once you start getting applicants to your graphic design job opening, the next step is to interview the candidates that look promising, and for this, asking the right set of questions can be a great difference between correctly evaluating the candidate or not, so we compiled a list of questions you can ask them that relate to the design and creative industry.
- What is your experience in the design industry?
While this question can sound obvious or pretty basic, it can give you some more in-depth context of the candidate's past experience working as a designer.
- What is your process to design a [logo]?
Processes on the design and creative industry are key. So understanding the candidate's process for designing any kind of creative asset can be very helpful.
- What is your favorite graphic design type?
Graphic design is a very broad discipline, and there are many things to focus on. You can do web design, brand design, UI/UX design, and much more, so understanding what is the preference of the designer is very useful, to see if that aligns with the type of work that will be needed.
- What is your preferred design style?
Designers often have a strong preference for one design style over another, and while a professional designer can produce high-quality work on many different design styles, if the candidate's preferred design style aligns with the company's design style, things can be much easier.
- What is your design software stack and why?
Understanding what is the software that the designer uses to produce their work is important. While great designers are often software agnostic, if the designer already uses the design software that is used on your company, the onboarding process will be much smoother.
- How do you react to negative design feedback?
It's common for designers to react badly to negative feedback about their designs. It's important to ask this question to set expectations and understand how the designer feels and reacts in this situation.
- Do you have past design projects similar to ours?
If the designer has already produced similar work or similar projects to the ones that she/he will be doing on this job, it can be a great indicator.
- Do you work well with other designers?
Design is often a collaborative process, so knowing the candidate's past experience of doing design teamwork can be a relevant factor in the final decision.
Along with these questions, depending on the specific needs and requirements for your graphic design role, you can add more questions to your list, or ask follow-up questions in the interview based on the designer's answer. Also, it is highly recommended to ask culture-fit questions to identify if the designer is aligned with the company culture and values.
Pre-employment tests for graphic designers
Once you interviewed all the candidates that looked promising, if you are not 100% sure of who you are going to hire, doing a pre-employment test for your preferred candidates is always a great way to evaluate in detail the design skills of each designer without taking the final decision.
At BRIX Agency, we have done this hundreds of times, and it always helps us to ensure our decision is the right one. That being said, it's important to keep in mind the following in order to effectively run a pre-employment test:
- Pre-employment tests must be paid: Designers hate to work for free (everyone does), so you should budget a certain amount to pay for the pre-employment tests for the candidates that you would like to vet.
- Pre-employment tests must be short: It's not a good practice to ask the candidates to commit to many days or even a full week of work. Ideally, the test should only be 4 or 8 hours, so candidates don't need to do a huge time commitment, and also so you can run multiple tests without delaying the hiring process so much.
- Pre-employment tests should focus on the day-to-day tasks: In the engineering industry, it is very common to do very hard pre-employment tests to vet developers with tasks that are not actually related to the day-to-day job. We highly recommend avoiding this, instead, it's better for the test to be a design task that they would actually work on if they join the company.
After running the pre-employment tests for all the candidates that had a great interview and looked promising, the final step is just to go ahead and take the final decision on who is going to get a full-time offer. Review their resume, portfolio, interview notes, and test results in detail, and take your best decision.
Before ending the article, we got a lot of questions about how to hire designers with specific skillsets like Web Design, UI/UX Design, Product Design, etc, so we decided to extend the article to include more information on these, so if you are looking to hire one of those roles, keep reding.
If you are looking to hire for another design role such as a Web Designer, UI / UX Designer, or Product Designer, the process is very similar, and you should only take into account a few minor differences and key takeaways to keep in mind.
Let's analyze the difference on each role one by one.
How to hire a web designer?
Web design is a considerably different discipline vs. graphic design, and the main difference exists because unlike designing a banner, graphic, image, etc when you design websites, there are a lot of web UI patterns that should stick with in order to keep the website intuitive.
In some sense, working on graphic design is a much more creative role than working on web design, as the limitations of what you can and cannot do are smaller.
This doesn't mean a Web Designer shouldn't be creative or that the web design industry is purely a development-oriented discipline, however, an experimented Web Designer will clearly understand the creative limitations of the web.
Considering this, you can be confident to hire a web designer candidate if he or she has the following skillset:
- Graphic Design Foundation: While a web designer will design mostly things for the web, it is important to have a very strong graphic design foundation, as it will make a big difference when designing graphics and images for the web.
- Design Systems Experience: Unlike traditional graphic design, websites often use very detailed design systems in order to keep all UI elements consistent. Considering this, it's important for your new web designer to understand how to design systems work, and how to take advantage of them.
- Prototyping Experience: When delivering designs to Web Developers, it is common that they need a more clear understanding of what is the UX flow between the website pages or between specific website interactions. Because of this, understanding and knowing the basics of design prototyping to be able to deliver a design prototype will play an important role.
- Figma Experience: Unlike graphic designers who often use the Adobe Creative Cloud suite, most web designers use Figma, which is the software standard for web and UI/UX design. Considering this, your potential web designer should know how to use it already.
- Web Development Fundamentals (Plus): If your web designer also understands the basics of how HTML/CSS/JS works, it will be a great plus, as he/she will be able to understand what are the technical design limitations. It is not very common for designers to know this, so if you find a candidate that does, you are in front of a great web designer.
If your web design candidate has all (or most) of these skills, along with a good portfolio of past website designs, it's likely you are in front of a great potential team member to join your team.
How to hire a UI / UX designer?
Onboarding a full-time product or UI/UX designer to your team shouldn't be a difficult task either.
Just like with Web Designers, the process on how to hire a UX designer is very similar, with the only difference being that you should focus considerably more on the design thought process and UX flow, rather than the actual design aesthetics.
UI/UX designers create software user interfaces that we use every day, so they should understand very well most of the UI and UX patterns of the platform they are designing for (Mobile, Desktop, Web-Apps, etc), as well as the specific design systems created for each platform (Material You on Android, Human Guidelines on iOS and macOS, etc).
Taking all of this into consideration, the skills that you can look for on a good UI / UX designer is the following:
- Graphic Design Foundation: While most UI/UX designers don't need to produce very complicated graphic assets, having a robust foundation of graphic design will be very helpful when they need to create designs that accompany the UI (i.e. illustrations, icons, etc).
- Experience with Design Systems: Any good UI / UX designer will be an expert in building flexible, modular, and scalable design systems so the app or web-app they design is completely consistent and cohesive even if it has hundreds of different screens.
- Experience with Atomic Design: Robust design systems often require an atomic design approach in order to keep the design system scalable. Considering this, it is a great indicator that your product or UI/UX designer understands and uses atomic design systems.
- Prototyping Experience: Developers often request design prototypes in order to fully understand how the app or web-app works. Considering this, knowing the basics of design prototyping is an important skill to have.
- Figma Experience: Figma is pretty much the industry standard for UI/UX design work, so taking this into account, your potential designer should know Figma perfectly well, and have at least 1-2 years of experience with it.
- Knowledge of Popular Design Systems: It's common that if you are designing an app for a famous platform (iOS, Android, macOS, Windows, etc), you need to understand their design system guidelines, principles, and rules, so ideally, the UI/UX designer that you are looking to hire should know all of this.
- Development Fundamentals (Plus): If your UI/UX designer understand the development fundamentals of how coding works, it can be a great plus as they will be able to decide if their design works without help from the developers.
A product or UX designer candidate that checks all or most of these boxes is definitely the team member you are looking for.
How much does it cost to hire a graphic designer?
Average salaries for graphic designers in the USA vary a lot based on the level of expertise. Representing data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), graphic designers earn a median salary of $66,347 USD per year. If we take a look at the entry level salary, we would be talking about an average of $45,000 USD per year.
On the other hand, if we take a look at the top 10% percentile of designers, the average salary is $97,000 USD per year.
While the average salaries may look in the lower end versus other industries like Marketing or Development, it is important to understand that these average salaries presented relate to graphic designers, not Web Designers, UI/UX Designers, or Product Designers, which have a much higher demand, making the average salaries go up considerably.
If you are looking to get a more detailed breakdown of different hiring costs for graphic designers, as well as web designers and UI/UX designers, we recommend you to read our article about How much does it cost to hire a graphic designer, in which we do an in-depth research over this.