8 early signs your graphic designer isn’t up to scratch

Written by Matt Smith

2 April 2019


Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, certainly where design and creativity are concerned.

Giving your business collateral the right look and feel is essential to draw customers in but, unless you’re from a design agency or a large company, the chances are your access to in-house designers is going to be limited.

And with tight deadlines, you need to know that any graphic designer you commission has the skills to deliver the quality of work you need, on time and in budget.

In my view, a good graphic designer is not just an artist or creative – they’re a problem solver.

Making something look good is one thing, but the real skill is combining this with ensuring it works. If the collateral doesn’t achieve what you need it to, it doesn’t really matter what it looks like.

But literally anyone can set up as a graphic designer, with no formal qualifications, and that means there’s always the risk that your designer might fall short of your expectations.

While I’d love your business to work with my team at Berkeley Communications, I’ve no desire to see your project fail if you don’t. So I’ve pulled together a list of considerations for you to take into your next conversation to help you get the most from the project.

  1. Does the graphic designer ask questions about the brief?

In my experience, it’s always necessary to ask questions about the brief.

Even the best briefs I’ve ever seen needed to be interrogated to make sure the requirements are crystal clear.

If your designer has accepted your brief without any requests for a follow up discussion or raised any points to clarify the details, it should be an immediate flag.

  1. Do they ask about the audience?

You might assume this is a given but wanting to find out about the audience you need to reach and what you know about them is a good indication your designer has the right approach.

Little gems of insight about the people you’re targeting can help to tighten the brief and spur on their creativity.

And they might have recommended an alternative approach from the off that would deliver a better return.

  1. Do they understand the content itself?

There is a big difference between receiving the content and taking it at face value or taking time to get to grips with the subject matter when it comes to design.

It’s another layer of understanding to help the design team to make the most effective recommendations to achieve your desired outcome from the project.

  1. Do they ask how the collateral will be distributed?

Assets can be stunning. The brief you provided seemingly interrogated to the nth degree.

But if the designer doesn’t know how the materials they’re developing are going to be handed out, delivered or posted, they can’t have a clear view of what success looks like for your project.

  1. Do they ask about your business?

Some designers use a templated approach to their work.

From the client’s perspective, this can speed up delivery and it’s also cost effective for the designer. But it’s not going to deliver something that is truly relevant to your business.

A good designer will not just ask about the audience the project is trying to reach, they will want to know about your business values so they can target their work more effectively.

  1. Do they commit to quick delivery?

There are some caveats on this one. If you have a need for a quick turnaround, good designers will throw everything at the project to make that happen if they can. Equally, if they can’t do it, they will tell you.

However, if someone volunteers a quick delivery it’s worth considering exactly how that’s achieved.

Are you asking for them to typeset something or are you asking for them to recommend and develop original ideas?

If it’s the former, it’s a relatively quick job but if it’s the latter, there could be a problem.

Make sure you’re comfortable they’re setting themselves up to deliver what you need and have the time to do so.

  1. Do they arrange check ins?

As a client, one of the most frustrating things about a design project is radio silence from your supplier. It leads to concerns over the project’s progress and exposes you to the risk that the designer is taking the work in the wrong direction.

A good designer will want to update you on the latest developments and to get your feedback/direction at key points along the way.

This isn’t you wasting time, it’s avoiding potential issues and delays down the line.

  1. Have you met the person working on your designs?

This is an important one.

Whether it’s the project lead or the designer themselves, you should have confidence the people making it happen have been able to discuss it directly with you.

If it’s the designer, you’re in a good place. They’ve had every chance to ask questions and hear from the horse’s mouth (so to speak) what you need.

If it’s the project lead, their job is to represent your requirements in internal discussions to make sure the designers deliver against the brief.

But you shouldn’t be in a position whereby the person accountable for the project’s success hasn’t met you before the work gets underway.


Of course, there are some other pointers to consider – the portfolio of work they present, for example – but I hope these tips help you in your future design projects.

Don’t hesitate to contact me if you need any further advice.