Selecting a Designer

Before you meet designer for preliminary discussion, thorough preparation can save time and lead to a more cost-effective solution. The main steps are outlined below.

Step 1 - Creating a brief

Responsibility: client

Creating a clear, comprehensive brief is fundamental to achieving a satisfactory result. A brief encapsulates what you want the designer to achieve, sets out the parameters for the project and gives focus to the designer's creativity. However, the brief should not be prescriptive, so that designers can provide input based on their experience in similar projects. The brief should be in writing and include:

  • Background information about the business and market.
  • Project objectives that are specific, measurable and achievable.

View detailed guidelines for creating a brief

Step 2 - Sourcing and shortlisting designers

Responsibility: client

Once your brief has been prepared, you are ready to shortlist three possible designers. You can use the Directory of designers on this site as a starting point. You may also find it useful to look out for design work that you like or ask colleagues if they can recommend a designer.

If you are not certain of your requirements and would like independent advice on finding a suitable designer, please contact us

Step 3 - Invite a credentials presentation

Responsibility: client

Invite the shortlisted designers to give a credentials presentation to learn more about their skills and experience. A credentials presentation will not include any design proposals but may help you to define the brief. Any unsuitable candidates should be eliminated at this stage.

Step 4 - Present your brief and invite written proposals

Responsibility: client

Present your brief to the shortlisted designers and invite written proposals. The proposal should answer the brief and include a method of approach, programme of work with milestones, specific deliverables, budget forecast including fees and direct costs. Include a deadline by which the proposal should be submitted.

Step 5 - Prepare proposals

Responsibility: designer

The designer's proposal should answer the brief and include details of their understanding of the project together with a preliminary indication of how they would achieve the project objectives.

Step 6 - Assess the proposals and select a designer

Responsibility: client

Assess each proposal individually. You should be looking for a designer who:

  • Will work well with your company. Good communication is key to your relationship with the designer. You must be confident that you can work with and trust your designer.
  • Demonstrates an understanding of your business and shows how the objectives will be met.
  • Has a proven track record and can demonstrate their ability to solve similar design challenges.
  • Has the capacity to complete and deliver the work within agreed timescales and budget.

A few points to remember when choosing a designer:

  • Anyone can call themselves a designer. The one exception to this is the word architect, which is protected by law.
  • Assess the relevance of the designer’s experience and skills to your project.
  • Consider the size of the fee in relation to your project - price does not always reflect quality.
  • It is not unreasonable to ask a designer if you can contact previous clients for references.
  • Write to all shortlisted designers advising them whether or not they have been successful. Giving your reasons for selection is good practice and will help all designers improve their service.

Step 7 - Request and approve a contract

Responsibility: client and designer

Agree the terms of reference for the project based on a more detailed brief and proposal that includes project milestones, timescales, budgets, deliverables, approval procedures, terms of business, intellectual property agreements and clearly stated fees and costs.

Many professional organisations have standard contracts which can be a useful starting point.

Step 8 - Taking the project forward

Responsibility: client and designer

Good project management and an effective working relationship are key to the success of any project. Designer and client need to work closely, with a mutual understanding of each other's point of view.