So if you can’t DIY, then what do you do? Hire a professional. It can be a little intimidating trying to find a designer and brand strategist that you think can provide you with the quality work you deserve. It is hard shopping for an intangible item such as contract creative work because even though you see something in a designer’s portfolio, you can’t be sure they will design something that is perfect for you.

In this post, I identify some characteristics of quality design portfolios to help you identify the best from the rest.

When reviewing portfolios, look for:

1. Diversity: Multiple projects should not use the same fonts, colors and shapes. When every project looks similar, you can be assured you will get a project that looks like the rest. A versatile style shows that the designer listens to his customers and delivers a target message to a target audience.

2. Education: The wide-spread accessibility of design programs, makes everyone a novice designer. Do not accept anything less than a Bachelors in Fine Arts from a 4 year Collegiate Graphic Design Program. A 2 year certificate program does not provide time to develop and evolve the skill and talent needed to properly communicate with graphics. 2 years barely allows you to understand the use of the technology and does not encourage the basic understanding of typography, composition, or illustration.

3. Experience: Diversity of project and customer base shows that the designer can solve problems and create customized solutions for any variety of communication challenges. As designers, we are communicators, not artists. We work to solve a communication challenge. The best designers do this and use aesthetics to support the message.

4. Character: It is important to have a personal connection with your designer. She must understand your challenge, know your business and be able to accurately relay your corporate culture to your potential customer. If you are not confident that your designer “gets” you, how can you be confident that the work they provide you is going to do what it needs to? Don’t ignore your gut instinct.

5.  Credibility: You may not know a good logo design when you see one, but other designers do! Look for industry awards, given out by AIGA, the professional association for designers, The Art Director’s Club, The Advertising Federation, and formal publication in Print, HOW, ID, GDUSA, Logo Lounge, and Rockport titles.

As with any contract project, be clear on your expectations and make sure they are clear with you on what they are providing. Make sure you get all usage rights with your artwork and make sure you have a contract that allows you to pay in increments allowing you to pay with the delivery at each stage of the creative process. If you heed these warnings and follow these tips, you should end up happy with your decision on a designer for your brand.

Check out the Buzz Blog next week when I talk about branding social media for your business. Get key tips for representing your brand in social media conversation.

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