April 26, 2011

Choosing a Graphic Designer in Pittsburgh

If you’re looking for a graphic designer in Pittsburgh you may feel overwhelmed by your choices as Pittsburgh is full of highly qualified graphic designers and most graphic design clients might not understand exactly how to narrow their choices down. If you find yourself in this situation here are some tips to help you reduce your choices down to a manageable number of highly qualified graphic designers.

The following is a simple (though time consuming) step by step process that you can use to find a graphic designer in Pittsburgh or a similar sized market. Why is it so time consuming? Because it’s important to get the right graphic designer. Personally I hope that W. Donald Orkoskey and Associates are the right graphic designers but if we are not then I don’t want you to become frustrated by choosing us and trying to make us fit your needs. That wastes our time and yours and causes loads of frustration.

Finding a Graphic Designer in Pittsburgh

There are many ways to tap into the huge number of designers in Pittsburgh. You can Google graphic designer Pittsburgh or visit AIGA Pittsburgh’s website ( and search for a designer in their member directory but it’s not the most user friendly search and isn’t really meant to be a used by potential clients for such purposes. You can look on LinkedIn or even Facebook and use the power of social media and your social network to help you collect a list of designers, you can go old school and use your offline social networks, and I’m sure there are a million other ways to tap into the huge number of highly skilled graphic designers in Pittsburgh.

Narrowing Your Search for a Graphic Designer in Pittsburgh

You should start with a list of 100 or so designers. You don’t want to find yourself at the end of the process with no designers that you like forcing you to start over looking for more designers. So while 100 sound like a lot we’ll bring that number down very quickly.

So you’ve got a list of designers – how do your choose which graphic designer or graphic design firm is right for you from this big of a list? Finding the right designer is crucial because the end result will almost always be the potential customers first impression. You’ve got to get the right graphic designer so you make the right first impression.

Reviewing Graphic Designer Portfolios

You can eliminate a lot of designers by eye. To be a good graphic design client you need to be able to say what you like and what you don’t and why. Look at the examples and online portfolios of the designers in your list – go through that list 2 or maybe 3 times tossing out graphic designers and firms that don’t have work that you like or that fits with your project.

During the first round of elimination you shouldn’t spend too much time on each designer. Look for designers that just don’t belong, designers that visually don’t fit with your idea of what you need in a designer. You may toss out about half of the list on this first pass. Don’t be worried if you do. Be worried if you have less than 40 designers left after this first round.

After the first pass where you tossed out the obvious the next two rounds should concentrate on what you like about the remaining designers. Make a list of what you like about each designer’s portfolio – try to stick to points about their visual design. You might find that there are no real reasons that you find some of the designers designs visually appealing which means you can keep narrowing the list. Once you have a list of points for the designers you have left you should pick apart those points that made you choose them. This should leave you with 10 to 20 designers.

Contact these Graphic Designers

Now that you’ve got 10 – 20 designers shoot them an email via the contract form from their website or if you’ve got their email do so that way. You can copy and paste your message so each of of them gets the same message. You should let them know a little about the project you need them for, your budget, time frame, and any other pertinent information that you feel like including. Make first contact via email because many designers are busy – they might be hard to get in touch with over the phone and you wouldn’t want to hire a designer that spends more time talking to other clients and potential clients than they do working on your project.

The replies you get back from these 20 or so graphic designers will help you farther narrow your list. Some might not reply which will tell you that they are either not professional or so incredibly busy that they don’t feel the need to be professional. Either way you probably don’t want to work with them.

You need to look for a number of things in their reply and ask follow up questions – all of these will help you keep narrowing your list down more and more.

Strong Business Skills

While a good graphic designer may be too busy to answer phone calls they still should be professional enough to understand details and respond to them. If any of the designers left on your list came recommended by friends or colleagues ask them about the designers professionalism, about their ability to meet deadlines, and so on. If they are not someone who was recommended, if you found them via Google try to see if they have any reviews on Google Places, Yelp, or so on.

Don’t be afraid to ask them about their business skills – their ability to make deadlines, what all they bill for (meetings, phone calls) you’d be surprised how much this varies. Don’t assume that someone that gives a lot of their time away is the best choice either – you may end up paying more in time delays if they are too free and loose with their time.

A Serious Knowledge of Marketing

Good designers are everywhere – make sure that the designers left on your list understand marketing and can explain how their designs helped lead to more sales or a higher ROI for their clients. Good graphic designers create designs that pay for themselves. Make sure to ask any designers left about their understand of general marketing principals.

A Positive Personality

Designers are often super busy and can be dealing with several difficult clients, late invoices, and even personal issues that may have them on edge. You should never know about those things (unless you’re the not paying your bills). A good graphic designer is great but a good graphic designer who leaves you feeling confident about your project is greater. Make sure that the designers you are talking to are confident and are not complaining to you about other clients – especially by name.

Graphic Design References

By the time you speak to or email back and forth with these last 20 or fewer graphic designers you should have a feeling for the person that you’d most like to work with. If you still have a few different designers to choose from don’t be afraid to ask them for references. If you followed this formula will you find the prefect graphic designer? Will you be perfectly happy? Maybe not – it’s not foolproof but if you have never hired a graphic designer before this formula can help you find a qualified and highly skilled graphic designer in Pittsburgh or elsewhere.


April 26, 2011 | W.D.Orkoskey
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