Hiring designers is tough. The term itself has such a broad definition, and a wide array of accompanying skills. A lot of people associate designers with people who “make pretty pictures.” But it’s really so much more than that.
In my mind a designer has to have a number of skill sets that together will add huge value to any tech / development team. But it’s easy to get blinded by “pretty pictures” and “slick designs” without really knowing if a candidate is the right fit. When you look at many designers’ portfolios that’s what you’ll see: lots of fancy, slick designs and lots of designs that mirror current, popular design trends.
So how can you hire the right designer?
Joshua Porter nails it on the head in his blog post, What metric are you designing to improve today?
The basic point that a designer focused exclusively on, “making things look better” isn’t really focused on the right things. There has to be a point beyond, “looking better”. There has to a metric – and preferably one that’s measurable – at the forefront of design.
It comes down to intent.
And that’s what you need to ask designers about during an interview — “What was the intent behind that design?”
If the answer is consistently, “It sucked before, I made it look slicker,” then you have a designer obsessed with pretty pictures and no reason.
If there is one undercurrent of design these days it is this: design is becoming more strategic and thus more important to business success. With this power comes great responsibility. As designers we must be accountable for what we produce, and that means we must start aligning our work with concrete business metrics.
When hiring a designer, find one that’s already gone through this process – of aligning his/her design efforts with key business metrics. Or at minimum, find a designer that wants to do that. This will separate out a lot of designers that might be great at “making things look better” but who don’t really get the purpose behind design, and won’t be flexible enough to execute on design as it’s tied to key business metrics.