11 Interview Questions to Ask Designers

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Jami Oetting
Jami Oetting



An interview with a designer (graphic designer, fashion designer, interior designer, etc.) can be a confusing process, especially if you are not a designer. While you might have an eye for good design, how do you know if a person's portfolio is actually good? What skills should the designer have to be successful in the role? What is the mindset of the person who will be successful in the role?

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According to the Marketing Agency Growth Report 2018, 67% of agencies intend to hire more staff within the year, but 35% have difficulty finding employees with the right fit. This leads to open seats staying unfilled for too long or employees leaving due to misaligned expectations for the position.

To find the right person, you need a list of useful interview questions that reveal the person's ability to be flexible, multitask, and come up with great ideas. Use these the next time you're recruiting for your next great designer.

1) Describe your creative process

You want to get a better idea of how this person thinks about the creative process: Does he rely on inspiration? Data? Just plain hard work? The answer to this question will also provide you with more information about what the designer thinks are the most important steps in the process -- such as research, interviews, the critique process, etc.

2) How do you get unstuck creatively?

This should help you to determine the person's attitude toward coming up with ideas, how he fights the tendency to procrastinate, and the out-of-the-box technique he uses to bring fresh concepts to his work. It should also show how self-aware he is about what he personally needs to do his best work in stressful environments.

3) To what degree in the past, have you been involved in the conceptual or strategy phase?

Is the person accustomed to being included from the very beginning? Or is he used to being handed a creative brief to work from? This might also show you how interested the candidate is in working face-to-face with clients, his level of experience, and if he has an interest in working through the entire design process.

4) Tell us about the goals of this project and your thought process behind the solution?

Have the candidate select a previous project and explain the steps he took to complete it in detail. This should include the concepting phase, creating the initial drafts, determining the target audience, working with the client or account manager to make revisions, launching the work, and then analyzing the results/success of the project. Ask follow up questions about why he made this or that decision, what the client's reaction was to the work, and details on challenges or mistakes that were made.

5) Tell us about a time when a client disliked your work?

How did you handle the situation? What questions did you ask to determine what the client didn't like? How did you solve for the client's wants while also making sure the work would meet the client's initial goals? If your agency's clients are results-driven (hint: they should be), the designer should be able to speak to the challenges of balancing creativity and data.

6) How do you stay organized when you are provided with multiple design assets, files, and ideas?

What tools or strategies does the candidate use to stay organized and productive? Agencies are fast-paced, and oftentimes, people are working on multiple different client projects at any one time. You need someone who values "organized chaos" and can manage his own tasks and projects without handholding.

7) What kind of questions do you ask before beginning any design project? Which peice of information is of utmost value?

This should reveal how the designer thinks about designing for clients, what's important to brands, and what information he thinks is essential to creating results-driven design work.

8) Tell us about a time when you had to balance multiple competing priorities?

Oftentimes, an agency will take on a last-minute project for a client, or a project you thought was completed will need additional adjustments. When these projects are thrown at someone who already has a full plate, it can be frustrating and stressful. The candidate's answer should show that he can ask the right questions of his manager to determine what he should focus on.

9) Tell us about a project which has been your greatest achievement?

You want to determine if the type of client work your agency does will make this designer feel fulfilled in his work. You should screen for someone who will be a long-term fit, and this means you might not want to hire someone who finds value in having his name attached to work or is more interested in becoming a famous illustrator or artist. You want to find someone who is truly excited by the idea of solving brand problems through design.

10) What kind of rules, culture, or structure need to exist to foster team collaboration?

Depending on your agency's organizational structure, the designer will need to collaborate with other designers in the agency and with a client team made up of an account manager, a strategist, marketer, or developer. He should value clarity around timelines and responsibilities, communication, trust, and a willingness from each team member to pitch in when complications arise. 

11) What are the qualities you look for in a manager?

"People don’t leave jobs; they leave managers," wrote Dr. Travis Bradberry, author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0.

Understanding if what this person is looking for in a manager -- the level of mentorship, the personality, and values -- is in line with what you or your leadership team can provide is important for future retention and happiness of the employee. You'll want to understand how this person thinks about the impact of his future manager on his future success, his skill development, and growth as a professional.

Want more interview tips? Learn about some common body language mistakes candidates make, and why they're red flags.

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Topics: Interviews

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