Hiring an in-house or freelance designer is a daunting task, but these essential 7 practices are the keys to actually getting your intended innovation and productive value from those designers.

Clearly articulate your design criteria

Failure in design is most often failure in communication. Miscommunication of company goals, brand promise and target market understanding. You are doing the hiring and you are ultimately responsible for the results. Through the development of your design criteria, you will not only be clear about the outcome you expect but also on the key skills required when hiring.

Design is really a team sport

Hiring a solo designer or freelancer is a dangerous practice. Designers need to feed their creative minds off each other. Design refinement and innovation happens with mind share. Additionally, you need a team who can work simultaneously on both advanced projects and responsive immediate demands. If your budget permits, hire both in-house and freelance for a mix of perspectives and levels of focus.

Let your designers leave their desk

The most successful and innovative designers have a complete perspective on the goals and capabilities of their company or client. They get into the factory. They go to sales meetings. They establish a relationship with customer service. Cross-functional exposure creates detailed and prioritized multi-points of design criteria that you don't have to communicate.

Don't under-hire or expect design discounts

Design fees are based on the time it takes to design and experience through successful failure. Hiring below your experience and skill needs opens up the high likelihood that a designer will be learning on your job - learning what doesn't work. Expecting discounts eats into your chance for successful results as well because either a designer will cut their hours or cut the deliverables making it less likely that you get the successful results you expect. Requesting a discount also reflects your lack of respect for a designer's skills, experience and time and doesn't foster a mutually beneficial relationship. The best way to ask for a discount is to guarantee work for a longer period of time or offer a royalty in exchange for a portion of the work.

Don't waste money on focus groups

Focus group testing after a design is completed is not only a waste of money, it is counter productive for any design team. Designers hate focus groups because they typically stifle innovation and are too little too late in the design process. Doing strategic market proof checks early in the process to help refine criteria or check key features is the best way to make sure that your designers are on track. Keep them involved in that process to help improve the design.

Remember you are ultimately responsible for every dime spent and every person hired. Make the most of your design investment with best practices that will lead you to more innovative and productive results.