Today’s question comes from Elaynna F. who asks, “I know that I need to find a designer to build spec ads with. But what should I be looking for?”
Remember that the designers who will be most interested in working with you are the ones who can also get something out of the arrangement. (Benefit to consumer! What’s in it for them?) So look for designers who are also looking to build up their portfolio; look for designers who have a similar level of experience.
A student of our Academy was recently advised by a well-meaning friend that he should be trying to work with senior art directors and creative directors since they have more experience and can offer more guidance. And that’s true that they have more experience…but that’s exactly why they won’t be interested in working with you. They already have robust portfolios, they don’t need to build theirs up. And when they want to create fresh ads, they already have copywriter contacts with as much experience as they have.
So look for a designer of your own level. You’ll learn a lot from each other and you’ll have a lot to offer each other.
When you start getting some interest from your outreach to potential design partners (via Craigslist, LinkedIn, nearby design schools and universities, MeetUp groups, etc.), it’s time to start vetting the candidates. Think of it kind of like a job interview.
Ask them how they like to collaborate with copywriters. You’re looking for someone who likes to collaborate closely with you, someone who won’t mind sitting in front of a screen together as you both make changes to copy and content. Free and open communication and collaboration is integral to creating great work.
Then, ask about their experience working with creative briefs. You need a designer who understands how important the input in a creative brief is to creating an effective piece. You can’t just “make up” an ad as you go; that’s not how it works in the real world, and that’s not how it works when you’re trying to make a good spec ad.
Ask to see examples of their current work. If they don’t have any current work yet, ask them for examples of ads or designers they admire. You’re looking for a designer who has work (or a level of taste) that you already like.
And, finally, make sure that you both have the same time to dedicate to the work—not to mention the same level of dedication to getting it done. There’s nothing worse than getting waist-deep into a project only to discover that your design partner is bailing on you.
Oh, and once you’ve found a great design partner? Keep looking. The more designers you know and work with the better. For now, they’ll teach you a lot about collaborating with different people and give some variety to the style of your samples. Later, they’ll help you get work when they can recommend you to bosses and clients who are looking for a good copywriter. Cultivate these relationships; they’ll benefit you both for years and years to come!
Your turn! What are you looking for in a design partner? Let us know in the comments below!