As a screen print shop owner, you may find yourself doing all of your design work after hours – or in between jobs to keep up with your shop’s workflow.
So the decision to hire a graphic designer is a major step for your business.
But that one decision can increase your productivity, lighten your workload, and allow your business to grow.
Graphic designers can take your print shop to an entirely new level. They require talent, responsibility, and knowledge to align with the specific goals of your business.
This is a role that’s going to be very specific and unique to your individual business. That’s why you should have some apprehension about hiring when it comes to a graphic designer – don’t just hire anybody off the street.
If you want to hire well, you need to define your art department. Despite wanting to be challenged and pushed, being controlled by a customer or a tight workflow can be frustrating to the typical graphic designer.
Don’t forget that great designers are constantly working on their personal portfolio. Each artist is at a different stage of their career and development. A truly great art department will nurture them and give them amazing portfolio pieces.
Follow these 5 steps before hiring your first graphic designer to ensure you establish a strong art department in your print shop.
1. Define Your Shop’s Artistic Goals
Plan for what type of art your shop specializes in before you start searching for a graphic designer.
If the artwork you require is extremely custom, with intricate separations, your graphic designer will need special skills. There is a cost associated with that.
If your shop offers basic athletics apparel, and simple clip art, your designer won’t need as many specific skills. But they’ll still need some knowledge of the process and apparel that screen printers use to make even simple projects work well.
How do you define your artistic goals?
Look at the past 50 jobs and identify the type of artwork your shop primarily produces. It is nearly impossible to go from a simple 2-3 color print shop to a CYMK or simulated process print shop overnight.
Know what you are good at, what your customers like, and what you want to print – and hire specifically for that.
2. Hire A Graphic Designer For Screen Printing
There are a lot of extremely talented graphic designers.
But not every designer is cut out for the screen printing industry.
The designer your print shop needs:
- Has experience in setting up artwork in Adobe Illustrator or Corel using spot colors
- Is adaptable
- Not all will be good at apparel design
- Look for items in their portfolio that will pertain to this industry
- Is curious about process
- Can communicate well
Talk about compensation early on.
There is a wide range of pay scales for graphic designers, so make sure you and your candidates are on the same page. Unfortunately, you may be on a budget.
Let your artist know that!
3. Conduct a Behavioral Interview First
You may find the expert designer you’re looking for, but they may lack the interpersonal skills your shop needs.
If you find an artist that is too attached to their personal work, can’t take criticism, doesn’t meet deadlines, or isn’t a team player…you are in for a very challenging experience!
You want your graphic designer to communicate with customers, take and process feedback, and seek continuous self-improvement.
Yet first and foremost, the designer is responsible for moving your business forward.
Jobs stuck in Art Approval stage don’t make you money. Make sure they’re the type of person that will thrive in your business’ culture before touching a computer.
4. Watch Them Design (In Person!)
It sounds like a no-brainer, but you need to watch your candidates actually design.
Maybe they don’t know how to separate just yet— fine. This is all teachable!
You need to see how comfortable they are with basics. Walk before you run, so to speak.
Ask them to re-create a design, or give them a concept and see how they respond to it.
Keep these questions in mind:
- Do they go on Google, and go image trace crazy?
- Do they think it through – or do they try to get too artistic?
- Do they get caught up in tiny details, or do they keep the Big Picture in mind?
- Do they have the basic functions down, like adding text?
- Is it obvious they’re comfortable with the software they’re using – or are they struggling?
Have them bend text, add highlights, create outlines. See how they use the pen and pathfinder tool. If they are hesitant with these basics, this person is probably not for you.
Creating art for screen printing is about understanding the spatial manipulation of objects and shapes more than any other skill.
5. The X-Factor, a.k.a. Emotional and Business Savviness
Is your candidate business and people savvy?
There is a time where you want your graphic designer to dig deep and come up with artwork that is out of this world.
Other times, a customer has specific requests and simply needs something basic. A healthy combination of the two is ideal, but it’s not always possible.
A great designer’s number one job is to make your entire printing process more efficient.
They need to be able to judge a job’s value, understand how it will affect processes downstream, and apply only the necessary amount of work to make the customer happy and meet your shop’s standards.
Efficient designers can literally make you more profitable and keep your presses running longer.
A bad designer might not have the get caught up on a 12 piece order with intricate and rewarding artwork, blindsiding your VIP customer with the 1,000 piece job on a strict deadline.
Artists want to challenge themselves to grow, but their primary role is to help your business run smoothly. Make sure your candidates know that.
Once hired, the road to a great employee starts with great training, the right software for managing your screen printing business, and a solid process that they can follow.
A final word: Developing and appreciating the talents of your employees is one of the most rewarding parts of owning a business. I urge you to foster a culture in your shop that puts people – and the process of their development and growth – first.