Hire a designer first


Do you have an amazing idea for an app? Or an interior? Or a book? You have some extra cash, some interested friends, maybe a developer buddy?

Make an estimate of how much you can spend and how long you want it to take. Then triple that.

Then hire a product designer.

Before you register that logo, read about the design process or how things get built.

Do research on the market: Make a business plan, study your market, know the price you can set.

Gather ideas: First ideas aren’t always the best. Gather hundreds, make sure that they match your market and users.

Prototype: And the final ideas deserve to be thought through! Make a sketch or wireframe of something as close to possible as finished. 80% will do.

Test: Test with your market. Show your ugly little prototypes to users in your market and get honest reactions. Don’t explain too much. Keep prototyping until you have an idea of what to make.

Build: Make a lightweight build for the first version.

Rinse and repeat.

Through the years, I’ve worked with hundreds of stakeholders on bringing ideas to life. The best projects tend to involve business (or the originator) working alongside designers with realistic constraints early and often.

If you’re serious about your business don’t go for the cheapest, a student, a friend. Hire someone you can contract, review professionally and plan with. Hire someone to make a budget around and you want to tap for the lifespan of the project. Hire someone that is already making work like what you want to make. Hire someone with some sense of the industry you want to work in.

Letting a designer help you plan will save you a lot of time misguided expectations. Designers have a process to make projects happen, a time tested, well thought out process that they went to school to learn. They don’t make decisions based on feeling. They make them based on research.

It’s what they do for a living. You are initating the process of making; and are contributing but with all things that exist, real constraints, facts, and markets dictate what gets made and makes it as a business. If you want to plan out the entire project yourself and then give it over to someone, you might have already lost. If you are crossing fields, you have no understanding of the design process, and what really goes into making something creative, you might have already lost. It isn’t science. It isn’t reading articles and extrapolating. It’s taking what already exists and improving on it to make something new. You’re not original, you’re designer isn’t original, but what you make together will be original.

This all hinges on one contingency, that you must be honest with your designer. If you are upfront about your budget, you don’t have to fight with someone for putting frills and unecssary items in. Estimates are not made to make oodles of cash. They are made to be reasonable for you, for themselves. If someone makes something you don’t like, show them what you do like.

Some tips:

Make your budget early and do your homework on how things will be paid for. Cash is a fast killer.

Learn as much as you possibly can about digital marketing so when your creative staff is explaining things to you, you can make better decisions.

As the owner of a project, your role isn’t to sit back and watch people make things, but to remove the obstacles from the project completion. Read up on project management and listen to podcasts like Startup or How I Built This.

Really successful companies aren’t made in a day, and they aren’t entirely build on design. But the ones that get closest to the mark involve designers early and often.