"I need a professional graphic design firm to do my logos, stationery, web design and brochures. I've met several graphic designers at networking groups. I've looked at a ton of web sites. How can I be sure I'm hiring a professional graphic design firm that can meet all of my needs?"
A professional graphic designer will have a full range of services available to meet your needs. These include print and web design, Flash and video work, photography and illustration, resources for quality and affordable printing, and other marketing services. The professional graphic design firm also uses professional tools, like Adobe In Design or Quark, Photoshop, Dreamweaver or Cold Fusion to just name a few.
Look at the firm's clientele. What size firms are they servicing? What services are they providing for those companies? Do the services they provide cover a full spectrum of graphic and marketing services? Professional graphic design firms will have access to and be using a wide variety of resources. You can ask for the full list of their services if they aren't already included in their on-line web sites.
Once you've narrowed your list down to two or three firms, ask for references and call each one of them personally. Getting your business off on the right foot is at stake here. Take the time to really understand what their clients think of them. Here are a few questions you might ask. This is not an exhaustive list, so before you start calling add any additional questions you can think of to it.
Did the services they provide include the following: logos, stationery, business cards, marketing post cards, advertising concepts and print advertising, brochures, newsletters, press releases, marketing CD's or DVD's, web design, web optimization and market research.
For each of the services that were provided ask how happy the client was with the end product. Was it delivered on time and within budget? Did it produce the desired results? What were the downsides of working with the firm from this client's point of view? What were the upsides? All in all, how happy were they with the products produced? Would they call this firm a professional graphic design firm? Why or Why not?
Once you've made the reference calls, take the time to look at the results of each interview. If you rate each of your potential firms on a 1 to 5 scale on the above elements, you'll find on that a leader begins to emerge.
Then ask yourself some additional questions as well. Which of the professional graphic design firms you are considering has experience in your field? Which one does work that you like and feel is effective? It's time for your personal taste to be brought into the decision making considerations. On a more personal front, which of the people do you think you'll like working with more?
Once you've considered all of these factors, a clear decision should emerge. If it doesn't, take the top two and - flip a coin because you've done all the relevant homework.