If you need to hire a graphic designer, you’re bound to fall into a debate about which is more important: having natural talent or having a reputable Bachelor of Fine Arts degree? Many employers understandably feel obliged to place a lot of weight on whether or not the freelance designer in their candidate pool holds at least a BFA, if not a master’s degree. But if you need to hire a graphic designer, how important is this piece of paper when it comes to creating an eye-catching, sales-generating campaign, the ultimate logo, or a website that leaves your customers salivating and your competition slapping their foreheads in shame?
As with most creative fields, the proof is in the portfolio. Especially in creative fields populated by freelance graphic artists, educational gaps on the resume can, and often are, filled by practical experience. Do they have some stunning website design to show off? If you sit them down in front of a web page peppered with design flaws and ask them to critique it, how do they respond? Does their material fit the right balance between edgy and aesthetically-pleasing while keeping the message front and center? Are they able to distinguish which parts of their designs belong exclusively to them and not to the rest of a team they may have worked with? When trying to hire a graphic designer, the answers to these questions will often tell you more about the candidate than the education section on their resume.
None of this discounts the importance of advanced degrees for freelance graphic designer, but it helps employers looking to hire not to discount some very worthy and talented candidates simply because they may have some thin spots in their traditional education. A completed fine arts degree is evidence of the sort of perseverance, commitment and drive a person has to hone their skills and accomplish goals. Naturally, those attributes are always desirable in any position. According to Jad Limcaco from Smashing Magazine, however, there are many highly committed design school grads turning out competent but mundane designs, while on the other hand, there are informally trained freelance graphic designers out there who seem to pull enthralling designs out of thin air.
The bottom line, then, when you need to hire a graphic designer, is to look at the whole candidate and not just an educational gap in their background. Investigate their portfolio and quiz them on design topics during the interview. Then make your decisions based on which freelance talent can inject the right amount of fabulous into your project. Remember these points the next time you see educational gaps in a freelancers resume.
Andrea M is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.
Artisan Talent is a Digital, Marketing and Creative Staffing Firm placing talent in jobs perfectly matched with their skills all over the US.