Now NOT To Hire A Diva Graphic Designer

If you’re in the creative management field you have certainly run into this. You have that one designer on your team who just can’t seem to let go of that one idea. It’s a good idea and the design is strong, but it needs to be massaged, edited, tweaked, maybe more on strategy. In the critique, when suggestions start to be made about the work, you can almost see the hairs raising on the back of their neck. 

You can almost hear the words rattling around in their heads: It’s their baby! They’ve slaved over it! Kerned, tracked the type oh-so-lovingly, created just the perfect illustration. How could it possibly need to be changed? Its perfect for cryin’ out loud! Can’t you see that you overbearing CD? 

These are the designers that don’t make anyones life easier. The stubborn ones, the argumentative ones, the ones that go away to work on revisions and come back a day later with virtually nothing changed to the artwork. What? Can’t you see I nudged it up? It’s totally different. But, you know it’s not totally different. They just aren’t budging.

Of course, I respect a designers convictions. If a designer believes strongly in something and can argue it’s merits in aesthetics and design strategy I can be convinced. I’ll come on board. But, sometimes a designer just turns out to be a diva. (or divo…)

And I have the one interview question that will keep you from hiring one. 

I’ve probably hired around 400 designers and freelancers in my career. No kidding. I ALWAYS an sure to ask this question. Here it is

“Do you have a creative outlet outside of work?”

You see, if a designer ONLY has the design work that they do during the day, the design work that can have a thumbprint put on it by account managers, strategists, creative directors, by the clients child who happens to be following Daddy around at the office that day - then you are in trouble. 

A designer has to have somewhere where they can create something that no one can touch. Where the work is sacred and the total intent is theirs and theirs alone. It can be a song, it can be an illustration, it can be a cupcake, a knitted sock monkey, it just has to be theirs and untouchable.

I would say about 90% of the time the person I am interviewing does have an alternative outlet for their creative juices than what goes on in the design studio. It’s actually very common. Creative people are creative everywhere. At home in the kitchen, on vacation, in a wood shop or even sitting in front of TV noodling on a guitar or sketching. 

But when you get that candidate that says, “I just love graphic design, I live and breathe what I do in the design studio at work.”, then you are in trouble.

If a designer doesn’t have another creative outlet you’re in trouble. Then, what they do at work for clients will take on an immense weight of importance to them. It will be come everything. Don’t get me wrong, I want designers to care about what they are doing in the studio, I want them to really think about it, let their passions go wild. What I don’t want them to do is get the idea that it is sacrosanct. Because in the world of commercial graphic design - and let’s not be all hoity-toity about it - it IS commercial art, there is no place for “the precious”.

I’ve ignored a wrong answer from a candidate to this very important question. When I’ve really dug a portfolio, and the resume looks totally tight and the designer is wearing impossibly cool shoes. Thinking they had to be a good hire. 

And the answer to this one question has always been able to tell the future.


Image source: Image by Libby Levi for

Philip VanDusen2016, group1Comment