How To Find The Web Designer That Will Bring Your Brand To Life


Your message is important. You want it expressed in the most effective way and you are needing a web designer to put your brand image onto a website. That website needs to, without getting too New Age-y up in here, have an essence about it that completes you. Er, your brand. Choosing a designer is what I consider the most understated, but most important part of the website process.

Most times I encounter people who are more concerned with price than they are concerned with the outcome of their site. And, don’t get me wrong here, I completely understand that price is very much a factor in choosing a designer, but I believe that choosing a designer based solely on the fact that they are the lowest common denominator is the worst way to go about getting your perfect website. And, if you’re not careful, they’ll use Comic Sans MS in your logo and Papyrus in your header and then you’ll be laughed right out of the internet playground.

My name is Jamie Varon and I am the founder and lead designer of Shatterboxx Media, a web design company that specializes in creating gutsy and visually brilliant websites. I use WordPress as my base for designing websites and am a huge advocate for the Thesis framework. I also blog over at Intersected about the randomness of my life and I tweet far too much for my own good. But, this isn’t about me, this is about you.

And how you can find the most fantastic designer that understands your brand, your vision, and your personality. First step, hire Shatterboxx Media.


I mean, if you want to, you definitely should send me an email. I’m a rockstar designer, really. But, I also want you to know how you can be really good at sifting through designers. Here are a few tips on how to select a fantastic web designer:

1. Look at their portfolio. Do their designs resonate with you or do you just look at it and go, “Eh, well, they look like they could do a fine job.”

If a designer’s portfolio doesn’t make you stop, drop, and roll, then move on. Do they specialize in complex designing or are they more focused on simplicity/minimalism? Do you want your site to be complex or minimal? If you want a simple site, hire a designer that has multiple examples of simplistic layout and design techniques. Don’t expect a designer to be good at something they don’t have examples of actually previously being good at.

Each designer has a specialization and it usually is what they enjoy doing the most. For me, I am fixated on typography and it’s obvious from my portfolio that I am consistent about creating websites that are focused on the use of strong typography. This aspect of my work really speaks to some people and other people are all, “Uh, fonts? Like, Arial? Don’t know. Don’t care.”

2. Hire based on personality first; skills second.

This may seem counter-intuitive, because, well, it is! Like I mentioned before, I find that a lot of people looking to hire designers are searching for someone who can just do what they need done for the lowest price possible. Sure, if you have a design already mocked up and you just need some developer to code it up for you because CSS just doesn’t really rev your engine, then hire based on skill. Easy peasy.

BUT, most of you want the whole package with a designer and in that case, hire based on personality and how well you, for lack of a better word, jive with that person. Get on the phone with a potential designer. Are you two laughing? Do you have anything in common? Do they get what you’re aiming for with your site? Or, is it a complete disconnect?

If a disconnect, say thank you, refuse their estimate and move on to someone that GETS YOU and what you’re all about, baby. You deserve that.

3. Ask the right questions.

If you are on the phone with a potential designer and things are going great, you two are talking, getting along, really hitting it off, then you’ll need to start asking the right questions to make sure this person is the one for you, your design soul mate, if you will. (By the way, I’m just as confused as you are that somehow this piece turned into — internet marketing meets Sex and the City — so just bear with me.)

Anyways, to avoid potential confusion and frustration down the road, you need to ask the right questions (see also: designers need to ask better and right-er questions, but that’s another blog post entirely). You need to do your homework before you get on the phone. Seriously. Get your hands a little bit dirty and figure out what you’re asking a designer to do. That way, when you are down the road with this person and you ask for something, you aren’t blindsided by a) extra fees and b) the sad truth that this designer doesn’t have the chops to get what you need done.

4. Make sure the designer is “future-friendly.”

Let’s be real here, you’d love to find a designer that can be used in the future. Most times your design needs to not begin and end at website development, since you’ll need updating, more design projects done, and you’ll most likely have questions. Is the designer you are thinking of hiring a patient person? When they explain CSS techniques or WordPress issues, do you understand it? You don’t want to hire someone that you feel will be a wam, bam, thank you mam! kind of designer.

This is when asking good questions comes in handy. On that initial call, ask how they handle future business. What’s their turnaround? Do they have other clients that they do ongoing business with? What if you wanted to do an eBook somewhere down the road, would they have any clue how to design that (and keep with your branding)? If you have any questions about WordPress/Drupal/Whatever, will they take the time to explain the answers to you?

You have no idea how many things come up in the future related to your website. It’s a lot. And you’ll want to work with someone that isn’t just able to complete your present goals, but also your future goals. It will serve you better (and save you money) to find someone you want to continue to work with and that means finding the right designer from the start. Each time you bring a new designer to someone else’s coding and graphics, you’ll be running into issues and paying for backtracking another designer’s work.


It’s tempting to go with the cheapest designer, I get that. But, if your brand is important enough to you that you want it to grow (which, let’s hope is true), then you don’t want to cut corners when it comes to your website. You want a designer that understands what you’re all about and is passionate about bringing your brand to life. Great clients will be choosy about their designers and will only invest in someone that is a perfect fit. So, the next time you’re looking to hire a designer, hire Shatterboxx Media remember these tips and go on to make sweet, sweet, web development love. Oh, god, that was awkward.

Flickr credit

Your Comments

  • Charlie

    “wam, bam, thank you mam! kind of designer.” – awesome.

    Great article. One thing I remember hearing somewhere is “Your interface IS your product.” In other words, no one cares how it works on the backend, it NEEDS to look good and be intuitive.

  • Jamie Varon

    @Charlie – Then again, if it works terrible on the backend, that will show. But, once that runs smoothly with something like WordPress and Thesis, which is a relatively low investment, then the design really matters. Thanks for your comment!

  • Matt Leonard

    Great article. I think you’re dead right in mentioning that personality is a huge factor. Although it may seem unorthodox to acknowledge, and some stick up their ass types may say amateur, I couldn’t agree with you more. Any two people can work fine together when they agree on everything. Once they disagree on something, however, if their personalities clash it can make for a really awkward situation.

    Obviously ability is vital, but all too often the intangibles get overlooked.

    Very well done.

  • Jamie Varon

    @Matt – It can’t be amateurish to say that personality matters with business. I worry that the people who promote this are the ones who don’t have a great personality in their favor and hope to ride by on skill.

    A great, cohesive design requires a synergy between client and designer. Whenever I work on a site with someone that I don’t really jive with, there’s an obvious disconnect in the way the final product turns out. Maybe to the untrained eye it’s impossible to tell, but I’m sure if you looked hard enough, you’d be able to figure it out. =)

    Thanks for the comment!

  • Charlie

    @Jamie Yes definitely true regarding the backend!
    For my own site I was fortunate enough to discover WordPress when I started and probably want make the move to Thesis next :)

  • Jeremy Orr

    Excellent article Jamie! It stands to reason, you should hire the person that is right for your particular job. If you just look at price the old adage is ALWAYS true “you get what you pay for”. Whether hiring a plumber, or a web designer, you should find someone you trust and that you know is going to do the job right. You wouldn’t hire the first person you saw in the phone book- A. Aaronson web design? SOLD!

  • Linda Carmical

    Really nice article Jamie! I like these 4 tips; I’m sure many people will find them helpful. They give you the obvious to think about that you know are gonna get missed or not thought of all together.
    Someone new to setting up their own website most likely won’t know what a good designer’s work is like from a bad or mediocre one. You’ve helped them here by telling them it’s OK to NOT like what you see and move on.
    You wouldn’t give much thought to personality having much to do with business, but hitting it off makes a big difference. Who the hell wants to pay someone they don’t personally like?! Not me!
    Personally, I thank you for reminding us what questions to ask and not to be afraid to ask them. Again, someone to this game probably doesn’t have a clue what to ask.
    I think the one most forgotten is thinking ahead; will the designer be future friendly? It’s probably the most obvious one to think of and the one not thought of at all. Good one to share.

  • kenny

    “Don’t just hire the cheapest designer” -> Read as: “I’m really expensive” ;) haha, I totally agree, you get what you pay for!

  • Joseph A

    I remember I had to deal with some friends who would have people make them websites just because they were the cheapest, I have yet to hear from one of them they were happy with their first website design. If you have money, don’t be stingy, invest some time and effort to find your perfect designers.

  • abilitydesigns

    I’d add couple of points to the list you mentioned :)

    1) Awareness about SEO friendly web development / architecture
    2) Testimonials


  • Sergey Rusak

    Here we go, that’s why I love blogosphere and hate flash websites which most design companies create as their own portfolio. I mean, I don’t beleive design companies with 100% flash side where some crazy s**t opens their portfolio and about us pages. I love when designer maintain blog and you can see how blog is designed, logical flow in their blog posts, latest projects etc.

    Also, designer from blogosphere shows that he knows how to utilize design with social media, SEO, and make user friendly site or eye catchy design.

    P.S. Business people don’t need visitors to say WOW!!!. They need need consumers to raise their hands, apply for services, and buy products. It is simple convertion process and good design can help to improve convertion.