Everyone knows what good design can do for a company. Be it the way complex flows can be simplified to make a feature rich product easy to use, or just getting a product to gorgeous, good design sense on the company's part is gold dust for a company. Hence, it is imperative, that your designers are probably one of the most valuable assets for any kind of company.
However, most companies find hiring a designer a very difficult task. From finding the right kind of designer that you're looking for to convincing them to work for you, the onboarding of a designer is quite difficult. So for the benefit of our technology community, here are some pointers that can help ease the process of finding and hiring good designers -
A very good blog post by Braden Kowitz from Google Ventures stresses on being specific about the kind of designer that you're looking to hire. There are many kinds of designers - user experience designers, visual designers, copywriters, designers with front end programming knowledge and so on. While the ideal scenario is to be able to hire someone who can do all of them, the reality is far from it.
There is no equivalent for a full stack developer in the designer world. Yes, there can be few people who might have one or more of the aforementioned skill sets, but even in that case, they will be better at one particular thing. In such a situation, you need to understand what your company needs the most at that time. On a broad sense, if your product needs appealing looks, maybe you're looking for someone who specializes in the visual department. If you need your product to work intuitively due to a large number of features, then you're looking for someone in the user experience department.
Market your company's vision
While designers are an expensive resource, they also empathize a lot more than other professions. In my experience of working with designers, I have seen designers take a huge pay cut to work with the projects and companies that relate to them. Designers lead the cultural movement of a company and if the problem you're trying to solve aligns with their motivations and beliefs, you're really lucky.
There are two parts to make this luck count. Firstly, attend designer specific events. The service jam movement across the world is one of the best places to meet the designer community. There is a huge influx of designers in the Hackathon culture too and you will find some very good designers here. Also, online platforms like Dribbble should help you find some good developers. Once you establish a connection with these people, market the vision of your startup and see if it excites the designers. If it does, you will know.
Take a long-term approach to design
Now this is considering that you're looking to hire a designer and not contract work, you've got to have a long product roadmap which the designer has a major role to play. Give your prospective designer hires a 2-year roadmap of what they would be doing at the company. This could be completely off, but it will give your designer an idea of the amount of work they would have to do at your company.
Often, the scope of work for a designer at a company is limited to a product feature of a few web pages. There are contractors or small design firms that can help you fulfill this need. Even in this case, having a full-time designer to oversee the bigger picture is essential. And to get that person, you've got to give the designer enough reasons to believe that there will be enough work to do at your company.
Don't be cheap
Trying to be miserly with your resources, in general, is a bad idea. However, with respect to a designer, it also shows that you're not taking design as seriously as you should be. Or design isn't important enough for a top notch designer to join your company. And by being cheap, it doesn't mean that you should be exorbitant. Give away enough to convince your designer that your company takes design seriously.
At the end of the day, you've got to reconcile to the fact that designers are expensive, and for good reason. They will make a huge difference to your product. There is an interesting story where Vinod Khosla, in his Sun Microsystems days parted with a huge amount of his personal equity in the company to bring a designer on board. He didn't have the money to afford him at the time, but in parting with the amount of equity that he did, Khosla persuaded the designer to join the team.
Hired a designer before? What else has worked for you?