Interview Questions for Graphic Designers

By: Dona Dezube

Every time a new type of communication emerges, the graphic designer job description expands.

Interview Questions to Ask: Experience
Whether your organization communicates via print, web, hand-held devices, online, billboards, or all of the above, knowing how to interview graphic designers starts with knowing what you need the designer to design.

A good designer can design about anything. When you’re looking to recruit a great designer, though, it’s best to look for a candidate who’s done similar products for similar organizations, says Cynthia Escalante, an account manager with staffing firm Aquent, LLC, Boston.

While your resume review will tell you where a candidate has worked, these questions will delve deeper into their fit with your company culture:

  • Have you done annual reports (or whatever products the designer will do for your organization)?
  • What size company were your prior clients?
  • Have you worked for non-profits, trade associations or other companies in this industry?
  • What is your experience with designing for websites?
  • What type of signage have you designed?

Interview Questions to Ask: The Portfolio
Interview questions about the candidate’s experience naturally lead to a discussion of their portfolio.

When possible, look at the work in the medium for which it was designed, going online to look at websites, or viewing a printed copy of an annual report.

Asking, Show me your best piece is a good first question, says Donna Farrugia, executive director of The Creative Group, a Menlo Park, California, executive search firm.

A designer skilled at presentation will have their best piece placed first in their portfolio, and their second-best piece will be the last piece with five to eight pieces in between, she says.

Use the portfolio as a launching pad to dig into the job candidate’s previous experience by asking:

  • What was the objective of this piece?
  • What was your role in developing this piece?
  • What was the business result of that piece?
  • How much time did it take to execute this project?
  • Did you come up with this concept? Or was it a collaborative process? 
  • Why did you choose this image (or binding, or color palette?)
  • What was your thought process, and how does your creative process work?
  • What was the design challenge? 
  • How did you resolve that challenge?
  • What results did this piece achieve?
  • What was the client’s feedback, and can you supply contact information for this client so they can give you a reference?
  • What people, processes, and/or budgets did you manage when you did this project?

As the job seeker answers your interview questions, listen to hear if they’re a strategic thinker and what their level of responsibility has been in the past, says Escalante.

Today’s graphic designer has to engage, attract, convert, and sell an audience, so listen for answers that demonstrate the applicant has core business skills, as well.

Do they mention costs, perhaps talking about the cost versus benefits of interactive versus printed annual reports?

Interview Questions to Ask: Hard-Skills Questions
Graphic designers need hard skills, especially when working in mobile and online platforms.

While the resume will tell you what software a graphic designer uses, these questions will tease out how well they know those programs:

  • Do you consider yourself first a designer or a programmer?
  • How have you used Software Program X in your daily work? 
  • How often have you used Software Program X?
  • What version of Software Program X are you most familiar with?
  • If I asked you to design something, what software would you use?
  • If I were willing to train you on any software, what would you choose to learn?

Interview Questions to Ask: Soft Skills
Unless your new hire will only work remotely, they’ll need soft skills too.

Find out how well the job applicant works with others by asking: What did the team at your prior position look like? What was your official role on that team? What was your unofficial role on that team?

Close the interview with an open-ended question that gives you a glimpse of what inspires the candidate: What’s been your most interesting project?

As you listen to their reply, consider whether your organization’s job aligns well with what inspires the candidate. If it does, you’re ready to make an offer to your next great hire.