6 Must-Ask Interview Questions to Hire the Perfect Graphic Designer, Every Time

Hiring a freelance graphic designer is a significant decision that can make or break your marketing projects. The right designer will be a valuable partner who enhances your brand and creates captivating visuals. The wrong designer can lead to missed deadlines, inconsistent designs, and costly revisions.

By asking targeted interview questions, you can thoroughly vet graphic designer candidates and find the perfect fit for your needs. We‘ve compiled the six essential questions to ask in every graphic designer interview, along with insights on why they‘re important and what to look for in responses.

Why Careful Interviews Matter

The impact of graphic design on business results can‘t be overstated:

  • Design-driven companies outperformed the S&P by 219% from 2004-2014.[^1]
  • 75% of a brand‘s credibility comes from visual design elements.[^2]
  • Customers form their first impression of a product within 50 milliseconds.[^3]

Yet hiring designers is a persistent challenge. A 2023 study found that the biggest issues in creative talent acquisition are finding candidates with the right skillset (67%), assessing cultural fit (49%), and identifying relevant industry expertise (34%).[^4]

"Hiring a designer is like choosing someone to remodel your house. They need the technical skills, an aesthetic that matches yours, stellar references, and clear communication. Detailed interviews are the key to unlocking fit."
— Jennifer Halstead, Design Director at Upwork

1. What motivated you to apply for this project?

This question reveals whether a candidate has carefully reviewed your project description, understands your business needs, and has a genuine interest in the work. Top designers will demonstrate that they‘ve researched your company and have a grasp on your industry, audience, and goals.

Look for responses that convey:

  • Enthusiasm about your company mission and the specific project
  • Familiarity with your products/services and design needs
  • Alignment between your project and their skills, interests, and experience

"When designers thoughtfully discuss why they‘re drawn to your company and project, it‘s a strong indicator that they‘ll be engaged, productive partners."
— Emily Campbell, Creative Recruiter at Aquent

2. What is your workload like?

You need a graphic designer who can dedicate sufficient time and attention to your project. A candidate already juggling multiple clients may not be able to meet your deadlines or give your designs the focus they need.

Ask about their:

  • Current number of active clients and projects
  • Typical turnaround times
  • Weekly hours available to allocate to your project
  • Process for managing multiple deadlines

"The best freelance designers are transparent about their capacity and realistic about how much time your project will take. They‘re upfront if they can‘t meet your timeline."
— Ryan Rigney, Head of Content at Upwork

3. Can you describe your design aesthetic?

A designer‘s aesthetic needs to align with your brand style and the look you envision for the project. While top designers can adapt to different aesthetics, they shine brightest when working in a style that comes naturally to them.

Review their portfolio and ask:

  • How would you describe your personal design style?
  • What design trends and visual elements most inspire you currently?
  • Which brands and designers influence your work?
  • How did you develop your aesthetic?

"Experienced interviewers look beyond the portfolio and discuss stylistic range with designers. An adaptive designer can thoughtfully articulate how they would tailor their natural aesthetic to the company‘s brand."
— Caleb Kingston, Principal Designer at Dribbble

4. What is your design process like?

Designing isn‘t just pushing pixels. The process a freelance graphic designer uses is as important as the final product. Strategic designers have a systematic approach involving research, ideation, iteration, and refinement.

Have candidates walk you through their process and probes for specifics:

  • How do you begin a new project?
  • What questions do you ask clients to understand their goals and audience?
  • How many concepts do you typically create before narrowing down a direction?
  • At what milestones do you collect feedback from clients and incorporate it?
  • How do you handle revisions and navigate differences of opinion?

"A sloppy or ad hoc design process is a recipe for going over budget and past deadlines. Organized freelancers are clear on each step, seeking client input at the right moments."
— Andrew Bass, Design Partner at Sequoia Capital

5. How would your other clients describe working with you?

A graphic designer‘s work doesn‘t exist in a vacuum. How effectively they collaborate with clients is just as critical as their technical skills. Asking about their working relationships sheds light on how they communicate and handle feedback.

The strongest candidates will:

  • Share specific examples of long-term client relationships
  • Provide testimonials or references highlighting what clients value about working with them
  • Demonstrate active listening skills in the interview
  • Communicate clearly and confidently about their work

"Successful graphic designers build productive partnerships. They ask insightful questions, explain their choices, and view feedback as a path to their best work, not a personal critique."
— Matt Olpinski, UX Recruiter at Facebook

6. Do you have a blog or other writing samples?

Many overlook this, but a graphic designer‘s writing abilities matter for several reasons:

  • Designers often handle visual copywriting elements like headers and CTAs
  • Blogging shows that a designer can articulate their creative process and rationale
  • Writing is an indicator of strong communication and presentation skills

Ask candidates if they write about design, request writing samples, and discuss how they approach the verbal elements of their work.

"Designers who blog signal that they‘re constantly analyzing their craft and hungry to improve. They‘re typically lifelong learners and strategic big-picture thinkers."
— Mary Going, Head of Content at Dribbble

The Do‘s and Don‘ts of Graphic Designer Interviews

Now that you know the essential questions to ask, keep these best practices in mind as you conduct your interviews:

Do Don‘t
Review portfolios in advance and prepare specific feedback Make designers walk through their entire portfolio page by page
Give a real-world design exercise to see their skills in action Rely solely on portfolios which may not reflect a candidate‘s current abilities
Include multiple team members to get diverse perspectives Have so many interviewers it feels overwhelming or repetitive
Let the candidate share their screen and present their work Forget to check that a candidate‘s audio, video, and screen sharing are working
Take notes or record the interview to reference later Ask questions that could introduce bias like age, family status, or nationality
Allow plenty of time for the candidate to ask their own questions Dominate the conversation and make it hard for them to get a word in

Evaluating Portfolios and Design Exercises

Thoughtfully reviewing a graphic designer‘s portfolio is the foundation of a strong hiring process. Look for:

  • A range of projects across various media, styles, and industries
  • Pixel-perfect execution and a keen eye for detail
  • Creative concepts that effectively solve clients‘ business problems
  • Consistent quality from earliest to latest work

"A standout portfolio doesn‘t just showcase beautiful designs. It demonstrates strategic thinking, versatility, and the ability to capture each brand‘s unique essence."
— Beth Hautala, Associate UX Director at Fidelity

Design exercises are a valuable complement to portfolio reviews. Consider assigning tasks like:

  • Redesigning an existing asset for a new use case
  • Creating a mood board capturing your brand personality
  • Conceptualizing a display ad for a new product

The most revealing exercises are open-ended, time-bound challenges relevant to the actual work the candidate would do if hired. Pay attention to their creative process as much as the end result.

"Design exercises aren‘t about getting free work. They‘re an opportunity to preview how a designer problem-solves and communicates when faced with a real-world challenge."
— Meredith Cooper, Design Manager at Figma

Finding a Cultural Match

Skills and experience are only part of the equation. A graphic designer also needs to mesh well with your company culture and embody your core values. Ask questions and set up conversations to help assess:

  • Preferred working style (collaborative vs. independent, big-picture vs. detail-oriented)
  • Approach to feedback (receptive vs. defensive)
  • Comfort level with ambiguity and change (adaptable vs. rigid)
  • Passion for your mission and industry (curious vs. disconnected)

"You can teach technical skills, but you can‘t teach enthusiasm. Genuine passion for your brand and a drive to keep improving are the hallmarks of a designer who will grow with your team."
— Nate Butler, Director of Product Design at Dropbox

Conclusion: Investing Time Upfront Saves Time in the End

Hiring a freelance graphic designer can feel daunting, but due diligence in your interview process will pay dividends. By asking the six key questions we‘ve covered and following design hiring best practices, you‘ll efficiently and effectively identify the right fit for your needs.

The proof is in the portfolio – and now you know exactly what to look for. Download our free guide below for a fillable scorecard to evaluate graphic design candidates and ensure a great match, every time.

[^1][^2][^3] Adobe, 2019, "A Guide to Hiring Designers"
[^4] Creative Group, 2023, "2023 Salary Guide for Creative and Marketing Professionals"