Confession: When I took this job in library marketing, I knew nothing about graphic design. And I mean LITERALLY NOTHING.

I came from the world of TV news. There is no print element to that. All the graphics are done by a mysterious department located on the second floor of our station, where artists work in a dimly lit room surrounded by monitors. And their ability to get creative is limited by the fast pace of the workplace.

My first week in the library was a lesson in paper weight (text vs. cover?? What??), labels, printing terms, and equipment that I had never seen before, like a Baum Cutter that look a small tank with a blade like a guillotine. I was scared.

And I bet a lot of library marketers can relate. We have degrees in library science and communications, not design. Most of us do not have any training or background in graphic art. I don’t know about you, but I find it difficult and intimidating to manage an employee when I have no idea what their job is, how they do it, or how I could help them to improve.

I’m lucky to have two graphic artists at my library, serving a system of 41 locations and 600,000 cardholders. I can count on my artists to be a touchstone for all projects. They keep my library branches on brand. They help me turn ideas that seem stuck in my head into something clear and understandable to our cardholders.

Visuals are a key part of marketing. Your graphic designer is an invaluable member of your library marketing team. So it’s an important hire to make.

A great artist can create a consistent look and feel to everything surrounding your library’s brand. You want your customers to be able to recognize your visuals as being part of your brand, even before they spot your name or logo on the material.

A good artist can convey the message of your library without actually using your library’s name. They can listen to you explain a vague idea and create something visually stunning which helps enhance the customer experience.

When you’re in the market to add a graphic artist to your team, you may be dazzled by stunning portfolios and creative resumes (graphic artists create some of the best resumes I’ve ever seen!) But there are nine important qualities your candidates must have.

Someone with good customer service. Your artists will be working with multiple departments, branches, customers, and outside partner agencies. You need someone who can listen to whoever they are working with, understand their needs, and translate their vision.

Someone who can communicate with your customers. Ask your candidates how they will create pieces for different age groups, ethnic backgrounds, and interests. Make sure your artist can switch viewpoints and create visuals that speak to many different library audience segments.

Someone who can translate your library strategy and goals into visuals. These are complex concepts. A good artist will take big ideas and turn them into a visual the audience can understand. Ask for examples of infographics and annual reports from previous employers or internships. Can you understand what the message is? Are the statistics presented in a clear and interesting way?

Someone who can work with multiple formats. You’ll be asking your artist to create print and digital graphics, so they should be comfortable working with both. Ideally, you should also look with experience in web design, video production, and animation.

Someone with a vision. You’ll want to make sure your graphic designer will stay on top of the latest trends in design so your marketing material doesn’t look dated.

Someone with whom you can collaborate. Your work with design will be a back and forth, give and take, and you will need someone who can walk through that messy process with you. A good designer will be able to defend their design as well as adapt to ideas that aren’t expressly theirs.

Someone who seeks inspiration. My two designers have a common belief that their work gets better as they learn more. They both have a desire to attend creative sessions and try new mediums. They both work on creative endeavors outside of the library.

You don’t want a designer who simple comes into the office, does what you tell them, and then goes home for the day. Ask potential hires if they do anything artistic outside of the workplace to fuel their own creativity.

Someone who can think on their feet. Ask your candidates to critique a design piece and explain what they would have done differently. Their answer will tell you a lot about their creative process, their ability to articulate their vision, and how they think when they’re asked to do a project on the fly.

Someone who can handle criticism. This is true of every hire you make, but graphic artists are creatives and in my experience, creatives take their work seriously. They may feel precious about their designs and may be resistant to your opinions about them. Make sure you can give positive and constructive feedback to your potential hire without worrying that they’ll refuse to take your suggestions.

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