Picking a designer

Picking a designer intro

IWhen you’re a startup, you have lots of choices to make, and you have to make them quickly. We’ve met several web designers and thought hard about a product name.

There’s a (sexist) joke that explains how most startups choose employees.


“A manager was looking for an office administrator, so he interviewed three different female candidates. At the end of each interview, he gave the candidate $1000 and asked her to do whatever she wanted with it, then scheduled an additional interview for the following Monday. The first candidate was suspicious that this was a sneaky way to check whether she was trustworthy, so she didn’t spend a dime and brought back every cent. The second lady figured it was a test, but also that there was a chance she wouldn’t get the job, so she spent half of it and returned the other half to the manager. The third lady was kind of “carpe diem” person. She spent it all.

Which candidate did he pick for the job?

The one with the largest breasts.”

The way I see it, the key to startup success is to survive long enough to make your product work. Therefore, your choices mostly will be “cost-efficient” – or, in other words, cheap.

there's always someone willing to do it cheaper

picking designer

Designers choice

So, back to our designer tournament. We met a fresh-out-of-designer-school designer. This experience was weird. Instead of talking about web design, he started to describe his final project, a movie about a flying robot-bee. The guy asked for minimum wage, around $700.

The next one was a seasoned designer. She came with a great recommendation from a good friend. Her CV was impressive. She had worked with big companies, including various TV channels. She had worked with startups. I personally liked her work a lot. She had great drawing skills, so her animations and logos were excellent. But something about her web designs didn’t feel right. Additionally, her fee was originally beyond our budget. We took a week to think it over, and offered her half of that money now and 1% of any potential investment in our company, whenever it happened. This would have represented about 150% of what she had originally asked. Even though she agreed to our offer, her answer was kind of off-putting: “Okay…since I believe in you and all that…let’s do it.”

Next up was my partner’s friend. He is a military man. He was doing designs for dahshboards in combat aircraft. (WHAAAT?). We met him and told him about our idea, and several days later we got an email from him with drawing concepts, which we liked. Most importantly, he said he was willing to work for free, because he believed in our idea and was sure we’d compensate him in the end.

Our last option came via another friend. (I had originally wanted this friend to work with us, but she recently started her own thing.) The guy she recommended was actually very sharp (in terms of intelligence) and he definitely “felt” what we want to build and the potential of our idea. There was only one problem: he was part of a design studio. The “CEO” of this studio was a self-centred guy who used lots of meaningless sentences and all the startup/design mumbo-jumbo. I suspected that, since he worked for a studio, it would mean additional overage on top of his design work. And so it was. When we got his offer, it was two times higher than our budget.

So we picked the designer with largest breasts lowest budget. I was reminded of two sayings: “We’re not rich enough to take things for free” and “Miser pays twice.” I really hope these will not apply in our case.

So welcome, Mr. New Designer Dude…

What are your experiences with “free” designers? Feel free to share your wisdom.