Hiring a Graphic Designer for Your Screen Printing Shop | Print Shop Business Tips

Good artwork and design are the lynchpin for any screen printing, DTG, signage or embroidery business. Truly great art and design are what separate great print shops from “just good” print shops. A viral design – or just plain high-quality artwork – can propel your sales for years.

But how do you actually HIRE a graphic designer? Here’s Steven’s insights from hiring graphic designers at his Champaign, IL screen printing shop, Campus Ink.

Q: When is it time to hire a graphic designer?
A: When you’re spending more than a couple hours a day on artwork. This is a bottleneck in your business, so outsourcing and delegating it allows you to focus on selling and operations.

Q: Should a graphic designer handle approvals as well? / What are a graphic designer’s ideal responsibilities?
A: At Campus Ink, Steven tasks his designers with a broad range of tasks. Designers at Campus Ink wear many hats. On a typical day, they will:

Collect info from customers
Create new art
Create official proofs and send to customers
Name ink colors, Pantone codes, and otherwise plan the job
Deliver press-ready designs

Q: How do you find a good graphic designer?
A: There are different types of designers out there. They must understand separations and vectors. If they’re totally raster-based and skilled with Photoshop, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be good for your shop. Privilege production speed and efficiency over outright creativity. They are artists, so they do want to create! But you have shirts that need printing, and artwork needs a high velocity to maintain productivity.

Q: How do you know if a graphic designer is a good fit?
A: Give them a simple test task. “Here, re-draw this.” Observe how they use different tools. Do they use the pen tool appropriately? When do they trace? When do they create something original? A great artist knows when to say, “Ok – this is out of the scope of this job because it’s just a minimum quantity order and I’m spending too much time on the art.” A great designer has common sense about how their labor relates to the value of the job.

Q: What mistakes have you made with graphic designers? What would you do differently?
A: Start tracking them early on. It’s actually very challenging to measure the contributions of a graphic designer. Some things simply do take longer. So what should you do? Put a system in place so you can see their progress. Have they sent 5 proofs today…or 25 proofs? Artwork that should take 30 minutes can balloon into 3 hours very easily. It’s hard to discern what is or isn’t valuable, so tracking them early helps hold them accountable – and gives them a clearer vision for what success looks like.

Q: Do you pay them hourly?
A: Yes, we want to see them when they’re working and haven’t moved anyone to salary just yet. If my designer needs to work from home, we want to compensate them for going above and beyond.

Q: Any other tips for hiring graphic designers?
A: Make sure they understand screen printing – or have an understanding of layered artwork. Does the style of their art fit into your shop’s style? Look for layering, object usage, how they use negative space, and the overall quality of their design sense. You can train them on the basics of screen printing, but you can’t train them to be a different artist.

Q: Do you train them in detail about screen printing and DTG?
A: Yes, you have to. They are outputting film. They learn chokes and traps. They learn how the production guys want it, and they have to spend time in the screen room. They learn about lettering, when you should reduce something or make something pop, and eventually learn to reverse engineer the screen printing process just by looking at a design. Once they understand the space on a shirt, and how you can use it, they’ll take their skills as an artist and develop as a designer for screen printing. So they do need to spend time in the production facility, working hands-on, so that the process makes sense to them.

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