I'm looking to hire one (or more) designers to create materials that we can use for several software development projects. What's a good way for me to think about this work, and some good strategies I can use when interviewing the potential designers?

We're specifically looking to hire designers which sit in a good place as far as creativity and technical skills - the two primary priorities for us are:

  • ability to consistently quickly come up with good, original, creative ideas
  • ability to quickly turn said ideas into assets we can use
  • (bonus) ability to outsource/manage outsourced work to other, lower cost people, as appropriate (ie, know when and how to hire someone, at relatively low cost, on, say elance to do the technical/easily outsourced parts of the design work)

That said, I'm open to suggestions that are more general than just for our specific goals

  • 1
    Have you ever worked with a graphics designer before? How fast is your quickly?
    – joojaa
    Mar 23, 2014 at 19:02
  • 5
    It's akin to hiring a talented programmer and telling them they'll spend their time managing untalented programmers who will work for pennies. Not sure how attractive of a position that would be. Sounds rather frustrating, actually.
    – DA01
    Mar 23, 2014 at 20:49
  • @DA01 My initial tought was managing management expectations. This does sound more like they want a creative manager, but without the cost.
    – joojaa
    Mar 24, 2014 at 5:42

2 Answers 2


EDIT: Comments are correct in that this doesn't strictly answer the question. I saw two matters here, one being the finding the correct person and the other the interviewing, and I went for the first. For me, the interviewing is a tool to reach the first.

Creative thinking is definitely a must, but I'd actually try to find designers that can demonstrate ability to organize work effectively.

I'd personally look into people with freelancing experience.

Full-time freelancers are used to dealing with clients, working in collaboration with other designers / programmers, and managing time and expectations.

I'd also be particularly responsive to those demonstrating they can handle personal projects successfully (on GitHub, for example, or even in SE sites like SO or this one).

  • This sounds like good advice but I don't see how it answers the question.
    – Ryan
    Mar 24, 2014 at 18:00
  • @Ryan It answers the second point about how the person needs to get things done. This is somewhat contradictory to point one but not necessarily entirely tangential.
    – joojaa
    Mar 24, 2014 at 18:27

Here's what I would do.

Choose a few applicants you like and pre-interview them on what they're looking for, management experience, what kind of budgets they've been use to working for and such. This is for the "bonus" aspect.

Of those take the responses that are the most aligned with working in tight budgets and timelines and ditch the ones that are expecting big name clients with months to spend on a single campaign.

Now for the actual interview here's my suggestion:

Pick a generic topic, anything. Ahead of time take yourself and current coworkers (or friends/family if its just you right now) and do this exercise:

60 seconds to write down as many things that pop into your head as possible.

Let's say its you and John Doe that do the pre-test with the topic beer bottle:

  • You write down: drink, smash, crack, shiv, candle, light, blow into
  • John writes: drink, candle, light, blow into, share, ice, miller, recycle

Now when an interview shows up give them the same topic and same 30 seconds. They say:

  • Interviewee: drink, candle, throw, share, malotov cocktail

Could score it 1 point for each item and an additional point for anything that doesn't appear on one of the pre-interview tests. So throw and molotov cocktail would each be worth 2 since they're "unique"

This is how I would go about testing someone's ability to come up with creative ideas quickly. The interviewees that score the most points either by coming up with the most ideas, more unusual ideas, or combination of both are the ones to hire. (Pending the rest of the interview of course)

Make sure to do the pre-interview test with a few people. Otherwise you won't have a very good methodology to know which answers are more unique then others in the event two interviewees come up with the same number of ideas.


I want to point out that others are objecting to the "spirit of the question." I'm not saying I agree with doing this or agree with what @blueberryfields is looking to do. But the question remains - what methods are available to determine if someone has the "ability to consistently quickly come up with good, original, creative ideas "

The methodology I'm proposing is not something I'm just making up here. It's a classical test of creativity developed by J.P. Guilford known as Alternative Use Test or Alternative Use Task. It is commonly found as part of larger Torrance Tests.


  • I dont think this is a good test. Its completely irrelevant to goals. Remember people expect creative as in does my vision. Second its a dangerous route as in general developpers are usually really really good at this game. So i would not score extra for items only outside of the list. What if the developpers have a more exhaustive list.
    – joojaa
    Mar 24, 2014 at 6:46
  • @joojaa the question isn't about goals its about coming up with creative ideas quickly. This is an excellent test for that. And your second point is almost offensive since you're basically saying us designers are less creative then developers. I don't agree, and don't believe you have any studies to support such a claim.
    – Ryan
    Mar 24, 2014 at 11:51
  • Yes i know its widely used in psychology. Im not saying they are more creative. Im just saying they are no less creative than designers in general. But quite many programmers have a formal education that builds on finding pattrerns in language so they have a distinct edge here. It would be better if your question would be more visual, or lets say less straighforward like find novel uses for a papdrclip.
    – joojaa
    Mar 24, 2014 at 17:09
  • I would also like to clarify a bit what im saying in creativity front. While the test is not bad for creativity measures i think that penalizing creativity based on the teams answers is bad because it encourages for designers that are different from the team. While not bad its not necessarily a good thing if it deviates too much. Also creativity in the context of commercial design is not really superior creativity but being able to follow trends and do whats expected. Remember you should not allays invent the wheel here. People also consider graphics as creative, even conservative graphics.
    – joojaa
    Mar 24, 2014 at 17:42
  • @joojaa - again that's all well and good but is completely irrelevant. The question doesn't ask what my, or your, opinion of creativity is. Conservative or otherwise. It doesn't ask for finding compatible designers that will think like their developers or even be able to communicate with their developers. It asks for a very specific thing: be able to come up with original ideas quickly.
    – Ryan
    Mar 24, 2014 at 17:45

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