I need to hire a web designer. How do I test his creativity and skills before I hire him. Ideally I'd like to give him a fairly open-ended task i.e. I give him a problem statement and ask him to design a PSD file.

Any suggestions on the problem statement I might give him? Also, is there a better way to hire /test a web designer?

  • Ask on doctype.com.
    – Rahul
    Commented Oct 13, 2010 at 11:35
  • Do you want a web designer or just someone that can make cool looking PSD files?
    – DA01
    Commented Oct 13, 2010 at 14:34
  • @DA01 either would be fine at this point.
    – Gaurav Sharma
    Commented Nov 8, 2010 at 12:57

4 Answers 4


You don't test his creativity.

You ask to see his portfolio, ask him to explain what he did and what his thoughts where behind what he did.

And then you ask for a couple of references.

  • 2
    This is correct; it's considered a faux pas to ask a designer to create something for you during the interview process. It's called "spec work", where the designer has to spend his time and effort and may not receive any monetary compensation for his time. Commented Oct 13, 2010 at 15:52
  • @Tania if you are not capable of knowing whether a designer is good enough by looking at their work and asking them, then you should probably not be handling the interviews.
    – ThomPete
    Commented Oct 17, 2010 at 11:31
  • 1
    how do you tell the difference between raw skill vs only the ability to consume templates? Commented Jun 20, 2011 at 15:22
  • My comment should've been directed to @RussellUresti Commented Jun 20, 2011 at 15:45

It's more important to consider the process the designer brings to your organization than any one piece of work and that process can't be explored with a task in an interview. Design is solving problems that connect users to products, that can't really be performed in a vacuum.

If you don't like a person's work, then move on. If you like what you see, consider these questions among others:

1. How and why did you decide to create this way?

Did the designer perform some research, did they use/create personas, were they working from an existing style guide (just how much of the work is theirs).

2. How long did it take you to create this?

Are you fast, slow, how long will it take to get what I need done, done?

3. Did you think it would take more or less time?

How accurate will your estimates be? Are you an alarmist or calm and collected, you know what you're doing?

3. How many iterations did it take?

Do you listen and understand what your customer/clients actually need (versus say they want)?

4. Did this require any research on your part? What kinds and where?

How much do you really know versus how much do you have to google it? Are you a copy cat? Did you need to employ standards? What did you learn and what can you teach us?

5. How would you change it, knowing what you know now?

Do you really think you're all that? Can you edit your own work, or are we going to have to be heavy handed and direct you to do everything we want?

6. Do you have any data/analytics on its use?

How much do you care about how it was received and used? Just how invested in your work are you? Do you understand the value of analytics, usability, etc?

The point: focus on what was done in the past, what's changed (what have they learned), and what they'll do for you with your actual products going forward. So again, consider that the process they bring to the table may be more important than any one piece of work they've produced.


Giving him a problem to solve is good idea. Then ask him to produce:

  • a visual design
  • motivate his design choices
  • how convert visual into html/css
  • produce some markup

You look at their portfolio and interview them.

You can try the 'test' route but that enters 'spec work' or 'waste of my time as a candidate' realm and will greatly reduce your options as you'll tend to get folks that are more desperate for a gig (and therefore willing to spend time with your test).

  • would you say there's a difference in freelance vs fulltime hire? Because I sure test my C# developers I hire to know they should be able to write to code Commented Jun 20, 2011 at 16:33
  • Not really. Though, there's maybe a slight difference between visual design positions and coding positions. Asking a DBA to write a sample SQL query isn't really spec work. THAT SAID, I would hope that between a person's resume, experience, and how they handled themselves in the technical interview, one could gauge their abilities without having to do too much of the 'take a test' stuff.
    – DA01
    Commented Jun 20, 2011 at 16:46

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