As someone with a hybrid designer/developer profile, I end up hanging out with a lot of developers and entrepreneurs.

And when the conversation turns to finding talent, sooner or later someone will point out just how hard it is to find designers. It’s as if designers were elusive beasts, hiding in the deepest, most remote jungles.

Of course, that’s not quite true. There are plenty of places where designer congregate in plain sight, such as Dribbble, Behance, or Designer News.

Finding Your Way

But when you’re not a designer yourself, it can be easy to miss out on these resources, and you’re often left wondering where exactly to start your search.

So to prevent you from getting lost, here’s a short field guide to help you make your way through the jungles of design.

Broadly speaking, design sites can be split into four main groups:

  • Design communities
  • Job boards
  • Find-a-designer sites
  • Design-on-demand services

Let’s take a look at each one.

Design Communities

Design communities are one of the best ways for a designer to make a name for themselves. Here are a few of the most popular of them.

Dribbble is a cross between a portfolio showcase site and a more social Twitter-like site: designers can post small images (or “shots”) of their latest work and collect likes and comments from other members. These social features make for a dynamic, ever-changing platform that’s quickly become very good at surfacing new talent.

Dribbble

While Dribbble is great for small work samples, Behance is still the best place when it comes to posting longer, more elaborate case studies. This extra space can sometimes help give designs the context they might otherwise lack on Dribbble.

Behance

While Dribbble and Behance carry a strong focus on design, when it comes to illustration DeviantArt is also a strong contender. Sure, you’ll sometimes stumble on the ocasional “My Little Pony” fanart, but the site does feature amazing talent.

If you’re in search of inspiration, you’ll definitely want to check out Cargo as well. Cargo is primarily a portfolio service, but their homepage features a great collection of their member’s best artwork. Although a bit more art-focused than the previous sites, Cargo remains an awesome resource for any type of design.

Cargo

Finally, sometimes even designers get tired of designing, and just need a place to talk. That place is Designer News. Launched a little more than a year ago by the folks at LayerVault, DN (as it’s affectionately known) has quickly established itself as the best place to debate about design issues, share links, or just gossip.

How to use design communities

To learn more about a given design community, just set aside 10 minutes every day and make a habit of checking out the site.

After a few days, you’ll become much more familiar with the style, feel, and general atmosphere of the site. And you’ll probably learn a lot about design, too!

Pros:

  • The best way to learn more about design and find diamonds in the rough.

Cons:

  • Can be very time-consuming.

Job Boards

Of course, sometimes you don’t have the time to become part of a community or browse through hundreds of profiles. This is where design job boards comes in.

Now since each job board has its own audience, picking the right one is important.

Most design communities (including Dribbble, Behance, and Designer News) have their own job boards.

Smashing Magazine’s job board

Posting a job offer on one of these will display your project right on the site, and give you an easy way to reach the site’s members.

Popular design blogs such as Smashing Magazine also run job boards.

And last but not least, Cameron Moll’s Authentic Jobs is one of the oldest and most active design job boards out there, with a list of clients that includes Apple and Twitter.

Authentic Jobs

How to use job boards

So which job board should you pick? I suggest simply posting on those that have a more flexible refund policy.

For example, you could start out with a post on Authentic Jobs and ask for a refund if you end up finding someone else through another mean.

Pros:

  • A great way to reach many designers at once, ideal when you need to cast a wide net.

Cons:

  • Requires spending a lot of time filtering replies.

Find-A-Designer Services

This category regroups sites that aim to match you up with a selection of designers.

Unlike job boards, these sites are usually not open access, and often perform some sort of quality control on their member on ensure you only get contacted by relevant profiles.

Scoutzie

What’s more, a lot of these sites also provide special tools to help manage the selection process. In a way, you can think of them as version 2.0 of the good old job board.

For example, Scoutzie and Crew both work on the same principle: in exchange for pre-selecting designers, they take a small cut of the overall project budget.

Juiiicy

Juiiicy also works this way, but adds a twist: new projects can only be referred by other designers, not submitted directly by clients.

And finally, Folyo also belongs to this group. But instead of taking a cut of the project Folyo charges a fixed $99 fee (wholly refundable if you can’t find a suitable designer), which can often end up being cheaper (especially for larger projects).

Folyo

How to use Find-A-Designer Services

Most find-a-designer services only charge you if you actually end up working with a designer, so they’re a great way to quickly get started with your search.

What’s more, you can often get better support and advice than you would get with most job boards' more hands-off approach.

Pros:

  • Often the fastest way to find a designer.

Cons:

  • Services that take a cut of the budget can prove more expensive than other methods for larger projects.

Design-On-Demand Sites

Finally, we come to the more controversial type of services: those where design can be bought for a fixed sum.

The most famous of them is assuredly 99Designs, which lets you pit designers against each other in order to win your project.

99Designs

This type of crowdsourcing is often frowned upon by designers, because the vast majority of contest participants end up never getting paid for their work.

So if you prefer hiring a single designer for their time, Envato Studio combines reasonable prices with clear terms and well-defined deliveries.

Envato Studio

Finally, for the thriftiest of us, Fiverr (which I previously covered pretty extensively) provides design services starting as low as $5.

How To use design-on-demand sites

Knowing in advance just how much you’ll spend and what you’ll get is certainly very attractive, but beware: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

The less you pay, the more you run the risk of working with designers who just don’t care that much about you and your project, and simply copy existing stock artwork and pass it as their own.

So no matter which service you pick, remember that a lower budget will also mean a lower quality.

Pros:

  • Makes it easy to know exactly how much you’ll spend.

Cons:

  • The one-shot approach makes it harder to build a long-term relationship with a designer.

Conclusion

Picking a designer is only the first step of the overall design process, but the first step is often the most important. So hopefully, this short guide will help you make the right choice and find the right person.

And if you’re still not quite sure where to start, don’t forget to check out our Startup’s Guide To Budget Design to find out what you can afford!