What Differentiates a Professional Graphic Designer from an Amateur?

It’s easy for just about anyone to get a graphic design from freelancers or professionals online. You can simply type in “hire a graphic designer,” and the search engine generates the results. However, those in need of quick and cheap designs may just hire a graphic designer that charges only a few bucks and may leave clients unsatisfied with subpar designs. That’s why you should invest in a professional graphic designer that can provide you with high-quality and professional designs for your business. In this article, I write why you should hire a professional graphic designer, distinguish their work from an amateur, and hire one.


Why Hire a Professional Graphic Designer?

Professional graphic designers have accumulated years of experience working as a freelancer, for a company, or an agency. They’ve produced designs that have helped with branding and marketing or advertising campaigns for clients. So, they have the know-how in working alongside a client and meeting their design challenges. 

Plus, these experienced graphic designers will present a portfolio for potential clients. This way, you can view their work and know what they specialize in. From there, you can tap them to do any design project.

How do you distinguish their work from amateur graphic designers? Let’s find out.


Professional vs. Amateur Graphic Designer


Readability & Fonts

An amateur designer could use two distinct fonts that don’t match or one that’s different from your brand. Perhaps, they chose a font that’s too basic, or they’re in a rush and wanted to turn something in for the sake of doing so.

A professional graphic designer knows how to mix and match fonts or use one font to convey the whole message. Typography plays a big role, and it will help you stay consistent with your brand and show professionalism.

In line with the font is readability. 

You don’t want your design to look messy because of the copy. Regardless of how many words you need to add to the design. 

Just a tip for copy, you can follow the 20% rule that Facebook requires for their ads. So, the rule is you should have at least 20% text, and 80% should either be image or elements. This way, your overall design isn’t cluttered.

Amateurs may just follow what’s asked of them. For example, they might just put a big block of text somewhere on the design, not minding the readability. Perhaps they might play with the font size of one block of text, having inconsistent sizes.

Another common issue that amateur graphic designers run into is kerning. Kerning is when there’s no spaces in between letters or words. For example, you don’t want the word “FLICK” to look like a curse word on a poster or brochure, perhaps. 

Tip: never let your designer use Helvetica. According to DesignBoom, if you use Helvetica, the kerning isn’t that great.

Here are other fonts you might want to avoid:

  • Comic Sans
  • Papyrus
  • Arial

Meanwhile, a seasoned graphic designer can ensure that you get your point across without making it difficult to read. They’ll know how to adjust the size without stretching out or narrowing the font too.

graphic design example

Check out Shanti Sparrow’s flyer for Taste Upper West Side (UWS). They use one font consistently on the flier, save for the logo of Taste UWS, and the other brands. Everything’s readable in both versions, and your eyes will dart to the essential information of the flyer. None of the text is stretched out or narrowed, making it easy for the eyes to view it in one go.



In some cases, graphic designers would draw inspiration from previous designs and come up with their twist. Much better if they could think of something original. That way, they don’t face a copyright issue.

Amateurs may just change a few elements in the design. That shouldn’t be the case because you don’t want to be flagged for plagiarism.  However, a professional graphic designer knows well enough to be creative. They can think outside the box while staying true to your branding.

Another element to originality could be the use of stock images, whether free or paid. Most would say that graphic designers can use stock images provided the clients are informed. But if the graphic designer can draw everything from scratch, that would be a plus for them.

graphic design example

Look at the illustrations created by three designers for Clio. They made sure that the designs were specific to Clio, and that it will connect with its users. The Clio – Menopause Relief is aimed for older women perimenopausal or menopausal. The illustrations show different women doing different things and provide some insight into what they can do to have it easier during those times.



Amateur graphic designers could either use different colors that don’t match or use one that isn’t related to the branding. Professional graphic designers, meanwhile, have a sense of what colors to use. Plus, they can also follow the color scheme as dictated by a brand style guide.

Colors are important in conveying your message to your customers. If your graphic designer could capture your color scheme well, your customers can retain the scheme in their minds. That way, they can associate you with a particular product or service.

graphic design example

Check out this ad from Walmart. They use the colors based on their design guide. Plus, the lighter blue is a nice touch because it evokes some sadness. Walmart wants to put out that despite the somberness of the ad design, it can provide a solution for customers needing to have things delivered to their homes at a difficult time.


Visual Hierarchy

A huge part of design involves white space and visual hierarchy. These give the design the structure and overall look. If not followed or not experimented well, it could end up looking horrible. In some cases, amateur designers may have difficulty placing certain elements like an icon, shape, or text on their canvas. It might end up cluttered or too devoid of necessary components.

Meanwhile, an experienced graphic designer knows where they can place elements properly without making it cluttered. Aside from font and color, here are some other elements they’ve mastered when designing something for their clients:

  • Contrast
  • Alignment
  • Whitespace
  • Proximity

graphic design example

Here’s Annie Szafranski’s work for Bluxom Salon. She designed promotional materials, business cards, and labels for the salon. As you can see in the example, you will know what types of services the salon offers, the description, and details to fill in. She placed them well without the card being in disarray. Plus, she uses whitespace effectively to separate elements making it readable and clean.


Quality & Relevance

The one pet peeve that many design experts notice amateur’s works is unnecessary shadows and embossing. This trend no longer works because it’s outdated. If we’re to stick with the trends, the professional designer will go for a flat design. This makes the design clean and neat. Plus, you don’t want a design that came from the late ‘90s or early 2000s, so sometimes you have to keep up with designs.

As for trends, graphic designers tend to follow them or go their path. Amateurs tend to follow trends because it could be easier to create a design based on what’s new in the industry. However, trends do change. Seasoned graphic designers don’t stop at making designs based on what’s trending. So they change it up or create a whole new design to make it fresh.

It’s a common practice by businesses to redesign their logos to become modern and stay relevant. 

graphic design example

Here’s the revamped Australian Open logo designed by Landor. The old design had a longer wordmark and included a pictorial one to illustrate the sport. However, Landor reimagined its design to become minimalist, yet keeping its essence. According to the design agency, they used the letters A and O to signify energy and motion.


Finding a Graphic Designer (& How Much Do They Charge)

Now that you have an idea of how you can differentiate amateurs from professionals, where should you hire your graphic designer?

There are different sites you can choose to hire a graphic designer. You can visit websites like Upwork or Fiverr to check out freelancers on the site. Perhaps, if you have the budget, you can try design agencies. Better yet, go for Design Doctor.

Upwork freelancers charge their clients as low as $5/hr up to $200/hr. As for those on Fiverr, they start prices at $5, but they can charge up to $1000 per project. 

It can take a while to find the right freelancer for your business. You might lose some precious time focusing on your business if you want to launch it soon.

If you’re in a rush and need a company with designers, you can choose to go with a design agency. They can position your brand well. They have the expertise and experience to accomplish any challenge you bring to the table. However, they charge higher than freelancers.

According to Piktochart, the lowest they can charge you is around $3,500, and it can go upwards to $50,000. Some might charge for an hourly rate ranging from $70 to $350. Still, it can break the bank, and you might want to save up on expenses while you can.

So, in comes Design Doctor

You can save a lot of time and money with Design Doctor. Here’s why. For one, they hire the top 2% of graphic designers, so you don’t have to worry about bad graphic design. Two, you can pay a flat rate of $349/mo. Design Doctor is a subscription design service that allows you to request any design asset you need. It could be for your social media platforms, marketing materials, or posters. Whatever you need in one month, Design Doctor can do those for you.


Final Thoughts

Don’t make a mistake in not hiring a professional graphic designer. Even if some of them may be higher than your budget, you shouldn’t concede to hiring a graphic designer that you might waste your resources on. Instead, go for someone or a company that has good reviews, a great portfolio, and an overall pleasant working attitude. That way, it saves you the headache of spending too much on a bad design. More importantly, you’ll have compelling and high-quality designs for your business as well.

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