7-Step Process All Designers Should Follow To Complete Every Project

Posted in Freelance, Tips, Web Design • Posted on 12 Comments

As a graphic designer, you know your job entails helping your client sell their service or product. Your ultimate goal is to help viewers understand a message and, in turn, reap benefits for your client. Developing a process to follow each time you take on a new project can help tremendously in achieving results you and your client are happy with. Whether you’re a graphic designer, web designer, programmer or otherwise, having a system set up will help you get the work done faster in addition to keeping things organized and the designer/client relationship a positive one.

Project Initiation

One of the most important steps in the design process is accumulating the information you’ll need. This is usually achieved by either a face-to-face meeting with the client, a questionnaire, or even a Skype meeting if you really wish to establish a personal relationship with your client. In gathering this information, you now know your client’s objectives and can focus on the details for inclusion in your brief.

The Brief: Although it may seem like more work than necessary, a design brief has a couple of key benefits, no matter how big or small the project seems to you:

  1. It ensures the client knows what he or she wants from the project
  2. It acts as your point of reference during the project

The more information the client provides initially, the better the result for the both of you (especially the client). Topics for inclusion in the design brief may vary but a few good starting points may be:

  • Corporate Profile – A summary of the business
  • Market Position – An evaluation of the company’s service/product in relation to the competition.
  • Communication Task – What’s the message trying to be conveyed and through what means (e.g. taglines, body copy, photography, etc.)
  • Target Market – Demographics — the age, gender, income, employment, geography, lifestyle of those the client wants to reach.
  • Objectives – What quantifiable result does the client want to achieve?
  • Schedule/Deadline – A realistic schedule of how the project should proceed.

At this stage it’s also a good idea to accept a deposit for the first half of the project.

Research

After you’ve met with the client and have a firm understanding of the task at hand, it’s now time to put your nose to the grindstone. After reviewing the materials given to you you can start research. This phase usually entails taking into account competitors, market trends, product/service differentiators, the history of the business, and the future of it as well.

While this stage isn’t usually going to be your favorite but it’s well worth it in the end. There’s nothing worse than creating a beautiful logo only to discover it’s too similar to a competitor’s. You’ll reap the rewards of the time you put into research, trust me.

Strategy

This step may vary depending on the scale of your project, but generally it’s best to develop a strategy before putting pencil to paper. Through this you analyze the research gathered and decide on design and functionality criteria. This can be as simple as a theme carried across all marketing materials. You can present this strategy to the client to get approval or disapproval before heading on in the hopes of getting more creative direction.

Development

Once you have a clear strategy, the idea is to then create preliminary design concepts based on the strategy you developed. Developing concepts can be done through various means when inspiration strikes, but here are some of the most effective.

  • Mind Mapping: A diagram that’s used to represent words, ideas, and tasks linked to your central idea. Encourages a brainstorming approach to planning and organizing tasks.
  • Storyboarding: Meant to pre-visualize a motion picture, animation, etc by organizing illustration in a sequence.
  • Free Writing: A great way to get your ideas down on paper and later expand on them.
  • Layout Creation: Sketch layouts from collected inspiration, play around with color schemes and typography until a direction strikes you, and then explore it more.

Develop several different concepts through the above methods. The idea here is to create as many different options before choosing the most viable one. Through the help of the client, these ideas can them be narrowed down to a couple of ideas for further development and refinement.

Presentation/Refinement

Often best presented as a PDF file with the design in context. It’s now the job of the client to review the designs and provide feedback based on their objectives and the needs of their target audience.

At this stage the designer is tasked with making changes to the aesthetic elements based on client’s request or putting the final touches on an agreed upon design.

Production/Launch

With an approved design, the designer is now able to implement the finished piece across all deliverables, which may include both print and web. Depending on the project and/or media, the materials may often be handed off to a third-party, which includes:

  1. Prepress/Printer
  2. Media Outlet
  3. Launched on the Web

If it’s a web project, instructions and documentation may be required for administrative purposes, as well as Search Engine submission.

Completion

There’s nothing more rewarding than turning over a completed project to a satisfied client, so congratulate yourself.

You can now invoice your client the remaining bill for the project. Oftentimes this is best achieved through online invoicing software, which will help save time associated with putting together an invoice. One application that I personally recommend is Freshbooks.

With a solid process in place for completing a design project, you not only establish a closer relationship with your client, but you take a lot of the guesswork away when it comes down to creating something memorable for them. Consider it one less hurdle you have to overcome. Do you have a design process in place that you utilize with each new project? Feel free to share any tips with us that I may have missed.

14 Written Articles

12 Comments Best Comments First
  • Ryan

    Tuesday, June 21st, 2011 16:11

    5

    Nice step by step outline of the process. It helps to look at another’s perspective to ensure that you are staying on top of the design field. Making sure that you are not wasting time during a design is a must. Especially if you are a freelancer, time is money.

    +2
  • Mohammad Danish

    Tuesday, June 21st, 2011 07:41

    2

    Hey there I am so grateful I found your weblog, I really found you by accident, while I was browsing on Google for something else, Anyhow I am here now and would just like to say many thanks for a marvelous post and a all round exciting blog (I also love the theme/design), I don?t have time to go through it all at the minute but I have saved it and also added your RSS feeds, so when I have time I will be back to read a great deal more, Please do keep up the great work.

    +1
  • Ayesha

    Tuesday, June 21st, 2011 09:56

    4

    That’s pretty cool. nice outline of the process!

    0
  • Markus Thiel

    Tuesday, June 21st, 2011 09:54

    3

    Just a small typo:
    “You can know invoice your client the remaining”
    Should be
    “You can now invoice your client the remaining”

    :)

    Great article otherwise!

    0
  • Cedyk

    Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011 05:12

    6

    Nice article, so useful..thank for sharing :-)

    0
  • Tinashe

    Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011 09:06

    7

    What a very helpful article. Taking a look at my own freelance website i can see i have a lot of work to do, but im sure im going to enjoy because of your article. Thanks

    0
  • amik

    Friday, June 24th, 2011 07:27

    12

    Nice…. this is what the most newbie web programmer and web designer still dont know. Thanks so much… keep forward

    0
  • Andrea Spikes

    Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011 22:24

    11

    Very useful and educational article. You can finish projects more efficient and faster without so much stress if you follow the points made in this article

    0
  • Renzo

    Thursday, June 23rd, 2011 00:08

    10

    Very nice keep up the good work! Thanks.

    0
  • Larry

    Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011 16:11

    8

    Here are the steps that I had been following for web designing project until now:

    1. Team Assembly
    2. Project Initiation
    3. Project Planning
    4. Project Execution
    5. Project Leadership
    6. Project Monitoring and Controlling
    7. Project Presentation
    8. Project Conclusion

    However, I will try your steps also.

    0
  • Alex

    Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011 17:33

    9

    I think this a great article, and most of these steps are extremely applicable in every project! The only thing I slightly disagree with is the brief; while I think it is necessary in most projects, there are a few cases I’ve been in, such as designing sites for bloggers, where the particular niche they’re in doesn’t have much of a market or competition.

    That being said, in almost every other project I’ve worked on, all these steps are ones that every designer should go take throughout the entire process. Great article, and very informative!

    0
  • amik

    Friday, June 24th, 2011 07:27

    12

    Nice…. this is what the most newbie web programmer and web designer still dont know. Thanks so much… keep forward

    0
  • Andrea Spikes

    Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011 22:24

    11

    Very useful and educational article. You can finish projects more efficient and faster without so much stress if you follow the points made in this article

    0
  • Renzo

    Thursday, June 23rd, 2011 00:08

    10

    Very nice keep up the good work! Thanks.

    0
  • Alex

    Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011 17:33

    9

    I think this a great article, and most of these steps are extremely applicable in every project! The only thing I slightly disagree with is the brief; while I think it is necessary in most projects, there are a few cases I’ve been in, such as designing sites for bloggers, where the particular niche they’re in doesn’t have much of a market or competition.

    That being said, in almost every other project I’ve worked on, all these steps are ones that every designer should go take throughout the entire process. Great article, and very informative!

    0
  • Larry

    Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011 16:11

    8

    Here are the steps that I had been following for web designing project until now:

    1. Team Assembly
    2. Project Initiation
    3. Project Planning
    4. Project Execution
    5. Project Leadership
    6. Project Monitoring and Controlling
    7. Project Presentation
    8. Project Conclusion

    However, I will try your steps also.

    0
  • Tinashe

    Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011 09:06

    7

    What a very helpful article. Taking a look at my own freelance website i can see i have a lot of work to do, but im sure im going to enjoy because of your article. Thanks

    0
  • Cedyk

    Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011 05:12

    6

    Nice article, so useful..thank for sharing :-)

    0
  • Ryan

    Tuesday, June 21st, 2011 16:11

    5

    Nice step by step outline of the process. It helps to look at another’s perspective to ensure that you are staying on top of the design field. Making sure that you are not wasting time during a design is a must. Especially if you are a freelancer, time is money.

    +2
  • Ayesha

    Tuesday, June 21st, 2011 09:56

    4

    That’s pretty cool. nice outline of the process!

    0
  • Markus Thiel

    Tuesday, June 21st, 2011 09:54

    3

    Just a small typo:
    “You can know invoice your client the remaining”
    Should be
    “You can now invoice your client the remaining”

    :)

    Great article otherwise!

    0
  • Mohammad Danish

    Tuesday, June 21st, 2011 07:41

    2

    Hey there I am so grateful I found your weblog, I really found you by accident, while I was browsing on Google for something else, Anyhow I am here now and would just like to say many thanks for a marvelous post and a all round exciting blog (I also love the theme/design), I don?t have time to go through it all at the minute but I have saved it and also added your RSS feeds, so when I have time I will be back to read a great deal more, Please do keep up the great work.

    +1

Comments are closed.

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