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.
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:
- It ensures the client knows what he or she wants from the project
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- Media Outlet
- 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.
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.