My creative process in graphic design is more regimented than my creative process is for other creative acts, such as painting or gardening (things I do for myself and purely for pleasure). The most obvious reason for my process having a particular process with graphic design is because besides being what I love to to do, it is what I do professionally.
The process begins with a kickoff (meeting) with the client. We introduce ourselves, I give a little background information about my design expertise and we then begin to discuss why the client needs my help. S/he describes what they envision happening with their concept and I listen and take notes. I ask them open ended questions about what they are looking for. We talk about the time and cost parameters that surround the project.
Next comes the contract. I go and write this up specifically for a client after meeting the first time. I believe that the contract is as much a defining narrative of what we plan to do together and how we want to work as much as it is for my protection. In this contract is something sort of like the diagram that I made for this post – it defines how we can get to the solution together and explains what I am doing for them at different stages. It is nice because it serves as a type of itinerary for both of us.
Research is already happening before it becomes the official stage in my process, but after writing the contract, I engage in exploring what other designers have done to solve problems similar to the client for who I am designing an end-product. I make sure to explore any competing companies or earlier compositions of the idea. I begin to jot down words, sketch little inspirations, and drag images into a folder on my desktop.
Thumbnails evolve from my research process. I am making moldboards that show what the tone will be for the project (not as much color as pattern and style). I share with the client my research as well. I think it helps to go ahead and hear their feedback for elements that they like and don’t like at this stage and why because it answers questions I didn’t think to ask earlier.
Revisions – this is after the presentation of my research to the client. From the feedback, I go back out into the world and explore some more. I refine the thumbnails to better suit what the client is looking for if they were not satisfied the first time. I may do a second revision before moving forward depending on the complexity of the project.
Sketches are what I intend for the end product to look like. If it was a website I was designing, I would be presenting gray screens of how the content would appear. If it is a logo, I would be presenting drawn out iterations. This stage serves as my design’s conception.
Revisions come from this both personally (me realizing a direction doesn’t work very well once I begin to execute it) or through the client saying they don’t like where something is going.
Secondary Research is what I do to solve more complex problems that are arising in the process. If there is a way to execute something that I am struggling with, I look to see how other people have gone about doing it (especially within the Adobe programs if I do not know how to do something).
After spending time learning and designing, I am presenting to the client digital comps that are either computer sketches or a chosen hand drawn sketch that is being translated into the design solution. I make 3 – 5 variations of my approach, because it gives me a chance to hear what a client likes or dislikes about each one (rather than just getting the feedback on one idea).
By this point, I am working to go through my design and get it to the point of where the client is happy with it. We are going through the editing stage with fine tooth combs on both sides. I am currently in this stage with a client working on a logo. This is the hardest stage for me personally because I am trying to maintain the energy/excitement that I had in the beginning of the project, yet produce something that is strong without getting sloppy.
Eventually, a final is chosen and I create a file that includes this for the client. I save it to the appropriate formats and send it to the client. I bill the client an invoice of the project as well as a summary and close the job.
Something I like to do (that I was inspired to do actually by my current job) is to do a project postmortem feedback meeting. A few months after the design is out in the world, meet with the client again and hear about what they like or don’t like and what they have experienced on their end. I also like to hear what they think about working with me and things I can improve upon. It’s always quite humbling!
Once I reach the finish line for my creative process, i’m usually crossing the start line into another project. The process keeps me going and ensures that I am doing my best for each job.