Creating a well-rounded graphical design to represent a client or artistic vision requires a structured design methodology. My design method involves a process of repetition that focuses on achieving the desired objectives. Each step may occur once, or undergo multiple repetitions until deemed acceptable. The results of the first phase are the foundation for the beginning of the next phase, and so on. The sequential pattern of completing the steps from the foundation to the top is a technique for conveying incremental components necessary during the creative design process using several iterations to create a solid and effective end product. I would label my process as an iterative method.
Phase 1: Client Briefing/Problem Identification
- Define - The problem/opportunity
- Observe - The client/brief to determine objectives/goals
- Think - About the goal for the end-product
- Clarify Deliverables - Establish clear end-goals
Sub-notes regarding the outline above: The foundation for my method is the preliminary analysis of the clients needs, also referred to as the client briefing. After the client reviews his or her objectives, I will inquire and clarify any perceived design-related issues, and take additional notes. The notes, conversations, and provided paperwork are collected for later review. Then, I think about the material I have so far and decide what are the objectives, not just the perceived ones. Clearly establishing the objectives and end-goals creates the groundwork for the entire project.
Phase 2: Research/Development
- Target Demographic –research the target audience/understand their needs
- Strategy – To communicate the objectives, involve client/others
- Research – Internet, books, library, community
- Polls – ethnography, surveys, polls, questionnaires, ask!
Sub-notes regarding the outline above: The next level of my “Iterative Method” involves initial research using technological and non-technological means to gather demographics, audience needs, additional information, and ideas. Understanding the client and his or her target demographic directly affects my ability to produce an effective design solution. I like to involve the client to clarify his or her concept of their target market. Strategizing with the client and seeking their perceived solutions to the issue allows me to broaden my scope and test my own theories alongside and against the clients. Market research clarifies the wants and needs of the established target market. I find this material on the Internet, books, industry journals, and in the community. When possible and financially feasible, a target audience survey is performed to validate the research discoveries and solidify the perceived audience. Other forms of research that help the process include ethnography, surveys, polls, and questionnaires. If this phase is unsatisfactory, or if I discover a new direction, I revert back to the previous phase.
Phase 3: Ideas/Visual Exploration
- Find – Visual inspiration in book, internet, library
- Write – word trees, mind maps, adjective lists
- Create – thumbnails, sketches, molds, rough drafts
Sub-notes regarding the outline above: Using the research material garnered in the previous phase, I begin the brainstorming phase to generate ideas through visual exploration. Using handwritten word trees and mind maps, and adjective lists the brainstorming process starts to find a direction. I take the concepts generated through brainstorming, and combine them with visual inspiration derived during the research project and I will typically sketch out rough compositions of my ideas. Depending on the project, I may incorporate photographs, markers, paints, model making, or other materials to compose creative concepts. If this phase is unsatisfactory, or if I discover a new direction, I revert back to the previous phase.
Phase 4: Examine/Contemplate
- Examine – pin up the ideas, view multiple angles/distances
- Feedback – peers, client, other designers, target audience
- Analysis – review and synthesize the feedback
- Contemplate – using the above decide what needs re-doing
Sub-notes regarding the outline above: Using the visuals I created in phase three, I pin the drafts to my contemplation wall and try to view them from multiple distances and angles. The solutions are by no means final drafts, which permits quick revisions and edits to the design solutions. When I feel confident the direction and look are heading the right way, I usually involve outside parties into the analysis phase including my peers, other designers, target audience members, and the client. I then take all the feedback garnered, consolidate it, and analyze areas for improvement in my design solution. Then I spend time contemplating what I will change and how I plan to accomplish it. If this phase is unsatisfactory, or if I discover a new direction, I revert back to the previous phase.
Phase 5: Production
- Create – a final solution let the final phase begin
- Preprint – check with output house for any issues
- Review – double, triple, quadruple check for changes needed
- Achieve – attain goals & finalize for output, send it in
- Final feedback – from client, learn from the project
Sub-notes regarding the outline above: This phase I use technology and design software to correlate my concepts into one or more semi-finalized drafts. During this stage I incorporate typography, photographs, illustrations, copy, and other finalized materials that meet the client objectives. I usually check with my printer or output house to determine any reproduction issues they foresee in the design solution. Prior to finalizing the design, I check multiple times and with multiple people to ensure accuracy in all areas. I then submit for client review and final approval. Following client approval, I finalize for output and submit to the print house or appropriate agency. After the project reaches fruition I request client feedback so that I might grow and improve as a designer. If this phase is unsatisfactory, or if I discover a new direction, I revert back to the previous phase.
The design process is an iterative process involving clearly defined phases that work together to define, research, brainstorm, and create a project that achieves the desired outcomes. The famous designer Paul Rand claimed graphic design provided “Meaning to a mass of unrelated needs, ideas, words and pictures – it is the designer’s job to select and fit this material together and make it interesting” (Paul Rand 1). I admit, the design process is a challenge, but one that I relish.
The skills and/or traits that I would value and welcome in collaborating with others on a major design project include programming skills, I see a lacking in the depth of my skill set where code is concerned. Also, coming from an agency background, I would find value in collaboration from copywriters, researchers, the client, and depending on the project, any relevant discipline that could offer a unique perspective on meeting the user’s needs.
Hope, Ericca. “Definition of Graphic Design.” GRDS 705. 2011.
Rand, Paul. “A Selection of Quotes.” Thoughts on Design. 1996. Web. 13 Sep 2011.