Now, there’s no right or wrong way to do anything creative in my opinion, and there isn’t really a definitely creative process for completing design briefs, but I’m going to talk through my tried-and-tested method for completing professional design briefs which will hopefully be of some use to you guys while setting off on your design careers! I have a slightly different process for web design jobs though so keep an eye out for my next blog where I’ll cover this process.
So for me, each professional creative project is broken down into 8 main stages, they are as follows:
Every project should start with a detailed brief. These can be verbal or written but I’d try and pin the client down to putting their brief down on paper (email), it’s easier for you to prepare for the initial meeting and refer back to throughout the project to ensure no wires are being crossed. If the client insists on briefing you in person then make sure you take detailed notes. Once the meeting is complete make sure you type up your notes in detail and send them to the client to ensure you’re both on the same page before getting started and that you’ve got proof of the agreed direction… it could prove invaluable later down the line!
I find it useful to use client questionnaires. At Orca Design we have a variety of online client questionnaires prepared for different projects. These help to gain a better understanding of the client and what they are hoping to achieve from the project. The specific things we ask can also bring up questions the client hasn’t considered before. I find it useful to send these to the client to complete in their own time so they can do their own research and answer them in more detail, instead of just thinking of answers on the spot at the initial meeting. It can be useful to swap the order of these first two processes around though, and get the client to fill out the questionnaire prior to the first meeting. Then you have some good content to discuss.
Research, brainstorming & moodboarding
Once you have a direction and a subject, you can begin your research! This is open ended so focus on areas of interest for the client; the client’s area of business, their competitors, the geographical relevance of the product or service, the history, the company values etc etc. The avenues of research areas are endless but after a while you’ll begin to see patterns in your research methods by finding certain areas that are more useful then others. Research should be used to inspire your approach and outcome so you should always be looking for visual guidance or warnings! You should also try and practice some brainstorming sessions here, ideas become more clear when they are bounced around. Two heads are always better then one so share your ideas with friends, colleagues, family members, partners, anyone. It’s a good way to filter out the rubbish. Here at Orca Design, we like to share Pinterest boards with our clients so we can both add, remove and comment on pins, this is the best way to create an accurate moodboard from both parties!
Now you can begin your initial sketching. Start with quick, simple thumbnails and just bang out as many concepts as you can. The quicker you work on new concepts, the better, as essentially you want your ideas to be pouring out from your head onto the paper. You can worry about refining them in the next stage!
Now you can begin refining your favourite sketches. Pick the strongest concepts and redraw them larger and in more detail. This stage shouldn’t be rushed! Take you’re time, it will save you time when you come to digitalising your artwork.
Once you’re happy with your sketches, scan them in and bring them into your favourite design programme (if this Adobe Illustrator you’re onto a winner). Now you can begin outlining your artwork using your preferred method.
Once you have your artwork at a stage you’re happy with, you can share it with the client. This doesn’t necessarily have to be after the digitalisation process, if you’re happy with your refined sketches you can share these directly with the client, this can save a lot of time. However, some clients lack the imagination required to envision how a sketch will evolve into a finished design, you’ll know who they are, you can spot these individuals a mile off! Any way, once you’re designs are sent off, they’re ready for review. This is where you may need think skin, don’t take client feedback personally, you need to learn to take constructive criticism… or just criticism in some cases. It’s part of the job so something you have to get used to.
Now you have to go through the revision stages, making the requested changes from the client. Make sure you stand your ground during the revisions process, you want to make the client happy, but equally you are the designer so offer your opinion, and let the client know if you don’t think something will work. Most clients will appreciate your honesty and advice. You should agree with the client early on how many revision stages they are allowed. Make sure it’s stated in your terms and conditions or terms of service prior to starting the project. This will make sure you’re getting paid adequately for your time and not stuck creating endless design revisions (we’ve all been there).
Once you’ve completed all of the requested revisions you can finalise your design and save it down in all file formats ready for print and web! Congratulations, another job well done!
Now get out there and win some design work! Feel free to follow these guidelines and keep an eye out for my upcoming blog post ‘My Creative Process for Web Design’. Good luck!