The Design Process

This week I have been thinking about the design process and how I fulfil a project for a client. While a lot of the time, clients have individual needs that vary from project to project, there will still be a set way of working that I follow for each project.

In this post I wanted to describe the step by step breakdown of a typical project framework. Please bear in mind this is just a framework and can change, but it should give a good idea on the design process and how I approach projects!

Brief

After someone has got in touch with a requirement, this will begin the briefing stage. The project briefing allows me to identify exactly what the client wants, and what the project should be in order to meet these requirements. As design can be so subjective, this stage is vital to get right so I can make sure I am going to be creating exactly what's needed.

The briefing usually takes the form of a series of questions. These will be different for larger or smaller projects, and also will vary depending if I've worked with the client before. Some example questions would be:

  • Business Description
  • What makes your business unique?
  • Do you have existing brand guidelines?
  • Any colours or brands you like / dislike?
  • Scope of project
  • What problem is it solving?
  • Who is your audience?
  • Who is your competition?
  • What is the tone / feeling?
  • How will you measure success?

These questions would give me everything I need to begin the ideas stage, and estimate how long the job will take and be able to provide the client with a quote. Once the client has signed off the brief and the quote, I will begin the project.

When beginning the project I ask new clients to provide a 50% deposit up front

Initial Designs

The initial design stage is where I begin working on visual designs of the project. Again, depending on the size and nature of the project will affect what is involved in this, but if this is a completely new design (i.e not an adaptation of existing designs/branding) then I will provide the client with 3 options to choose the visual direction from.

At this stage the designs may be rough visuals, to prove the concept to the client before I spend a lot of time adding visual polish. The better and more detailed the brief at the start, the more polish I can add to the first stage of designs as I can be certain that the client will like the design choices, as the information provided will inform my decisions when creating the concepts.

After the designs have been created, I will deliver the options alongside a brief explanation of each choice made in the design. I will also usually give an informed recommendation as to the best option, as by this point I usually have a favourite design that I will feel is working the best towards meeting the brief.

Feedback & Revision

The next stage is for the client to provide feedback on the designs. This should be accompanied by as much information as possible so I can make informed revisions to the initial designs. If the client likes multiple different aspects of the separate designs this should be explained too so I can combine them.

At this stage the client is also perfectly within their rights to say they don't like any of the designs! Although this shouldn't happen, it may very well mean the brief is not quite correct or I haven't interpreted the wishes of the client correctly yet. As long as detailed feedback is provided for the next round of revisions, this isn't a problem.

When a client is providing feedback, I will often try and provide my rationale for certain decisions I have made in the process. The client gets the final say in the look of the design, but often I will have a specific reason for doing things a certain way that the client may not have thought of, that I will attempt to justify.

Agreement

If the client is happy with a concept option, and has confirmed so to me, I will proceed to the next stage, finalising the artwork. This may be a little tidy up, or it may be the bulk of the work depending on the job, but I will stay in communication with the client throughout this process to ensure the design is correct.

Revisions and correction can still happen in this stage, but the concept will remain intact throughout this process. 

Delivery

When the design is finished I will send the final artwork through to the client for sign off (at this stage, any changes or mistakes should have been ironed out, but this is the last opportunity to check for these, especially if going to print)

I can then arrange for delivery of the artwork in whatever form the client would like. This may have been agreed to be just the digital artwork, or it could be the final print run that I will check for any errors in the print run, ensuring a high quality delivery.

Final Thoughts

This process is designed to be the most efficient way to work and communicate between client and designer. It ensures delivery of artwork both quickly and accurately so everyone is happy, and will keep the cost down too! While changes can happen during the project, keeping the key stages of sign off will mean that when the original requirements of the job have changes I will be able to adjust the project accordingly, or change my approach to the existing brief.

If you are interested in any of the issues discussed, and would like to speak to me, please feel free to get in touch. You can comment below, email luke@blackwolfcreative.com or even give me a call on 07742 990524.