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Design Process

The Process of Design

It’s easy to list the results we, as graphic designers, can deliver for a client: a logo, a brochure, an annual report, a web site, etc.. We usually have a portfolio to prove it.


Yet, most of us know that the results are part of a bigger process, that it is also the hardest part to sell of our business. What exactly is the process of design?

Wow, what a loaded question! The discussion on this is absolutely scintillating. I have a feeling that writing this all out will help me anyhow. smile

Here’s my basic project structure: disclaimer: I’m not a big professional designer yet. my number of external jobs is still small. but I know I love doing this, and can only grow from here. So don’t take my word as gospel yet!! wink

  1. Client contacts me with initial request; I reply asking for more info (I’d like to develop a form for this); Basic questions/answers go back and forth. Can be time consuming, especially when the client is vague and wants me to just "come up with something." I’d rather know their requirements, details, preferences before I start out. Getting a budgeted amount for the project is helpful at this point.

  2. Once I hear their concept, I clarify the style that they are looking for, and start playing with CSS or in Photoshop (depending on if its a graphic concept or not). Usually a single object will inspire me, whether its a shape, a font/dingbat, a set of colors, or an image/logo. I build out from there. A structure of the webpage is intercepted with the inspirational object; required navigation, titles, and interface must flow. If I don’t have the perfect object, I do some searching on my favorite sites for something free for commercial use or a reasonable purchase. This part of the project sometimes takes me a while, especially if my inspiration is a bit vague. I almost always do this when there are no distractions, only soft music, and shut my email program so that I can concentrate on the task at hand without getting distracted.

  3. Create a mock up or two for the client with an official quote. Usually, these are in the same basic color scheme or feelings; something common to tie them together because by this point, I should be clear on their style/theme. I like to have multiple options for them to see, but usually one stands out in my mind and ends up more developed. Present these to a client and work with them until they like what they’ve seen enough to start putting it together.

  4. Turn concept into presentational html. Usually, I have a fairly easy time with this step, as I tend to design with the html in mind in the first place. Put sample content in place. Add any scripts - php, javascript, css - to make it dynamic and easier for the client to update.

  5. Get final design approval and either turn over to the client or implement with their content myself, using their FTP server to give the final info straight onto their server.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a bit about this, because I tend to base my quote on step 2 more than the rest of the process, even though its really a small part of the whole thing. I’m a conscientious designer, who likes to make sure her clients are happy with the design AND the budget. Step 2 tends to be more what the client sees, even though the rest of the steps are important.

I particularly must point out the comment to the article that mentioned this:

When it comes to the actual process of generating a design, I’ve noticed that there are 2 groups of designers—introverts and extroverts. Introverts ingest the information, stew on it for days, thinking, creating, planning....then gives birth to a sketch or idea that’s fully-baked and developed. Extroverts are the opposite. They immediately begin sketching, generate as many options as they can, changing, adapting, and creating as they go. They stop when the design gets to a certain place.
commented by Tan

That is SO true. Once I go through my process and get a concrete idea/vision in my head, then I have a full-fledged site that comes out. This means that usually, my first idea is truly the best, and the secondary ideas are never quite as good. This is true for the 3 largest sites (outside of my own sites) I’ve designed for - the client has always picked the first of the options.

Anyhow, this writeup gives me a definite feeling of being more in touch with what I do for something major like this. It has given me ideas that I want to structure myself better on for upcoming jobs. Great stuff. smile


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When I’ve designed for either myself or for other people, I’ve done the introvert approach, which is good because I’m definitely an introvert! wink It’s nice to see it written out like that though because it helps me make sense of maybe one reason why my process is so different from others that I know in areas other than design.

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