The Graphic Design Process - A Life Saver

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No matter how much or how little time you may have for a graphic design project, it is important to go through the entire process of executing a graphic design project in order to complete it successfully - from the client and designer perspective. You have to do your homework so that you can have fun, be professional, and provide successful results.

When starting a new design project, there are steps of the graphic design process to follow that will help you to achieve the best results. Rather than jump right into a graphics software program to try to create a final version, you can save yourself time and energy by first researching the topic, finalizing your content, starting with simple sketches and getting several rounds of approval on design concepts.

Gathering information is the first step of the graphic design process. When approached for a new job, set up a meeting to discuss the scope of the work and get an idea of what your client needs. This also helps to get to know a new client. Be sure to gather as much information as possible and take lots of notes.

Using the information from your meeting, you can now create an outline of the content and goal(s) of the project. Once completed, share this outline (which you will present as the proposal & timeline) with your client for approval or for any changes before proceeding. Once this step is finalized, you know you are all on the same page and you can proceed to the next step of the graphic design process with confidence.

Again, don't just simply jump in. You are still doing research here, but this is more fun because you get to do a little visual research and brainstorm. Think about creative solutions for the project. Have your client show you examples of designs they like and don't like, which will help guide you in your design process. Take a little time to digest all the information you have gathered and document ideas, whatever they may be. Here are some things you can do to get charged and go above and beyond your client's expectations:
  • BRAINSTORM with a favorite design partner or a group of creatives for ideas and inspiration.
  • WHEN IN ROME... Dive into the respective industry. For example, if you have a new client in the fashion and beauty industry, visit your local bookstore or news stand and buy some fashion and beauty magazines for inspiration and latest trends.
  • REFERENCES: Dive into art and graphic design books for inspiration.
  • GET PHYSICAL: Take a walk, go for a bike ride, meditate, people-watch. Sometimes being outside around other people and different energy, will boost your creativity and get you focused.
  • GET ARTSY: Draw, decoupage, make something, write a poem about your new project. It sounds silly, but believe me, it will help you take that creative leap that you need in order to give this your best and your all.
I have found myself in front of my monitor staring at a blank page, adding and deleting shapes, or going from my software to the internet and back to the software - trying to put my ideas to work. Sometimes it works, but I have found better results mapping out my ideas on paper or even in PowerPoint. What's more, I cringe at the time and energy I have wasted creating initial design concepts from my software rather than creating sketches to review with my clients.

So, create some simple sketches of the layout(s) you are considering. This way, you can show your client some of your ideas without spending too much time on design. Your client will let you know if you are headed in the right direction and you will maintain your sanity.

Create quick sketches of logo concepts, line drawings of layouts showing where elements will be placed on the page, hand-drawn versions of a package or brochure design. For web design, wireframes or internet prototypes are a great way to start with your page layouts. I prefer prototypes because I now have a working document.

So, you've been a good designer and you've done ALL your research, you know where you are heading and your client is on board with your ideas/sketches. It's time to do what you do best - DESIGN!

It's usually a good idea to present your client with at least two design concepts (which I usually include in my proposal/agreement). This gives the client some options and allows you to combine their favorite elements from each concept. Inform your client that you are okay with combining elements from the designs you provide.

Once you've gotten feedback from your clients, you can implement their suggestions to present a second round of design concepts. Make sure you are also providing your input as the designer. This is an opportunity to show your knowledge and abilities as a designer, thereby increasing your client's confidence in your input as a team player. After this second round, it isn't uncommon to have a couple more rounds of changes before reaching a final design.

You're done and your client is happy! Makes sense, right? Of course it does, but the message here is not the actual steps, the message it to actually follow all the steps - COMPLETELY - each and every time. That is the challenge and the key to your sanity and your client's happiness with your work.

Be sure to follow this process, step by step, no matter how big or small the project, no matter how rushed it is. You may just have to complete the steps in a shorter timeframe, but you should still go through the process. If you have gathered in-depth information, you will have an accurate outline. With an accurate outline, you have the information necessary to sketch out some ideas. With the approval of these ideas, you can move on to create the actual design, which once revised, will be your final piece. Isn't that so much better than having your client say "This isn't what I expected." after you have done all the work?

The answer is YES!

Happy Freelancing,


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