When it comes to graphic design, specifically graphic design which is essentially a problem solving process intended to develop and deliver a clear message to an intended audience, it’s better for a graphic designer to have a strategic approach rather than diving straight into their favourite graphic design software application and attempting to produce a quality communication solution.

For graphical elements to meet the needs of clients all designers should follow a simple process to gather all the required information from clients regarding the project, before attempting to deliver a concept in order to ensure that work is consistently of a high standard and effectively delivers a client’s message to their intended audience.

Over the course fo my design career I have developed a simple, easy to follow process which allows me to gather all the required information and facts required to deliver original, creative and functional graphics for client projects. Essentially there are four steps in my graphic design process when taking a client project from an idea all the way through to the delivery and refinement of a finished product.

Step 1: Discovery

Goal: The goal of the discovery phase of the graphic design process is to develop an overall goal for the project and to define the context for the work to be delivered.

This step, the discovery phase is essentially and information gathering exercise and involves research into the client offering, the client marketplace and the competitive landscape within which the client operates. In this phase it’s critical to analyze the goals and objectives of the client offering in order to deliver the creative required for an effective campaign.

Besides the establishing what it is which your client requires (a logo, a flyer, or a website), it’s important to ask questions such as:

  • Who is the intended audience?
  • What is the message to be delivered?
  • What are the dimensions of the product?
  • Is there a specific budget constraint?
  • What is the deadline / timeline for completion?
  • Does the client have examples of what they do and don’t like?
  • Is there IP restriction or corporate branding considerations which need to be matched?

By gathering this vital information it becomes easier to visualize what is required by the client and what the constrains are within which the designer needs to operate. Once this information has been digested it’s always a good idea to formally clarify the scope of the project and get sign-off from the client prior to entering the next phase of the graphic design process.

Step 2: Design / Production

Goal: The goal of the design or production phase of the graphic design process is to create a market strategy.

This is the critical thinking phase of the design process. Leveraging all the information gathered in the previous phase it’s time to put on your designers hat and begin to brainstorm and conceptualize a market strategy for the client. As the designer your goal should be to develop some new and different concepts that will fulfill your client’s criteria and deliver their message in a way which sets them apart from the competition.

Sometimes, this can be a difficult phase as ideas don’t always come rushing to mind, in which case, it’s time to get inspired. There are a couple of simple methods which can be used to spark the creative thinking process and some of the one’s I find most beneficial are:

  • Trying to find an isolated break to enjoy some alone time and a few good waves. I often leave a surf session feeling inspired.
  • Getting together with a few friends to discuss the project and brainstorm a few ideas.
  • Visit a museum or gallery to relax, unwind and enjoy the work of the masters. This can also help define a visual style or spark the formulation of a design concept.
  • Read a book about graphic design, branding or something similar. Often a small piece of information can plant the seed of a new concept.
  • Doodle. Even though I’m not an “artist” I find that doodling is a great exercise for getting the creative juices flowing.

Once your design inspiration kicks-in it’s time to get work fleshing out a few concepts even before firing up your favourite piece of design software such as Illustrator or Photoshop etc. Once you’re confident that you have 3 solid concepts it’s a good time to get the client involved again and involve them in the creative process. Present and discuss your concepts with the client and pay special attention to their feedback. It can be a huge time saver to get feedback from clients at this early stage in order to minimize on the amount of revisions required later.

Refine and adjust your concepts in conjunction with the client until you’re both confident that things are headed in the right direction. Once you’re on the same page and confident that the chosen concept fulfills the client’s requirements, you can fire up your design applications and begin the next phase of the graphic design process.

Step 3: Development

Goal: The goal of the development phase of the graphic design process is the production and development of a final concept for the project which outlines the overall look and feel.

Now that the research has been completed, you’ve finalized your content and gotten approval on a concept you can move on to the actual design phase of the graphic design process which culminates in the delivery of two or more final versions of the product. Although you may knock out a product design in one session, it’s a good idea to keep all the versions developed for future reference.

Once you;re confident that your products meet the client requirements and present the clients desired content in a clear, concise and cohesive manner, it’s time to present your final concept to the client for approval and finalization.

Step 4: Deployment

Goal: In the final Deployment phase of the graphic design process the goal is to refine the final concepts in order to deliver the final product of the project.

If all goes well, the client will choose one of the final designs presented and you can go ahead and finalize it for production and or publishing if required. It’s a good idea to discuss the final versions with the client and allow them to refine any elements with which they;re unsatisfied. Rinse and repeat this process until both you and the client are confident that the final product is exactly what’s required.

Once agreed upon, prepare, package and deliver the final version to the client along with any final invoices. I also often use this step to request a testimonial from the client for use in my portfolio. Once the work is handed over and the account is closed, provide your client with a final statement and thank them for utilizing your services. Get a coffee, take a break and enjoy the feeling of completing another graphic design project.

Conclusion

And there you have the basic four step process which takes a graphic design project from an idea through to a finished product. By following this simple four phase graphic design process you can be guaranteed that you’re well on your way to producing graphic design elements which communicate your brand values and deliver your message to clients in a comprehensive and coherent manner.

If you need assistance with your next graphic design project, eliminate the guesswork by employing the services of an experienced graphic designer who can not only save you time and money, but deliver a polished communication solution to meet your needs and those of your marketplace. You’ll be glad you did.