The 7 steps you need in your graphic design process (+ a free blueprint!)
A solid graphic design process is integral to taking your projects to the next level.
It can help you stay organized by laying a solid foundation when you get started. You’ll improve your client communication by learning more about the client’s brand, mission and audience. Plus you’ll impress your client with a project that is guided by this information. This helps the overall success of your project by getting results.
You’ll improve the quality of your designs by thinking outside the box and you can even increase your prices with the extra elements that are included in your design.
A design process can also help you stay motivated! By breaking down the project into multiple steps, it will help you avoid procrastination and potential burnout.
Here are the 7 steps you need in your design process:
1 | The Creative Brief
Understanding the client’s needs, goals, mission & audience is what will take your design to the next level. The creative brief questions will help you and your client get on the same page about what they want & need out of the results of the project. For example, maybe they want to increase conversions with a new website, or stand out from their competition with a unique brand identity.
Don’t forget to set a schedule, with milestones, deadlines and revisions. This will keep you on track and from getting stuck in an endless loop of revisions. Better yet, include these dates in your contract!
2 | Research & Brainstorm
Now it’s time to utilize what you’ve learned from the creative brief by doing further research. I like to create a project mood board with important themes (pulled from the creative brief). If it’s a larger project, I’ll also put together a “brand strategy” guide. This will cover important topics from the brief - the brand’s mission & values, the target audience, competition, what makes the client/brand unique, etc. Make sure to present these to your client! They will not only be impressed that you’re taking the time to fully understand their business and goals, but it will ensure that you’re on the same wavelength.
You can even include these steps as part of your “design package” to increase the value of working with you.
Try “mind mapping”. By brainstorming a bunch of different ideas, you’ll be able to think outside the box and get beyond those first few ideas.
It might seem like a lot of legwork, but getting this initial research phase done right will help you down the road when presenting your concepts by showing that you made the best and most strategic decisions to reach your client’s goals.
For sample creative brief questions & closer look at my design process, download your blueprint here.
3 | Sketching
Make sure that for your first round of concepts, you stick with sketching it out on paper. If you hop onto your computer too soon - you can get stuck in doing the same old same old. Not to mention get, more easily distracted and getting too wrapped up focusing on the nitty gritty details, like colors, type and general pixel pushing :)
4 | Refining
Take your best work and digitize it, either tracing over your illustrations - or re-creating concepts on the computer to share with your client. Ask yourself “how can I make this better?” A tweak in composition, colors or type can make a world of difference.
5 | Presenting
Now that you have refined your best options - it’s time to show them to your client & impress them with your design chops! Utilize mockups, which will help them visualize the overall result. Don’t forget to include important themes from your creative brief that helped lead you in the direction of this project. This helps your client understand why you made certain decisions (I chose this color because it reflects the warm & friendly nature of your brand).
6 | Revisions
When it comes to revisions, and getting feedback - remember that you are the professional that is getting hired to do this work. You can schedule when to provide feedback, to keep the project moving forward. Ask your clients to consolidate their feedback in a “round of revision”. Instead of getting a bunch of different emails and constantly hopping back into your program, a consolidated list of requests helps you from getting burned out. You can also have a discussion about the requests and if it makes the most sense for the success of your project.
Don’t forget about the brief, remember that you created the design with a specific goal in mind. Present your ideas with the intended results so they can understand what you’re going for. “I chose this color for the call to action button because visitors are more likely to click on red then gray”. Including statistics and facts can help along the way.
7 | Final Delivery
After your project has been approved, it’s time to deliver the final design! As you wrap up your project, your goal is to leave your client over the moon impressed while preparing your work for future success.
To knock this last phase of the project out of the park, put together a “package” beyond sending over a folder full of .jpgs and .pngs. This can include something like a freebie design (maybe a social media banner or business card template) or a simple one page thank you PDF. Get creative and think of ways you can leave your client feeling like they had an awesome experience.
Make sure you keep yourself organized along the way. You can utilize the brief, mood board, strategy, concepts & mockups in your portfolio for an awesome presentation & to attract future clients!
Related: Graphic Design Process Example
- Get yourself organized with a creative brief
- Do your research on your client’s brand
- Do a few rounds of sketching & to help you think more creatively
- Get consolidated, rounds of revisions from your client
- Utilize the materials you created throughout this process for an awesome portfolio project.