What is the Design Process in Graphic Design?
If you are someone who is interested in graphic design and is highly considering taking on a professional career in this field, one of the most crucial things that you will have to know and understand is how the graphic design process works. Graphic design involves a very intricate process, where every detail must be carefully thought about and selected in order to create a cohesive and stunning design.
Essentially, the graphic design process consists of the following steps:
1. The creative brief
2. Graphic design research
3. Research & brainstorm
4. Build on your concepts
9. Final delivery
The graphic design process is not without its challenges, and for those who are non-designers or are new to the industry, it may seem a bit complex to grasp. However, in this article, we are here to describe it all to you in the simplest manner. This way, you’ll be able to gain a better understanding of what the graphic design process entails and how you can best execute each step in order to become a successful graphic designer.
Graphic Design Process Steps
The Creative Brief
In this very first stage, listening to your client’s needs and expectations will be key to a successful design. Therefore, it’s really important that you are attentive and are jotting down all the necessary information needed to execute the project.
Read through your client’s brief several times until you are sure that you’ve developed a clear understanding of what their goals are. If possible, it would be even better to personally speak to them, whether that is through a meeting in person or a phone call. If you ever get the opportunity to do that, make sure to take advantage of it and ask as many questions as you can so that everything becomes crystal clear to you and that you are left with no confusion with what you have to do.
When reading or listening to the creative brief, what’s critical to take note of is the budget as well as the deadline of the project. After all, you could have the best graphic design skills, but if you are someone who cannot meet your client’s deadlines, that will be something that will really impact your reputation and credibility as a professional designer.
Once you’ve received this information, consider how long the design process may take so that you can factor this into your work plan and schedule. Lastly, be sure to look out for important keywords and deliverables such as your client’s market, their brand’s identity or tone of voice.
Graphic Design Research
When conducting graphic design research, it is highly recommended to check out the latest design trends. Whether you are hired to design a poster, flyer, calendar, logo, or packaging design, you should go out and explore to see what’s already out there within your client’s market.
Going out to any public space such as grocery stores or malls, or even browsing through online platforms are great ways to gather better insights about your client’s market as well as all the designs that already exist. This way, you’ll know exactly how you can differentiate your design from those of your client’s competitors. At the end of the day, you want to create unique designs that will make your client stand out from the rest.
For example, if your client were to run a cosmetic business, you can always check out cosmetic stores to see what the current design trends are for this market. Be sure to also take note of designs that have been successful and those that are not as this will help set the right foundation for your own project. By conducting thorough graphic design research, you’ll be able to figure out which design direction you should aim for.
Research & Brainstorm
Although you may have already done your research on current graphic design trends, it is going to be extremely important for you to conduct more research on your client’s business. The research stage is crucial and must be taken seriously since it is also the step that requires the most time and effort. However, good research will always be worth it in the long-run as it will enable you to truly sync your creative ideas to answer the client’s brief.
So what should you research at this stage? Mainly anything that helps you to better understand your client’s business. This can include their brand history, culture, vision, values, target consumers, and competitors. However, it would also be valuable to explore the market trends within your client’s business, as well as the design styles and colors that you could potentially use.
After you’ve done your research, you should already be having a clear idea of how you can best satisfy your client’s needs. You’ve figured out exactly what elements you should within your design and what style you should go for, so now all that’s left to do is to start brainstorming on some ideas for your project.
Build On Your Concepts
Once you’ve done your research, then it will be time to further build on it. During this stage, you should develop around 3-5 concepts in order to provide your clients with some design choices. When coming up with all these creative ideas, be sure to keep the brief at the back of your head. This way, you’ll be able to satisfy your clients by aligning everything to it.
In addition, make sure that these concepts are something that you love and are extremely proud of. After all, the worst thing you could do is to present your clients with something that you yourself don’t even like.
You’ve now developed some concepts to present your client with. However, in order to best illustrate them to your client, you’ll have to start sketching them out so that they know exactly what you mean. Once they actually see and understand what the design would or could look like, this will also allow you and your client to be on the same page.
In this stage, you need to create rough drafts of your designs. Sketching helps graphic designers to visually communicate their ideas in a quick and efficient manner. Depending on the time constraints, you can either sketch out something really quickly or make it super detailed. However, the most common way to go about this is to quickly draw your ideas on paper using either a pen or pencil.
At this point, you are free to draw out anything and there will be no limits since your drawing doesn’t necessarily need to reach perfection. It’s just more so that both you and your client get a clear idea of the main concept of the design. Draw out the symbols and motifs that you may want to use and experiment with different fonts and colors to find those that look best.
While you are allowed to be as creative as want and create a variety of versions, ensure that you’re still sticking to brief, keeping your client’s goals and objectives in mind. This will save you lots of time later in the process since you won’t have to go back to square one and fix everything.
Next, you have to refine your drafts. You can do this by creating digital illustrations of your designs using software like Adobe Illustrator. By digitalizing your designs, your client will be able to get an even better picture of what the final design would look like.
If needed, discuss with your client what they want to see and expect from these digital designs since you’ll be at a point near finalization. To save you from having to redo a lot of the things, make sure you develop your design accordingly to your client’s feedback so that you’ll be ready to present the best final versions to them in the next stage.
You’ve finally finalized your design concepts digitally, so now it is time to present your work to your clients. When presenting work to your client, always make sure that you are delivering and explaining every single aspect of your project in the best way.
During this step of the graphic design process, it will also be the time where you’ll most likely receive even more feedback from your client. This is the prime time to gather as much feedback and constructive criticism as you can, not the time to be too proud of your work. Feedback is what’s going to help improve your design to fit your client’s needs, and at the end of the day, you need to execute your project in ways that will best satisfy your client so that you can help their business succeed.
By this point, your client would’ve already chosen the design that they love most, and this will be the one that you will have to go back and revise. Discuss with your client if there is anything else they’d like to see improve and use this feedback to make the necessary changes. Ideally, as you’ve already developed and refined your ideas earlier, the changes during step shouldn’t be too drastic.
Most of the time, it can involve changing the color or shade of the design, scaling, maybe even choosing a different font. However, stylistically, the overall design concept should be kept the same. The revision stage is not about changing the entire design, but rather making minor tweaks to perfect it.
Now that everything has been revised, you’ll have to make the final delivery of the project. Once done, you can head over and begin the production stage. Whether the design is supposed to be printed or used on digital media, you need to make sure to double-check everything beforehand.
Take a careful look at the scale, sizing, as well as all the file formats. This way you can be sure that everything is in its highest quality and that you will be able to deliver the necessary files to your clients. Otherwise, if there is an error and the design gets sent for production, this could end up being a huge waste of money and time. All in all, just make sure that everything is complete and ready to go prior to the production stage.
Besides having grown up in the design Industry, Christiaan has advised some of the world’s largest companies on their branding & packaging designs. Has been the resident judge for design awards, and has spoken at numerous global design & marketing events. Christiaan founded the London office of the award-winning Cartils agency, and has founded the DesignBro.com platform.