Process


How Does a Creative Process Help?


The goal of a creative process in graphic design is to channel time, energy and creativity in a direction that is in line with a specific project’s needs. By its own nature, creativity can be hard to harness into a predictable and linear set of stages, but it is of enormous value to do so. A good creative process for logo design greatly improves the opportunity for a successful outcome in a reasonable time frame. The creative process defines and controls costs, time, effort, direction, responsibility, expectations, conversation, collaboration, and goals. Without a creative process you are shooting at a target in the dark.

When developing a brand identity, it is difficult to predict how the creative process will go, but it is essential that every identity go through all of the stages. An identity must be checked against goals, be refined and questioned. Graphic designer and client must be allowed time to reflect. On rare occasions, an idea generated during the initial client meeting may be the best solution, but it must be validated through a structured process to ensure it is inline with the project goals and has long-term value. Often, phases overlap, sometimes the order changes, but this never alters the need to go through the creative process as a whole.

We Both Have Responsibilities

A creative process works best if responsibilities are clear from the beginning. My responsibility throughout a project is to ask the right questions, define the creative problem, and visualize a solution. The client’s responsibility is to provide the requested information and feedback in a clear, timely, and honest way.

Words Before Visuals

I spend a lot of time analyzing the information provided by a client. Along with additional research, it is distilled into mind maps and by using a dictionary and thesaurus, a lexicon for the project is created. Focusing on words rather than visuals at the beginning of a project is a more efficient method of narrowing focus. Mind mapping allows all the information to appear in one place, exposing gaps or differences in thinking, the mind map helps to define the “creative problem” and the path for the “solution”.

Where Does the Time Go?

All projects are unique and the amount of time spent on the different tasks varies. I estimate that on average, 10% of the time is spent on customer care and management, 40% on research, 45% on design, and 5% on production. It is important to remember the client is paying for a solution and not the actual time that is spent on the particular project. Creativity has a mind of its own and I talk about this in more detail in.

Gather, Analyze, Visualize, Repeat.

My process in its highest level:

gather –> analyze –> visualize –> gather –> analyze –> visualize . . . —> delivery

The creative process I use is repetitive and narrows the focus over its timeline. As information is gathered, assessed, and visualized, the space in which the solution can be found, narrows. Gathering the right information and determining that it is in line with the goals, is key to every step of a successful design process.

Every project I take on moves through the creative process in its own way. You can see examples of specific processes in my portfolio. If you have any questions please let me know.

A Simple View of the Creative Process Structure:


Gather: Creative brief, research
Analyze: Mind mapping and validation of information
Visualize: Sketching, roughs and preliminary concepts
Gather: Conversation and feedback on preliminary concepts
Analyze: Validation of feedback/information
Visualize: Refined concept (1)
Gather: Conversation and feedback on refined concept (1)
Analyze: Validation of feedback/information
Visualize Refined concept (2)
Gather: Conversation and feedback on refined concept (2)
. . . Repeat last 3 steps until solution is reached
Delivery: Delivery of final files

A Detailed View of the Creative Process Structure

What I describe below is a stripped down version of the creative process I use. It doesn’t show the sometimes overlapping phases, the “two steps back and one step forward”, the “brilliant idea” that can sometimes happen during an initial client meeting. It does, however, give you an idea of what to expect and the level of commitment required.

Steps

    1. Creative Brief (gather)
    2. Research (gather and analyze)
    3. Mind Mapping (analyze)
    4. Sketching Thumbnails (visualize)
    5. Sketching Roughs (visualize)
    6. Preliminary Identity Concepts (visualize)
    7. Presentation and Feedback (gather/analyze)
    8. Identity v1.1 (analyze/visualize)
    9. Presentation and Feedback (gather/analyze)
    10. Identity v1.2 (analyze/visualize)
    11. Presentation and Feedback (gather/analyze)
    12. Delivery
    13. Additional Materials
    14. Follow Up and Support

1. Creative Brief (gather)

The creative brief is either provided by the client or developed using my Discovery Workbook. At this step, the client should expect to spend enough time to provide accurate information as it will have a direct impact on the results. The goal of the creative brief is to capture all necessary strategic information as well as gain a deep understanding of the client’s brand. The creative brief includes the following information:

  • Corporate Profile
  • Market Position
  • Current Situation
  • Communication Background
  • Messaging
  • Target Market
  • Objectives/Goals
  • Budget
  • Schedule and Deadline
  • Brand

result: creative brief.
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2. Research (gather and analyze)

After analyzing the information in the creative brief, follow up questions are often required along with further research, to achieve a clear view of the situation and to ensure an understanding of the authentic relationship between the client and their customers. At this point, conflicting ideas may have been exposed and need to be addressed to ensure a single focus.

result: approved creative brief.
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3. Mind Mapping (analyze)

A mind map is a diagram I use internally to organize thoughts, the project’s vocabulary (words that describe the brand, personality, emotion etc) goals, and other information collected around the client’s company, product or service. As a by-product of reorganizing the information in this manner, additional questions may surface allowing further clarification before the next step.

result: a mind map distilling all information received.
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4. Sketching Thumbnails (visualize)

At this point I start to visualize solutions based on the information collected. Thumbnails are small, quick and unfiltered ideas sketched with pen and paper. The goal is to explore as many ideas as possible without becoming attached to any particular one. I do not show clients my thumbnail sketches as their primitive state can be misinterpreted and cause confusion.

result: a very large number of small sketches.
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5. Sketching Roughs (visualize)

Examining the sketches against the creative brief, thumbnails that show potential are explored further with pen and paper to a point where I am confident that time should be spent refining them on the computer using Adobe Illustrator. As with thumbnails, I do not show roughs to clients during the creative process.

result: a number of rough concepts with potential.
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6. Preliminary Identity Concepts (visualize)

Concepts are refined until they are at a stage that clearly communicates the desired message. The refined ideas are developed to show how the identity works when scaled large and small, in reverse, in black, and in color. While the concepts may look finished, more time will need to be spent on refinement, typography, color, etc., to reach a stage where they are complete.

result: a small number of well-thought out and refined identity concepts.
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7. Presentation and Feedback (gather/analyze)

The preliminary identity concepts are provided as PDF files via Email with a brief commentary for each design. If there are questions, or if the client would like to discuss the project over the phone, I am available to do so. By referring to the creative brief and taking the time necessary to reflect, one design is selected by the client for further refinement. Changes to the selected design usually include scale, balance, font and color.

result: selected identity concept (considered version 1.0) with requested revisions by client.
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8. Identity v1.1 (analyze/visualize)

Changes are incorporated into the identity as well as any refinements necessary, including type color choices. (All requests are examined against the creative brief and creative direction to ensure appropriateness. I make sure they strengthen, not harm, the integrity of the design.)

result: PDF of Identity v1.1
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9. Presentation and Feedback (gather/analyze)

The revised identity is delivered to the client as a PDF file via Email. Referring to the creative brief and creative direction, the client may have slight modifications they would like me to explore further.

result: requested revisions to Identity v1.1 by client.
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10. Identity v1.2 (analyze/visualize)

The changes are incorporated into the final identity. (All requests are examined against the creatibe brief and creative direction to ensure appropriateness. I also make sure they strengthen, not harm, the integrity of the design.)

result: PDF of Identity v1.2
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11. Presentation and Feedback (gather/analyze)

Identity v1.2 is provided as a PDF file via Email and receives client approval.

result: Final Identity approval by client.
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12. Delivery

All final files are sent to the client via Email or ftp, including various digital formats of the identity. Also transferred to the client at this time are full rights and ownership of the visual brand identity.
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13. Additional Materials

At this stage we can begin to design business cards, letterhead and other collateral.
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14. Follow-Up and Support

After the project is completed, I keep in touch and am available to answer any questions regarding the use of the identity.
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