Friday, March 22, 2013

The Graphic Design Process

The Graphic Design Process
The Benefit of the Graphic Design Process

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 designs.

Gather Information
Before you can start a project you of course need to know what your client needs. 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. Be sure to gather as much information as possible:
Aside from the product your client needs (such as a logo or a website), ask questions such as:
  • Who is the audience?
  • What is the message?
  • How many pages is the piece?
  • What are the dimensions?
  • Is there a specific budget?
  • Is there a deadline for completion?
  • Can the client provide examples of design they like?
  • Is there an existing corporate brand that needs to be matched?
Take detailed notes, which you can use later for the next step of the design process.
Create an Outline
Using the information collected in your meeting you'll be able to develop an outline of the content and goal of the project, which you can present to your client for approval before proceeding. For a website, include all of the major sections and the content for each. Include the dimensions and technical specifications for print or web work as well. Present this outline to your client, and ask for any changes. Once this is finalized, you know you are in agreement on what the piece will include and can proceed to the next step of the graphic design process.
NOTE: It is at this time that you would provide a proposal to your client as well, including the cost and timeframe for the work, but here we are focusing on the design process.

Harness Your Creativity!
Design should be creative! Before moving on to the design itself (don't worry, that's next) take some time to think about creative solutions for the project. You can use the client's examples of favorite work as guidelines for what they like and don't like, but your goal should be to come up with something new and different that will separate them from the rest (unless of course they specifically asked to fit in). Ways to get the creative juices flowing include:
  • Brainstorming: Get together with a group and throw out any and all ideas
  • Visit a museum: Get inspired by the originals
  • Read a book: Something as small as a color or shape in a graphic design book could spark a completely original idea
  • Take a walk: Sometimes its best to get outside and watch the never know what will spark your imagination
  • Draw: Even if you're not an "artist," doodle some ideas on a page
Once you have some ideas for the project it's time to start creating a structured layout.

Sketches and Wireframes
Before moving into a software program such as Illustrator or InDesign, it is helpful to create some simple sketches of the layout of a piece. This way, you can show your client some ideas without spending too much time on design. Find out if you are headed in the right direction by providing quick sketches of logo concepts, line drawings of layouts showing where elements will be placed on the page or even a quick handmade version of a package design. For web design, wireframes are a great way to start with your page layouts.
Design Multiple Versions

·         Now that you've done your research, finalized your content and gotten approval on some sketches you can move on to the actual design phases of the graphic design process. While you may knock out the final design in one shot, it's usually a good idea to present your client with at least two versions of a design. You can agree on how many unique versions are included in a job in your proposal. This gives the client some options and allows you to combine their favorite elements from each.
·         TIP: Be sure to keep even the versions or ideas that you choose NOT to present and that you might not even like at the time, as you never know when they'll come in handy.

Be sure to let your client know that you encourage "mixing and matching" the designs you provide. They may like the background color on one design and the font choices on another. From their suggestions you can present a second round of design. Don't be afraid to give your opinion on what looks best...after all, you're the designer! After this second round, it isn't uncommon to have a couple more rounds of changes before reaching a final design.
Stick to the Steps
When following these steps, be sure to finish each one before moving on to the next. If you conduct solid research, you know you can create an accurate outline. With an accurate outline, you have the information necessary to sketch out some ideas. With the approval of these ideas,

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