The Most Effective Design Process:
If you remember from a previous Building The Brand episode, touchpoints are places where you communicate your brand to the consumer.
They allow customers to have experiences every time they “touch” any part of your product, service, or organization, across multiple channels and various points in time.
To properly design these touchpoints, there are some very important steps of the design process to make it go smoothly from an idea, to a finished product.
Launching a website, creating a social media ad campaign, designing a printed brochure, or any other design project requires a well-defined and implemented creative strategy in place to be your guide.
The following steps, if followed properly, will allow you or your creative team to complete any design project with confidence, knowing that the end product will achieve the goals defined in the creative brief.
This strategy and process will apply to any campaign or brand touchpoint your company needs to design.
Whether it’s a website, social media post, print advertisement, product packaging, or logo design.
Design Step #1: Review Your Creative Brief
A creative brief is the foundation for any marketing campaign or design project.
It establishes the guidelines for the entire project.
It includes the project’s overview, direction, mission, goals, challenges, audience, messaging, competitive advantage, timeline, specifications, success metrics, and key stakeholders.
Essentially, the creative brief describes the “what”, or objectives of the project, and the “how”, or the creative approach, to achieve it.
So, if you don’t currently have a creative brief, now is the time to write one, before you begin any design project.
The first thing you need to determine by reviewing the creative brief is what exactly needs to be designed, and what are the end goals the organization is trying to achieve.
In other words, what will make the project a success?
After you know what needs to be done, make a list of questions you have about the project.
- What resources will the designers need?
- Is the timeline achievable?
- What team members or departments need to be involved?
- Is this project even necessary based on the brand vision?
- What challenges could occur?
- How can you make this project better?
Make sure you are clear on the project’s objective, and all your questions have been answered to your satisfaction before you continue.
Design Step #2: Research & Inspiration
Now that the designers have reviewed the creative brief, and they know what is expected from them, it’s time to embark on some market research.
This step of the process involves gathering as much information as possible to help influence and inspire design decisions.
To help consolidate and structure the research process, let’s break it down into 4 phases.
Phase 1 research should focus on Secondary sources.
These are books, magazines, and websites not associated with your business, brand, or competitors.
Phase 2 research should focus on Primary sources.
These are sources of inspiration that apply directly to you. For example, your visual brand guidelines, your competition, or successful projects that you have already completed. Also bring in other team members to offer input from their perspective.
Phase 3 research should include Action inspiration.
This is when you start to experiment with some design ideas based on your research so far. This is VERY broad strokes, nothing refined, just get the design juices flowing.
Phase 4 research should focus on Personal inspiration.
This is anything personal that helps you get inspired. It may not even be design related. It could be a walk in the woods to clear your mind, or a conversation with a mentor who can help focus your thoughts.
The research stage can become very overwhelming. So be sure to constantly take notes, collect information, and sketch out some basic ideas.
This will help you revisit these initial inspiring ideas throughout the entire design process.
Also remember that you are not just doing research to find ideas that you like, but also what you do not want your designs to look like.
Design Step #3: Brainstorm
Next up, before anyone begins actually designing anything, you should gather your entire creative team, as well as any other key stakeholders involved in the project, and have a collaborative brainstorming session.
The goal here is to put pen to paper (or whatever method works best for you) and spontaneously generate some creative ideas to solve the problem.
Doing this in an open forum with the entire team will create the best environment and opportunity for the greatest ideas to be presented.
Make it clear to your team that there are no bad ideas. Not all of them will be brilliant, but you may find some diamonds in the rough that you never considered.
Design Step #4: Generate Ideas
This is where the design process actually starts to look like design.
Take the ideas that you generated during your brainstorming sessions, and sketch out how these ideas might look.
If the project is for a logo design, start sketching out some symbols, lettermarks, or emblems.
If the project is a website, sketch out the layout, content, and navigation of the pages.
Keep these sketches really simple and separate all the individual elements. You will refine and combine these preliminary visual ideas later on.
Repeat this several times. The goal is to generate as many sketches as you can, as quickly as possible.
Eventually you will begin gaining an idea of how you want your design to take shape.
Design Step #5: Design Concepts
Now that you have brainstormed and generated some ideas, you should have a fairly clear idea of what is going to work, and what is not going to work.
So let’s have some fun.
Launch your preferred design application, and begin to design some concepts.
Aim to achieve 5-10 concepts based on the requirements of the project.
If it’s a logo, design 5-10 different logo designs based off of your sketches.
If the project calls for a web page design, create 5-10 different layouts and wireframes.
These are not final designs at this point, just an evolution from your sketches where you begin to apply your brand colors, typography, graphics, and style.
This is also a good time to go back and review your creative brief to verify that you and your team are still on track to achieve the original goal.
Design Step #6: is to Refine the Design Concepts
After you’ve had fun exploring and experimenting, it’s time to refine your designs.
You should now have about 5-10 design concepts to evaluate.
Begin by self-critique your work. Look at what you’ve designed so far and see if it exceeds the requirements of the brief, and fulfills the project goals.
Compare it to your market research.
- Is it applicable to your target audience?
- Does it stand out enough amongst the competition?
Next, gather your entire team once again to review what has been designed so far.
During this collaborative review, narrow down the concepts to your top 2-4 designs.
Then, take these top designs and refine them even more based on the feedback you received from your team.
By the end of this step, you should have a couple of very well refined design concepts.
Design Step #7: Review and Get Feedback
This could potentially be the most disappointing part of the design process, getting feedback from the team, and all the stakeholders involved.
However, if you have followed this process the T, consistently revisited the creative brief, and accepted input and advice during the initial design steps, this review should go fairly smoothly.
When presenting your design be sure to restate the goals, and explain the decisions that were made at each stage, so that everyone understands the choices made and why the designs look like they do.
Allow everyone to give their honest opinions and feedback.
Of course, you may not always agree with what they say, but take everything that is said as constructive.
Design Step #8: Revise and Refine the Final Design
Evaluate all the feedback you received from the design review and choose a final design concept to move forward with. Make some decisions about what needs to change, and what does not need to change.
Remember, not all the individual opinions will be valid. You need to manage the design change requests based on the scope of the creative brief.
If the request does not fulfill, or add to the goal of the creative brief, it should not be applied to the design.
Take this time to revise and refine your final design..
Design Step #8.5: Development
Ok, so this is a half step that only applies to websites.
If your design project is a web page design, now is the time where you would begin the development stage.
This is the process of taking your static page design and building it out into an interactive web page.
This is the point in the design process where you will need to bring in your development team to keep the project moving forward.
Design Step #9 : Test and Critique – Round 1
Now that your final design has been completed or your website has been developed, it’s time for the first round of testing.
If this is a graphic design or print project, critique and proof the design before going to print.
Check the grammar and spelling of text content, confirm that all the colors and fonts are on-brand, and make sure the layout is visually pleasing.
If this is a digital web design project, test each web page on multiple browsers and operating systems to confirm that all content is displaying properly.
Test all links, menus, and buttons to make sure they are all linked correctly.
Verify that all brand colors, fonts, logos, and styles are consistent with your visual brand guidelines.
Document everything, and fix any errors you find in the design or functionality.
Design Step #10: Beta Launch or Proof Print
Once all the errors, mistakes, and broken links have been fixed, it’s time to either launch a beta version of your website, or print a proof of your design.
Be sure to work with the printer who will be producing your final product so that you receive an actual representation of the paper stock, colors, texture, binding, and any other special print applications that are required.
If this is an online project, use a staging environment on the actual platform and server that your final website will be hosted on.
This will allow a seamless transition later when you are ready to go live.
Design Step #11: Final Test and Critique
Complete one final test and critique before it’s time to go live or go to final production print.
This is when you test, test, and re-test everything again.
For printed designs, this is your last chance to make any edits or fixes before it’s too late.
For web designs, you will always have the flexibility to fix and make edits at any time.
However, you still want your official launch to go as smoothly as possible.
There’s nothing worse than announcing a big launch, and having the website crash or have broken links.
Remember, the first impression of your brand will dictate, within a matter of seconds, whether or not the consumer will perceive your brand as trustworthy.
Design Step #12: Go Live or Final Print
Well, that’s about it. If you have followed this design process, then you are now ready to pull the trigger with confidence.
So go ahead and send that amazing design to the printer, or push that key and launch your new website.
To continue your training and dive deeper and learn more about how to design all your brands’ consumer touchpoints, check out my free 7 Day Brand Bootcamp by enrolling below or by visiting 7DayBrandBootcamp.com.
I’ll see you there!
CLICK HERE to Learn More >>