For any design team, having an established graphic design process will lead to better designs, higher output and most importantly, remove a lot of potential frustration. If you’re leading graphic designers or looking to hire your own, this article will walk through:
Let’s get started!
What is a graphic design process? It’s the steps or phases taken in order to get a design to move from idea, to finished product.
Sounds easy, right? Well, there’s a lot more that goes into making this process smooth and effective. When everything flows together, though, your team will be able to output designs faster and more efficiently (and likely be a lot happier, too).
Whether you’re creating a solid process for the first time or looking to refine an existing one, here are 5 graphic design process steps to consider:
The creative brief sets the tone for the entire project. It's the first and arguably one of the most important steps in the visual design process.
A creative brief is a document that’s aimed to help the designer understand the scope of the project and what’s needed from them. You’ll want to include as much relevant information as possible to reduce any confusion, and as a result, back and forth.
Be sure to include the following in your brief:
Check out Co-Schedule’s creative brief template.
We also recommend going over creative briefs in person or over video if the project is more complex. This allows both parties to iron out any uncertainties to ensure everyone is on the same page.
Depending on the scope of the project, you’ll want to include as much valuable information in your creative brief to minimize the time spent in this step. However, it’s still extremely valuable for designers to go through the researching phase themselves to build a better understanding of the audience they’re designing for (and how to make it work for you).
The research phase of the graphic design process often involves things like:
Designers may also want to create a mood board or collection of comparable designs at this stage in order to get their ideas flowing. More on that below!
Before a designer goes full-throttle into a project, have them brainstorm some ideas and present them to you. This will minimize any frustration throughout the creative process. Don’t forget to outline this step in your creative brief!
If the project owner (who created the brief) has really strong ideas on how the final designs should look, it’s best for them to add in any relevant links or inspiration into the brief for optimal clarity.
Once the designer presents 3-5 ideas from their brainstorming session, decide on which one you want to move forward with. This will make for a smooth graphic design workflow process that gets you the best results, fast.
When determining your milestones in your creative brief, be sure to check in with designers throughout the design process. The 10/50/99 feedback process ensures that you’re checking in at the most crucial parts of a project, allowing you to give the right feedback at the right time:
Often, people will break these review rules and start giving feedback on things like color choice or fonts at a stage where the designer has only outlined a skeleton. This is not only frustrating for the designer, it’s unproductive! Make sure to follow the above design review stages to keep your projects moving along smoothly.
Yay! The design is complete. It’s time to get the final files (and invoice if working with an external design resource) and put the designs into action. If you want to go the extra mile, ask your designer for feedback on how they found the process, what they feel could be improved or tweaked and then iterate your process. Over time, you’ll be able to scale your design process effectively.
When you provide the right feedback at the right time, not only will you make it a positive experience for designers, but you’ll receive a better final result, too. Giving feedback is super important to the design process, but the way you deliver it is what will bring your vision to life.
Your designers aren’t mind readers. Feedback is the best piece of communication you can offer to help bring your vision to life. If the design doesn’t reflect your brand, provide that feedback.
But giving feedback isn't just about what you say, it's how you say it. Always remember to lead with empathy and work with your designers to help them, help you.
According to UX Collective, here are some things you should consider when giving design feedback:
Overall, the key to giving good design feedback is being clear and giving examples or references. Don’t assume designers will understand what you mean when you say things like, “This needs to be more exciting.”
Getting a lot of unproductive feedback on your designs lately? The best way to ensure you’re getting the right kind of feedback is to walk your client or colleague through what good feedback looks like (and doesn’t). Provide examples of feedback that you’ve received in the past that you’ve found clear, helpful and moved the project forward (without making you want to rip your hair out).
If you’re not sure where to start, try outlining:
Oh, and you can also share this blog with anyone who needs a refresher on optimal graphic design processes and feedback tips!
There’s a quote by Milton Glaser, a famous American graphic designer (who created the I ❤ NY logo), “There are three responses to a piece of design — yes, no, and WOW! Wow is the one to aim for.”
When you successfully utilize the basic principles of graphic design, you’re more likely to hit that WOW factor. There are a lot of graphic design principles to consider, but let’s walk through nine of the most impactful ones.
This can be symmetrical, when the weight of elements is evenly divided in the design, or asymmetrical, which uses scale, contract and color to achieve balance and flow in the design.
Proximity describes the relationship between elements within a design based and the distance between them.
Alignment focuses on how all of the different elements within your design are lined up in relation to one another (such as left-aligned, centre-aligned, etc).
Visual hierarchy can be achieved through tactics like using bold or large fonts to make one element of the design more prominent than the others. It’s intended to allow the viewer to consume your design in the order that you intend them to.
This is extremely effective when done across multiple designs (I.e. branding!). Repetition is a great way to tie elements of a brand to any design that’s associated with it, which makes it easy for people to associate a design with a company.
Have you ever seen neon green text on top of a neon orange background? Well, if you have you probably didn’t say WOW with enthusiasm. Contrast ensures that the elements in your design are legible.
Sitepoint puts it best, “In advertising and design, color is used to grab attention and stimulate interest in ways that would be difficult to create by any other means.”
You don’t need to fill the whole canvas. In fact, negative space can be really powerful when it comes to highlighting certain components of your design and making them stand out.
This design principle focuses more on how you arrange the letters and text to make the design visually appealing to the reader. Is the text legible and clear? Try playing around with things like font style, appearance and structure to convey your message.
When you’re bringing on designers, it’s important that you have a graphic design process established. This will reduce your project timelines, lead to better designs, and best of all, impact your bottom line (for the better). You can also follow this DesignOps guide to start streamlining your creative process.
If you need help sourcing amazing designers, Superside can help. With turnaround times as little as 12-24 hours, think of us as your extended design team. Book a call to learn more.
We sat down with Bill Macaitis, former Slack CMO, to chat about what it takes to success with ad design. Hear his tips and more in this Q&A style interview!