5 Steps for a Great Design Process

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One of the many tools in a designer’s wheelhouse is having a design process. Developing a design process is extremely important for establishing an efficient workflow. It will keep you well organized and sane.

The process will likely change from project to project, meaning a step could be shortened or skipped, depending on the complexity of the project. For instance, when designing a visual identity for a new company, you would probably follow your entire design process. However, if you’re designing a Google ad for yourself or a company you work for, you’ll most likely skip a few steps (especially if you already have templates designed for ads). Most designer’s will have a process similar to the one I use:

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1. Discovery

The first step of the process is understanding the project. Ask the client as many questions as you can so you know the expectations and scope of work. Next, do research about the client, their business, the industry, and target market to better understand how to go about solving the problem. Keep this research handy throughout the process so you can refer back to it if you get stuck along the way.

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2. Ideation

Once you compile as much research as you can about the project, gather inspiration from design books or by browsing the internet (e.g. Pinterest and Instagram). Jot down ideas and sketches and start saving images you find online into a mood board to define the look and feel of the project until you’re ready to start fleshing out your ideas in Photoshop or Illustrator. At this point, you should have dozens – or even hundreds – of ideas sketched out to begin working with. Don’t worry about drawing things perfectly. As long as you understand what your sketches mean, you can refine them later. The most important thing here is to get as many things out of your brain as possible.

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3. Creation

Next, start working in Photoshop or Illustrator and try to flesh out as many ideas as you can quickly and refine the ones you like best later. You might work on several of the ideas you came up with in Step 2 and then choose one or a few solid ideas that you think work best. If you’re using Photoshop, ALWAYS set up a grid. Grids are important to make sure your designs have proper balance and alignment. It also frees your mind from having to worry if things are lined up properly. If using Illustrator to create a logo or icons, look into the “Golden Ratio” or “Fibonacci Sequence” for a great way to make perfectly proportioned graphics every time.

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4. Refinement

Once you’ve found an approach that you really like, spend time refining and tweaking your design until you feel it is “finished.” Follow basic design principles and always make sure that you never use a font “out of the box”, meaning you should adjust the kerning, leading, etc. to make it look as “custom” as possible. Check out my blog on Design Principles to make sure you remember to follow them and that your designs are the best they can be!

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5. Feedback

At this point, take a step back from the project for a while so you can look at it with fresh eyes and get feedback from other people. Once you receive feedback, make any suggested adjustments that make sense and go back for more feedback. Rinse, repeat, and you’re done! Remember that you don’t have to make adjustments based on people’s feedback, but you should always be open to what they have to say. You wouldn’t want to miss out on a great idea because you couldn’t take feedback.


I hope this helps you develop your design process. For more helpful info like this, check out my other blog posts!

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