Creativity, brainstorming, and drawing are my best allies, and I couldn’t possibly get by without paper, pencil, my trusty computer, and awesome design software. Over the years, I have developed my own unique way of working, and I know it like the back of my hand.
However, I recognize that for most of you non-designers, the creative process is as mysterious and distant as the planet Pluto. So without further ado, here are your most frequently asked questions, answered straight from the depths of my (creative, design-loving) mind:
Q: Where do you get your inspiration?
A: From everything around me. I observe colors, patterns, and shapes, in both nature and man-made objects. All of those details get tucked away in my brain (mostly involuntarily), and a few of them may later become inspiration for a design. I especially love to linger in the greeting card aisle at the grocery store, observing all the different colors, styles, and creative uses of embellishments such as glitter and metallic foil.
Q: How do you come up with ideas for your designs? Do they pop into your head out of nowhere, or develop over time?
A: I very rarely have a complete idea pop up from nothing. Most of the time, I get little inspirations here and there, and then they come together to form an idea. Sometimes this happens over a few minutes, and sometimes it takes a few hours or days. When I sit down to brainstorm, depending on the situation I may close my eyes and think, glance around the room for inspiration, or draw doodles; either way, I work with my thoughts and pencil and paper to develop ideas. Occasionally an idea will come to me at an odd time, like the middle of the night, and I will immediately write it down (or draw it), so it will be there waiting for me when I return to work.
Q: What steps do you take to turn your ideas into completed designs? Do you have a standard process?
A: After I’ve developed an idea, I do several small sketches with paper and pencil; that way, I can quickly try different layouts, arrangements, and variations, and develop a better design than the one I originally saw in my mind’s eye. Once I have a good solid design on paper, I move to my computer and start creating the different parts of the design and laying out a rough draft. From there, I refine, change, and add to the design until I’m completely satisfied with it. Depending on the project, I may create multiple rough draft concepts for my client to choose from, and then complete several rounds of revisions on their chosen concept, before reaching the final design. In all cases, I give my clients the opportunity to give feedback and request changes to the rough draft, and also to the final draft.
Q: Once you have an idea for a design, is the path to create it pretty straightforward, or does it have a lot of twists and turns?
A: Occasionally I’ll design something that turns out exactly as I drew it on paper, with little or no changes made to it, but usually there are more twists and turns involved. I’ll discover a better way of laying out the design, or end up using different colors than I expected. I plan out the design on paper, but once it starts coming to life on my computer, I have to be flexible and adapt to changes and unexpected results. More often than not, the unexpected path leads to an even better design than the one I had originally envisioned.
Q: Does your process vary depending on the medium you’re designing for?
A: Yes. Each medium has different requirements that I take into consideration:
With print items, such as a business card or a wedding invitation, I first determine the size, shape, and folds, and what paper it will be printed on. With that information, I can then come up with a design that will not only look good on my computer screen, but most importantly, will look fantastic when it’s printed.
When designing a website, I map out the pages beforehand, so I can see how they will link to one another. Before creating the design, I also plan for what types of content will be on each page, and if there will be interactive elements (such as slideshows or videos) that need special consideration.
Logos are used in a variety of mediums, so they need to look great both onscreen and on paper, and must look sharp in large formats such as billboards but still be legible on small items like business cards. For that reason, I spend a lot of time brainstorming, drawing, and testing my ideas, to ensure that the final logo will meet all those requirements.
For specific examples of my design process, check out these posts:
Thought Process: CreativeGem Designs business card
Getting ready for Easter…
Awesome wedding invitation, plus wedding items on Etsy
Thanks for reading!
About Barbara Austin
As the graphic designer & founder of Sweet Dreamz Design, Barbara loves working with women entrepreneurs to brand their businesses. She shares a variety of small business advice and anecdotes here on the blog. Check back every week for new tips, inspirations, and how-to articles, or subscribe to get regular updates in your inbox each week!