Solid research is what makes good design great. Good design doesn’t happen by chance. A good designer will do plenty of research to ensure a solid design.

Solid research removes unnecessary back-and-forth, which wears out both designer and client. (If you’ve ever seen “Revision 17” on a project, you know exactly what I’m talking about.)

Start with a solid exploratory session

When I work with a brand-new client, I like to find out what they are all about. This may come in the form of an interview or a questionnaire. What do they stand for? What are they against? What sets them apart from their competition?

After understanding their culture and audience, I dig into design matters, such as colors and fonts and imagery. This exploration session helps expedite the design process by removing guesswork in all stages of development.

Research the competition to find out what others in the same field/industry are doing

Are there certain visual hints in this particular industry? Book covers are an area where a certain look comes to mind when you mention a specific genre. Business books have a different look from romance novels, right? But within those genres, how do you set them apart? Understanding the industry’s visual cliches gives a framework to work within. It also shows you which rules to break in order to stand out from the crowd.

Research graphic design trends

Some designs might look dated as soon as they come out, like they were borrowed from last year’s design annual. Some designs look fresh right now, but next year they will look stale. Some will look dated in five years. Does that matter? It depends. Trends are a good way to make predictions and be stylish at the right time. But they’re also a good way to look just like everybody else. It’s important to pay attention to trends, because they tell you more than just what’s popular. A discerning trend-watcher knows how to read between the lines: what do the trends say about the marketplace or industry?

Research the best options for the design’s application

Unless it stays in a sketchbook, design doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Design is always applied in some way. If a designer is designing a website, she needs to be sure the design gets used in best Content Management System for the client and their needs. If a designer is designing something for print, he needs to be sure the right vendor is printing it on the best paper. It’s really about what’s appropriate for the client and their audience. Good designers do due diligence on the best software, production processes, vendors, etc.

Good design isn’t just thrown together.

It requires a lot of effort to make a good design. It takes talent, for sure. But the best-looking design by the most talented designer will be for naught if it’s out of place in some way. Sometimes the best-performing design is the most invisible.

Photo by Nik MacMillan on Unsplash

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