A step-by-step look at how I work with clients to create awesome design they love.
How does an awesome design project get made? Here is a process I follow that combines creative thinking with client feedback to ensure a final product that everyone loves.
Project request: “Help! I need a design!”
Usually, I’ll get project requests from clients via email, if I’m not already working with a team and using a collaboration tool such as Slack.
For new clients, I’ll draft an invoice for an initial 50% installment of the project fee, which secures a slot in my schedule. I’ll outline a basic project timeline that sets expectations for both sides. The fee is based on the amount of time I expect to spend on the project and it covers any expenses I might incur to get started.
A quiz show with no wrong answers
I send new clients a questionnaire that helps determine what the best overall route is, which helps me become familiar with the client. I might interview them on the phone or in person, but often, email is sufficient. This process reveals how familiar the client is with the design process as well as the overall result they are looking for. I’ll ask questions about style, color, mood, requested symbolism, audience psychographics, and more.
Based on feedback received in the questionnaire phase, I’ll explore other logos in the same genre, or in other fields. Sometimes I’ll see a color, pattern, or symbol in someplace completely unrelated and it will inspire me in a surprising way. That’s the mind of an artist at work: making unlikely connections into something interesting.
Once I have a general idea of what the client wants to achieve, I’ll do sketches on paper. It’s tempting to go straight to the computer, but I do my best thinking with a pen in hand! I’m very proficient with digital tools, but I have always been much faster at expressing an idea with a pen and paper than with digital tools. It helps me thinking in broad terms without getting bogged down by details too early in the process.
How many sketches are enough? It’s hard to say. “As many as needed” sounds somewhat blasé, but it’s true. I’ll do hundreds of sketches in order to arrive at a handful of strong ideas. I believe in quantity over quality. I provide the quantity, and the universe provides the quality.
Sometimes I will share these sketches with the client, but more often than not, I’ll refine my sketches digitally into three or so key, distinctive concepts built in black and white. I might start exploring color at this point, but it really depends on how much time is available or how well I know the client. If a design is strong in black and white, it will be strong in color.
Finally, a digital design the client gets to see
After about two weeks of developing these sketches and refining them to three or so strong concepts, I email them to the client, along with a short explanation of my thought process. A week or so later, I’ll get an email back from the client. At this point, the choices are narrowed down to one, and adjustments are requested.
Further refinements are made and requested for about 2 more rounds until the design is in line with what the client wants. Most of the time, I’m able to get projects to the final phase in about three rounds of revisions.
Ding ding ding, we have a winner!
By now, we have a final design. Once I receive the final 50% installment of the project fee, I’ll package it up in the appropriate format, and send it to the appropriate place. If it is part of a web design project, it gets uploaded to the website. If the project is a logo, various files will be made and zipped into a single file that can then be used where needed. If it is a print project, a final PDF will be sent to the printer.
In the end, it’s all about communication
Most designers work in a similar fashion, but I think the secret sauce is in two areas: the client-designer relationship, and the idea stage where the sketches happen. Great design happens when a client and designer can communicate well with each other.