The Design Process

I went to college for graphic design. I absolutely love it. Recently one of my professors told me that maybe I just work better on my own terms. Being obstreperous that’s probably true. I like to think I’m a team player but even when I play soccer I’m most effective being that integral middle man rather than scoring a bunch. There’s probably a metaphor in there for being a renowned assist man.

I’ve been reading a lot lately about business stuff. I’ve started looking more into entrepreneurial things. I’ve been thinking about more about project management as I organize my day to day agenda it becomes easier to see things on a base level and how they’ll affect other facets of my day. I’ve been reading a lot of graphic design related materials too. One of the biggest things, aside from organization, that I keep coming to is about maintaining a design process.

A combination of routine, organization, creative process, and building toward the end product. Gestalt was a word that stuck to me very heavily in college. It’s the psychology of seeing the sum of all the parts. I do this pretty well. I think being able to multi-task well helps me be able to focus on several elements at the same time and figure out a way to bring it all together.

My creative process always worked more in word webs. I got told in college that this project needed 20 thumbnails and this one needs 35 thumbnails. So I spent 3 years in college drawing tiny doodles of page layouts, “wireframes”, etc when one day after working two of my three college jobs I hadn’t had time to turn in thumbnails. But I had probably 3 full pages of word webs. Rather than having 20 ideas in thumbnails, I probably had 150 in a word web. I’d often struggled to hit a target of 20-35+ thumbnails. I’d usually get ten or so and blank because I was thinking it ways to show it in a small wireframe rather than thinking I can use this same shape and show a pirate, a cat, a hamburger, etc. My professor saw this and was astounded. I’d made word webs before but still got stuck on the layouts for things. Now I have probably 250 wireframes, layouts, UX/UI samples for desktops and mobile devices pinned the wall in front of my work station. Spatial arrangement is as important as the content. I don’t have a problem with this anymore. I now realize that I can list off 600 things for a job, sort that down into things that might be relevant to the task at hand, then organize the remaining 25+ into an organized layout for a logo, wireframe, UX sample, etc.

Your process needs to be about building something. I work best when I understand something from it’s smallest point. I didn’t get that in chemistry, one atom was hydrogen, then it got another atom it became helium until like a year ago. Then, chemistry clicked and I understood it. It’s stupid and minuscule, but that’s my process. I know that my creative process takes longer for me than even building my project. I work pretty quickly. Another hard part is how does building something CMYK versus RGB affect how it’s printed or how it’s viewed on the web. What time of finish should your print material have? How is it folded? Is there a package? How does the package relate to the logo, to the product inside? The Gestalt of it. It’s project management. From working in restaurants and print shops I’ve learned how integral it is to understand how something affects something. When I get a job with 2 hours to do it because someone was at lunch for an extra hour, how can I manage this to get it out the door without any hiccups in finishing, packaging, transportation, etc? It’s a revolving door. Restaurant work requires an incredible amount of cohesion and continuity.

This isn’t quite the decision making process of adjusting a receptor for information and how that effects the CSRs as an end user, the IT maintenance, the cost of the build, how long it’ll take, is the build worth the efficiency boost based on time consumption, cost, etc? The creative process isn’t to that extent because it usually isn’t going to take months to complete a task unless you’re a large company and a sales rep sells branding, with a full web site down to the mobile, tablet versions, along with SEO management, avatars for social media, setting up social media; and another person has to manage that a CSR probably. That person then gives it to the creative director who now needs to organize by time and cost the branding before you can move into print materials, avatars, blogs, web sites, etc.

It’s all part of the process. Finding our yours and doing it as a routine is vital. You’ll build your best results from maintaining a consistent routine and organization in your process. I’ve had ideas come to me last second that were the best idea I had for a project. Those were largely due to realizing failures and flaws along the way. That’s going to happen to. Give your process time to sort through the failures and flaws. Give a client or boss a reasonable time frame. I tend to overshoot it on the timeline because I expect hiccups along the way. It’s a personal quip and make no mistake I work very well under pressure; but given the chance I’m going to overshoot a time frame.

A lot of work is continuity. I preached and preached this at my last job because there was such a huge disconnect from department to department and no real managerial structure to bring it all back together. So I always tried to handle any task that I was capable of without bothering anyone above me unless I really needed permission for something. Continuity in your work is the same. It goes back to the gestalt of it all. How does your process flow? Does it generate to a final product? What are the consistent elements along the way? How is each part different but all still tied together?

I have a hundred ideas around my room, in notebooks, and thumbtacked to a wall that’ll never see the light of day. Some of them will service as an immediate result for a project that just I know will just click as soon as I read the design brief; but that’s just luck. There are a hundred other jobs that will require a design brief and 5 word webs to get 10 solid ideas to work from. That’s my process. It requires a lot of building and a lot of routine and organization to make a quality consistent along the board. Everything you do will require a lot of work. Find something that you’re passionate about and crush it!

“Don’t ask for it, go out and win it. Do that and you’ll be reward.”
Eureka 7