Today I just wanted to give a little insight into my design process. Whether you’re a client looking to work with a designer, you are currently working with a designer, wanting to work with me or a designer yourself, I hope this blog post gives you a little insight into the process and how I like to work with my clients. I like my process to be really straight forward, easy, collaborative process. I make sure my clients are able to voice their opinions every step of the way! My process is constantly upgrading as I find new and better ways to give my clients the best experience possible.
I work with a client management system called Dubsado, if you don’t know what Dubsado is, it’s pretty much the most important tool I use for my business after my Adobe Programmes. I can send invoices, look over my money, make to do’s, workflows, contracts, proposals. But the best part, the client portal. I can add concepts to review with specific questions for my clients to answer, they can view all of the things I’ve sent them all in one place and so can I, along with all their feedback and comments. No trailing for ages to find ‘the email’. This makes communication so much easier during the project and it’s so helpful for my clients to be able to view everything in one place at any time.
Now onto my process, I have two design packages. My packages are slightly unique in terms of their time frame. It’s quite common for a branding projects to normally last anywhere between 4-8 weeks. I’ve tried this out previously and it just doesn’t work for me, nor does it work for my clients. I don’t want to be dragging out a project and mixing it with loads of business tasks and end up losing motivation, inspiration or concentration. I don’t want my clients to be sat waiting weeks for the next thing to review. I want them to be pumped, engaged and full of inspiration. For me, not only has the two-week process been a blessing for my business in terms of being able to schedule my business in a way that suits me, but projects become more passionate and inspiring. I do only work on a work project at a time to ensure each one has my full focus. I also take 2 weeks off between each project so I can do whatever business, admin, marketing work for my business to ensure that doesn’t interfere with my client work.
After a client has inquired, booked their date, paid their invoice and signed their contract, I send them over a client questionnaire and mood board homework. Due to getting booked up months in advance, I like to send these to my clients straight away so they can get pumped about the upcoming project. They can take their time, review the information and adjust it at any time. The client questionnaire asks all kinds of very important questions about their business. Like who they are, what they stand for, who their audience is. But also things about how they are going to grow their business, who they want to impress and what kind of effect should their new brand have on those people. These are incredibly important questions and ones that every designer should be wanting to know before working on your project. It’s these questions that will determine which way your project will go. It’s these questions your designer will research on, work with and translate that into a design. These questions will determine everything down to font choice, illustration style and even your colour palette. How do designers do that? Lots of experience, tons to learning and even more practice. Probably having to invest a lot of money into that education too.
Next, I will send them a mood board exercise where they will create a mood board and with their CLIENTS in mind, they will pin what they think them and their audience will love to see. In terms of interior, colours, fonts, patterns. Although I do love to make sure that each client loves their brand, the purpose of the design is not to please my client, it’s to please their audience. End of the day, it’s the audience and customers who are allowing them to run their business, that’s where they get their income from, they are the most important person that this brand should effect. But, I like to take my clients personal preferences into consideration so I can balance the brand to suit both of them if I can.
During the weeks or months leading up to the project I take my time to make notes from the questionnaire and mood board, I make note of anything that pops into my head. I research the clients market, their audience, their competitors, their business and anything they’ve mentioned that stands out. I take these notes and make more notes on about certain design elements that could communicate correctly for their business. I make note of colours, styles and any inspiration that I think will work. I then start sketching straight away, pages and pages of concepts. Some terrible with crosses through them, making notes on each concept as I go in regards to why it does or doesn’t work for the client I’m working with.
Next step is the project start date! This is when designing and client collaboration begins. I start with pulling together a mood board for them and just checking that the images I curated from their Pinterest board are an accurate representation of what they should feel when they look at their new brand. Once approved I then move onto a colour palette, I work with Pantone colours and I find the colours that I feel represent their business, I usually work with at most 5 colours, usually, 2 are light neutrals. But the fewer colours, the better normally. Again, depending on the brand. Picking the colours does take some time, you have to research into colour psychology, what you want to communicate and pick the colours effectively based on what they represent for that business.
Next step, culling the concepts. Once the colours are approved I go back to the tons of concepts I drew. I add to them If I have more ideas. I then go through and try to pick 4-6 concepts that I believe are truly the best fit for that business and what they need in order to not just look amazing, but make a huge difference within their business. I like to help my clients solve any business problems they have, so if they are communicating the wrong message, not attracting the right audience, not booking enough of a certain customer, I tend to base a lot of my decisions on how I can help them battle those problems through design. Once I’ve got the concepts I want to work with I take them to the computer, sometimes they don’t turn out as expected, sometimes they turn out better and sometimes they morph into completely new ideas. When I have a selection of concepts I’m happy with I present them to my clients for review. I ask them to tell me what they do and don’t like about each concept. I want to know what fonts they do and don’t like and why. I want to know why they prefer one over the other. The more in-depth review I can get from them, the easier it is for me to know where to go from that point. What changes I need to make or if I need to come up with completely new concepts, which does happen, and is perfectly normal. Sometimes the design process is a process and it takes some no’s to get the WOW YES!
The next stage is any changes I need to make, I take what my clients said and I try to make those changes and fix any problems they have with the concepts. I then send these back for review, this process is repeated until we get a concept that is just right!! Once we have a concept we love, I build this out into a brand. I take that concept and make some additional logo and logo marks, usually, I already have these in my mind from when I came up with the concept. I create a pattern design and put that into a brand board along with the colour palette and any custom icons or illustrations that are included. I then send this to my client to preview so they can see the brand elements overall, see how they work together. If there are any changes to be made then I do that but once approved it’s onto the additional designs.
Additional designs can be anything the business needs, these can be add on’s to what the package includes or the items in the package can be swapped for other items, but generally, these include business cards, notecards, social media headers and images. I’ve also included for my photographers a PDF client welcome packet for them to send to their clients!
I then work on these designs for a couple of days then send them to my client to review, then I make any changes. Once everything in the design process is reviewed I then take 2 whole days to finalise the files. This is a long process but I like to make sure my clients have everything they need and usually walk away from the project with over 200 files. This is each logo, logo mark, illustrations, business card, note card, social media designs, patterns in every colour and every file type they will need. Along with their vector files. My clients also receive their brand guidelines documents which are around 17 pages long, telling them all about their brand, how to use their files, what their colours codes and typefaces are. I also send a copy of to print to send right to my client’s doorstep. It’s so nice for them to keep!!
Then I send everything over to my client and ask them kindly to check and back up all their files and ask for their last review if all the final files are okay. I then like to check in with my clients over the upcoming weeks to see if they have any problems, need any changes. I want to make sure they know that I’m on hand to help with anything they need. Even if it’s just advice or how to use something.
And that’s it! I hope this helps you if you’re looking to work with a designer or been considering working with me in the future! Let me know in the comments if it helped!
A behind-the-scenes look at daily life and running my design business.