Building blocks of designAfter having been in the creative business for some time now I’ve noticed specific patterns among the processes involved in developing designs for clients that might warrant further discussion. Let’s focus on the “management” aspect of design in order to identify potential problems that could arise between designers and their clients.

Clients come to us to help them put together designs for a wealth of projects from new brand identities to PowerPoint presentations. I have my share of the last minute calls from clients asking us to put together designs in haste, whether due to time constraints, last-minute ideas or procrastination. This is often the nature of such design needs. Clients are often asked last-minute to run a promotion, present to colleagues, or submit a project that they themselves were not given much time to plan or execute.

So, as we “creatives” know, these are often funneled our way much to our chagrin. We are driven by innovation, translating creativity, quality in creation, and a design process that ultimately helps us render a refined product to our clients. The catch here is when we are given either rushed content or timelines from our clients. Poor content and limited timelines inevitably render equally unimpressive designs. Having that “eye” for design, that innate ability to construct aesthetics in a pleasing yet functional manner is not something that tends to mesh well with a rushed timeline or underdeveloped content.

With this said, here are a few key elements to consider when seeking out the services of a graphic designer or team.

If the project affords you some time to prepare, make solid use of that time. If you have a design team in mind, let them know the project is coming and share any insight as this will help the designer(s) prepare and begin conceptualizing ideas.

Content Development-
A beautifully designed project from a designer can be rendered inept if the copy/content isn’t fully structured, well edited, and finely tuned. Ever been at a sporting event such as a bike race or neighborhood ball game and seen that guy with the ridiculously expensive equipment and immediately feel a little intimidated when you look at yours in comparison? Then, when it’s his/her turn to perform, the skill level doesn’t quite match up to his equipment. The same conflict can arise on a project if both the design and content aren’t fully developed.

In the past, I have experienced a few clients that only provide a rough idea of what they are looking to have designed. Novice designers get excited about this. What they don’t realize is that without clear specifics as to desired elements, forms, colors, placement and imagery the design will undoubtedly run into issues with respect to taste, style or layout differences between the designer and the client. So frank discussions and frequent communications are key here.

Design Time-
Plan ahead and allow for adequate development and editing time for both content and design. Remember, the less time allotted here for conceptualization and implementation, the more likely the design will lack the desired refinement.

Once the content and design have been combined into a proof, ample time should also be planned in to allow for editing the proof. Regardless of how much effort was put into either the design or the content, when merged together there will inevitably be aspects and elements needing editing or adjustments to placement. Designers build this stage into their design cost specifically due to the fact that a simple merge does not make a final product. There will always be further fine-tuning needed. Plan for it!

Review footnote – Please understand that in the editing process, a slight shift here or a new image there (depending on the platform one is working on) can be easily construed as a simple fix by a client. The designer knows otherwise. Some adjustments can be very labor intensive or time consuming regardless if they are visually minor or not. It is the designer’s responsibility to communicate inherent difficulties in the design process. Communicating these issues up front will allow for a better work-flow and better mutual understanding on both ends of the process.

Steve Muth
scm designs

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processing design


Designers across different creative fields truly only have one thing in common – creativity.  Funky graphic artists to chique apparel designers, to web gurus all create with a personal process of getting from concept to reality.  Some begin with a sketch, others take a walk in hopes of striking sudden inspiration from their immediate environment – or maybe a good thump to the head to rattle something loose inside.

Where do you find curious sources of inspiration?  Do you strike creative gold when walking through the local art museum, or from that tattooed mongrel you tried to not make eye contact with in the metro?  Do you seek out novel ideas through others work, or do you purposely steer away from them to maintain your clear sense of self-identity in your ideas?  What’s the strangest thing you’ve drawn new ideas from?

Next comes the process of taking your idea and turning it into reality.  How do you do it? Do you jump right into CS, or do you start by sketching, stretching or building?  Let’s find out who has the most unique process of turning thought to final product.  Tell us anonymously, or proudly proclaim you curious process.  Either way, this could be a fun exercise in discovery.

Steve Muth
SCM Designs

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Apple's Jonathan Ive

Jonathan Ive, esteemed Senior VP of Design at Apple, says that what makes a designer a true designer is the way we look at our world. We see things differently. He states that desingers are cursed as we’re always wanting to know why something is created as it is and not another way.

I would certainly agree.  I find myself constantly analyzing marketing collateral, identities and design – whether they’re television commercials, logos, signage I see every day or, most commonly, my own work.

Watch Jonathan’s interview on the documentary “Objectified” to hear him describe design as he sees it.

In my quest for  higher design, I follow several other designers on Twitter. Their sites are essentially web blogs/pages on which other designers logos are featured, discussed and critiqued.

What I really find most interesting when reading other designer’s comments on the site is how critical they can be without providing constructive feedback to the designer.  Many simply post comments like, “I don’t like it” or “It doesn’t do anything for me.” What they fail to acknowledge in many cases is that the design was rendered for a client who guided the design process to where it is for a reason.  We, as outsiders, looking in without knowledge of the developmental process that took place, are all too quick to be critical of others work without getting even marginal insight into the constructive thought process.  Remember, modesty and constructive feedback are traits well- liked in any profession.

One critical thing I constantly try to keep front-of-mind when designing a piece is something I’ve observed in many fields – but more so in creative professionals from clothing designers to graphic artists.  As in any profession, it seems the more “accredited” one becomes in their field and the more advanced their design “consciousness” becomes, the more apt they become to disconnecting with their intended audience.  Many would say that the more “proficient” one is at their craft the more innovative they become.  This is true, but only to a certain degree.  Designers often developed such advanced design aesthetics and methodology to a point where they become lost in translation.  It can sometimes become a show simply for the sake of a show.
At what point do we as designers need to think about self-editing to maintain concise, purpose-driven mechanics in design theory and practice?  What really constitutes good design?  Keep in mind that design is subjective – driven by emotionally subconscious associations mixed with personal aesthetic taste.  Frankly, I most enjoy the lesser known sites and their content, logos, etc. simply because they feature lesser known artists with some fresh, new ideas.  Many other graphic design sites have a tendencies to fall into a pattern or trend, which is a bad model to follow in the creative world.

So, if Jonathan Ive is right, we should be looking at ourselves as much as others in how we develop and communicate our designs. After all, we are all seeking out new business with those who are outside our field. As difficult as it may be, given our self-proclaimed superior vision, aesthetic values and immaculate taste, we may need to think more of our clients motivations and less of our own.

SCM Designs

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