So you want to hire a graphic designer? For any clients out there i just want to let you know that every graphic design project is unique. It might sound confusing at first but it is difficult to perfectly predict how the process will unravel. While many projects out there will go through a similar process to reach the final result, the truth is that every project will develop uniquely, and may take varying amounts of time and work to complete. This is a walk through of the graphic design process that i used when creating a design for one of my clients. I have outlined the basic steps that i went through and you can take this as an example of the general stages a designer uses when designing, to end up at a final design visual. This article is a guide for clients wondering about how a graphic designer creates a design and will also give an understanding of why clients must pay what they do for graphic design work. After reading the article you will have an idea of how much work is involved, because there are many parts of the process that clients will not get to see first hand!
Stage 1: The brief
The first stage of any graphic design project is the brief. The brief outlines in words the purpose of the design, the application type and the ideas that it is supposed to represent. At the beginning of the project the client and the graphic designer must communicate ideas back and forth about the design, so that the designer is well informed about it, and can then start the project and take it in the right direction. You can communicate ideas over the phone, via email, or in person, or you might use all of these methods. All in all, the better that the idea has been communicated, and the more information a designer can get about the design, the better he or she will cater for the clients needs. Just remember that information, and lots of it, is the key to a successful design!
Stage 2: Referencing
Its often really helpful for the client to provide some examples of what kind of designs and styles they like at the beginning of the project. Its not a necessity but often this can cut a lot of time from the design process and save money. Its not really cheating if you are not stealing the design. Good referencing is a way of getting ideas for the project from other successful designs without stealing. A reference should be clear, exhibiting either the colour scheme, style or feel of the desired outcome. It is often a great idea to borrow from other successful designs, because there is nothing better than growing and learning with the help of your top competitors. Every design process is unique. You might use a reference, none at all, or maybe even introduce one in the middle of the project. Every design journey is different, and every destination unique. The positive side of using a reference is that the designer will not have to spend hours creating new ideas, doing layouts and changing the design numerous times before coming across a design that both of you are happy with.
Stage 3: Concept visuals
Concept Visuals, or rough concepts are just a very simple representation of the components of the design. You can do a simple drawing or generate some quick ideas with adobe Photoshop or Illustrator. I generally like to use what i will be using for the final design.
A note for unsatisfied clients: Sometimes when a client is given the concept roughs, they will tend to have second thoughts and become afraid thinking they might have gotten themselves into a dodgy deal with an unqualified designer. My advice is: DON’T WORRY! Please don’t judge the book by its cover and assume that your designer is an amateur and that you are paying for someone who is going to mess up your job! This is just the beginning! The concepts and the roughs are meant to be of a really rough quality! The idea is to get many concepts out on paper in as quick a time as possible. If you are truly not sure about the person you have hired, at least you can have a look and judge their standard by looking at the other jobs they have done for other clients. If you are seeing that most of their work is of a high quality you can just relax and take the process as it comes. Just because the concept roughs don’t look amazing, doesn’t mean that the end result will not be! I promise that if you are patient until the end your design your graphic designer will create an amazing piece of art and design into fruition for your company! Its up to you but just be aware that if you decide to go with another designer its an infringement of copyright to take the designs and have them reproduced by the first designer and hand them to someone else. Your new designer will have to start again from scratch and might take extra time and money. Just be aware.
For clients without a reference: Some clients may not have a reference or a fair idea of what they want the outcome to turn out like. That is understandable, after all you have hired the designer, for a reason. Because they are talented at representing ideas visually and know what they are doing, right? In this case the designer will probably get to work and produce a variety of concept visual responses to the brief, one of which will be chosen to develop further. Concept visuals can be really simple, such as a few 5 minute line drawings, or some computer generated ones as well.
Often the designer will get straight to work churning out idea after idea for the design. This is usually how it works, as a designer tries to get all of their ideas out and ‘on paper,’ at the beginning. After the designer is happy with the amount of satisfactory options they have come up with, they will usually send them to the client to be viewed. It’s good for the client to have some options when choosing a design especially if they are still at the ideas stage of the process themselves.
Stage X: Revison
I call this stage X because a revision can happen at any time! While it is more desirable for a revision to happen at the early stages of the project you never really know when it is going to come up. A revision is essentially a change that needs to be made to the project which moves it in another direction or replaces one of the main elements. A designer will usually offer a certain amount of free revisions before the client will need to start paying to make any more major changes.
Stage 4: Rough Visuals
Rough’s or rough visuals, are an important part of any project as they help to map out the various elements of the design and are use to experiment with layout, colour and the rest. In most projects there would normally be a couple of roughs done to show the client. At the end of this stage the client will discuss the project so far with the designer and choose the most suitable option for them. The designer can then begin to work on the final design. By this stage most of the thinking and conceptual work should be close to resolved and the project should be heading in the right direction.
The creation of a rough image: Use a reference, save the file numerous times (if using a computer), and try to get it to the highest professional standard that you can at this stage. You can use your hand drawings in combination with or simply just use Photoshop and Illustrator (or whatever other program you are using). Make sure to create a couple of options if possible so that the client can have a browse and choose the one that they like best.
working with text: Use whatever program that suits you. I usually use Adobe Illustrator or InDesign and import the text into Photoshop for the final blending and style options. Text from Illustrator turns out much clearer/professional than when done through Photoshop. Play around with many of the fonts and settle down to at least three that you think work best. Make sure that they match the style of the company or design that you are making. Be careful with certain jobs for example: posters, to not use more than three different fonts. Work with the fonts and blending options and styles and create a couple of examples for your client to have a look through.
Putting it together: Work with text in conjunction with the image to create a logo that looks ‘right,’ ie: the colours and styles match, and has an overall unique impact that is aesthetically pleasing to look at and advertises they type of business it is designed for well.
Stage 5: The Final Design
For the final stage of the design, the graphic designer is required have a look and re-asses the project as it is so far. Are there any typos? Do the images look as professional as they can? Do the styles match? Do the fonts work? Are the layouts mathematically perfect and everything aligned? Are figures in the right pose or have the right facial expression? Does this truly represent the company as they want to be represented? Will this design suit their demographic? And can i do it any better than i have done? A designer must put together all the pieces so far and really take a look to see if anything should be changed or improved. Trust your designers eye for details and intuitions to help you along with this. Then when it is all looking right, you can call it complete! When you present it to the client, if you are doing it in person it always helps to have the designs printed on professional looking paper and put into a display folder for viewing. If you are doing it online, make sure that you send a low quality and small file, which is still visible if you are unsure about whether you are going to be paid. Not everyone tries to get something for nothing, but you never know. It is wise to protect yourself and get down to settling the contract first by filling in the final parts of the contract such as final payment figures and copyright information. Make sure that it is signed and agreed to by both clients, and then you can finish off the deal by giving the client what they hired you for! The designs.
At the end of the project the designer will be required to send, via post, or electronically the final version of the project in whatever formats are needed. Usually jpeg and pdf is sufficient, of 300dpi or more quality, of the right size for print or other media, and in cmyk and rgb color versions. Depending on the job the client may want you to seek printing services and send the final product directly to them. In this case you should arrange additional costs for the printing process. Make sure that you inform your client of the copyright information that you have asked them to agree to. Most designers will ask for extra payment for licensing copyright on top of the project, or for giving the client extra rights to the artwork or image. There are usually certain restrictions such as the the type of media it can be used for, amount of prints or time in which it will expire.
I hope that all designers and clients out there will get the best out of their client/designer relationships and that many new projects can blossom from this unique process. It is also important to be prepared in case something goes wrong, and a contract will usually solve many problems. Happy designing!
Author: Elly Klamo