The creative process is not definitive. Most people tend to have a natural intuition about their creative process that doesn’t require much thinking. Natural talent is a huge part, but there are steps you can take to improve the process.
At Hawke Media, we take a data-driven approach with conversions as the driving factor in our design’s success. As a graphic and web designer at Hawke, I follow these four steps in delivering assets to our clients. Across the board, they improve efficiency and quality of our deliverables.
1) Information is key.
I start all of my projects with as much information as possible. This ensures there are no missing gaps. In order to get a solid understanding, you need to walk a day in their shoes. Most clients are coming to you because they don’t have the knowledge or the creative bones, so understanding their needs helps you both get on the same page.
The first step is to get a true feeling of their brand culture. In kickoff calls, I love to ask the client to walk me through the who, what, when and where of their brand. Get the full background of their brand, and how did they get to where they are today. After they have given me their life story, I always ask “Why?” There is great value in understanding why people are doing what they are doing if you truly want to understand their brand.
Next, I like to run the numbers: Who are you trying to reach? What are your goals? What exactly are you trying to accomplish? You will never execute on a project without getting details. I gather key elements of their demographic, examples of styles that they like and dislike, projects that have worked and failed in the past, and set specific dates for deliverables. It is crucial to set up timelines so you are held accountable. Beautiful designs may make clients happy, but that will never matter if you don’t communicate properly.
2) Collect the assets.
Now that you have the information, make your life a little easier and organize the project. Scour the web for imagery that relates to their brand; there is nothing worse for a design than subpar assets. Don’t be afraid to ask your client to send you everything they have. You will never hear anyone complain about having too many photos or vectors to work with.
Lastly, don’t forget to collect all of the fonts they use. If they have already paid for their fonts, make sure they send them over to you. It can be appealing to use free fonts or assets out there, but you don’t want to get your client in trouble later down the road.
3) Get those creative juices flowing!
Now is the time for you to harness your inner creativity. The creative process is going to be different for everyone. There are many different factors of my life that play a role in my creativity. Coffee always helps, but I have noticed that exercise in the morning greatly improves my creativity throughout the day.
Another factor is focus – clearing my mind of distractions and putting my focus on the project at hand. Lock yourself in, turn off push notifications and put your cell phone away. There is nothing more distracting than getting a notification from your friend sipping margaritas in Mexico while you’re trying to work.
Additionally, invest in a pair of noise-canceling headphones to drown out all exterior noise, or, if you prefer, to listen to music. Just like an athlete, finding your flow can really help you produce assets that will blow your mind.
Lastly, make sure you’re comfortable. Sit yourself down in an environment that isn’t cluttered, has decent ventilation and lighting, and sit in an ergonomic chair that doesn’t hurt your spine or neck after working all day.
4) Communicate and execute.
Finally, make sure your client is always up-to-date with your progress and looped in on your deliverable dates. At Hawke, we use the project management platform Wrike with our clients to stay on track. Platforms can be expensive, so at the minimum, set up a spreadsheet you can share with clients so they know exactly when you are going to have certain assets. Remember: clients are coming to you for their design so that they can focus on other things. While you are working on the design, your client will be building everything else they need, so if you miss the deadline, they will assume you think their work isn’t important to you.
Communication and execution go hand in hand. If you are communicating properly, but not executing, your client will assume you aren’t focused on their project. On the other hand, if you are executing, but not communicating, your client will be worried that you aren’t focused, and you never want your client to be left uneasy.
Your design process can vary from this. If, at the least, you get a general process developed and do more than shoot in the dark you will find better success in your design and client relationship. Make their lives as easy as possible, and build a relationship that will last a long time. Longterm relationships are far more valuable than a single paycheck.