Design Process Q&A

Early each year I start to receive emails from students about design process, particularly students studying VCE Visual Communication Design. I’ve written this post Q&A style using some general questions I’m often asked.

At the moment this written piece is a work in progress, I’ll be  adding more to it, and will also be building up a few resources online here for students and teachers alike.

Is design process important?

All stages of the design process are important, from initial research to generating potential ideas or concepts, through to developing those further, refining them after consulting with my client and finally signing off on a job before it’s sent to print or published online. I’m a firm believer that if you try to skip a stage in the design process you’ll end up with a piece of work that may not truly satisfy the brief. Having said that, unlike being a student, I don’t have the luxury of lots of time to spend on projects for freelance clients who’ve hired me. In my job as a freelance designer, time is money, so I have to be efficient and find the best solution for my client with a reasonable turnaround time. Generally I might draw a few rough sketches before going to the computer to explore them more and send some samples onto my client. After receiving feedback I might develop them further or refine them for the client to sign off on the job. After that I prepare the work for print, it gets printed and I deliver the finished product to my client.

In terms of a specific project, one of my ongoing clients is Sport Inclusion Australia, which I rebranded in 2015. Prior to this, the organisation was known as Ausrapid. The organisation works as a governing body for sport organisations and specifically in the area of sport for people with disabilities. Sport Inclusion Australia is involved in interstate national events for all sports, the Paralympics, International events and the upcoming 2019 Global Games which will be held in Brisbane. As I already had a good understanding of the organisation (Ausrapid), the CEO asked if I was interested in pitching concepts for their new rebranded identity ‘Sport Inclusion Australia’ back in 2015.

To complete this job I started with an initial face-to-face meeting to discuss their new direction. After that I started with a few loose freehand drawings (Generation/Visualisation) before going to the computer to explore them further (Development). Once I felt happy with two or three possible new logos, I prepared them in a PDF and these were emailed to the CEO. I then followed up with a phone call to gather her thoughts (Evaluation). After receiving feedback, I made some final changes (Refinement) before the CEO and her team gave their chosen concept the final tick of approval.


 What were the roles and responsibilities of you (the designer), the specialist, and the clients in the production of one of your visual communications?

As a designer for Sport Inclusion Australia I’m required to consult with my client to answer the brief (their requirements) as new jobs are sent through to me. This is generally carried out through face-to-face meetings, phone conversations and email correspondence. In the instance of a job like a business card, stationery kit or annual report, once a job is complete it is prepared for print by myself before it is then sent off to a printer for production. Commonly, commercial printers are one of the main specialists I work with. It is up to me as the designer to ensure that factors such as colours, print settings like bleed and trim on print documents are correct and ready to hit the press. Commercial printers then transfer my digital files onto metal plates which are slotted into a printer. As the job is being produced the Printer ensures that inks used are correct and are consistent with Pantone colours I have selected from a swatch booklet. Once a job is all finished, I’ll collect it from the printer and deliver it to the client.



What are the processes and practices you use when pitching and presenting design directions, proposals and final presentations to clients?

Face-to-face meetings or phone conversations are probably one of the most transparent ways of establishing whether or not a client is satisfied with the potential concepts presented to them. For smaller clients this might be quite a relaxed meeting, or for larger clients potential concepts might be presented more formally in a board room with several staff present. Having said that, for some clients I’ve worked for I’ve never actually met them. Sometimes a job will go from start to finish all via email. This isn’t my preferred way of working though – it’s often much more time efficient to discuss ideas in person or at least over the phone. In all instances I always present concepts digitally in the form of a PDF.



Which evaluation technique/s do you use throughout the design process?

Again, verbal or email feedback informs the direction or progression of work I complete. In the early stages of a project I might talk to my client about other competitors or existing businesses. This helps to ensure that I’m able to create a unique identity and provide my client with some differentiation to set them apart from similar businesses.



What is the role of the brief in documenting the parameters of clients’ needs? (referring to one project that you have completed)

I always refer to the brief as being the ‘roadmap’. Without it, it can be difficult to establish direction and before starting a job I like to be really clear about what it is that my client actually wants. Unlike a student project, for me the brief is often in the form of a job quote. In this I detail the deliverables (the finished things my client needs), estimate costs and time-frame.



What social, ethical, financial and environmental factors influence your decisions?


What are the trademark and copyright legal obligations that you have to follow when using the work of others?

In terms of trademark, copyright and legal obligations, we had to gain written permission to use the supporting logos along the bottom of the posters I designed for North East Sustainability & Health Group (NESHG). I also often need to refer to Style Manuals when using logos or branding elements that belong to other organisations.

The environment was a factor in the work I produced for NESHG. When selecting stock for printing of the final documents, we decided to use a natural paper which is sourced from authorised sustainable forests, free of bleaching and made from 100% recycled paper.

Social and ethical decisions are often important when using images of people. In the instance of the work I complete for Sport Inclusion Australia, permission is always sought from athletes before their faces are used in any marketing material.