OLCO Design’s 7-Step Graphic Design Process

It should go without saying that the right graphics can grab the right attention in even the most challenging surroundings. Great design stops prospects in their tracks and draws their focus to you – whether that’s online or offline.

The human brain processes visual information 60,000 times faster than text. Therefore, any graphic design undertaken by your company needs to portray your business’s brand as quickly and efficiently as possible.

With that in mind, graphic design can seem like a mammoth task. Just how do designers produce snappy, memorable visuals day-in, day-out?

Prospective clients often ask us what our creative process “looks like” – so let’s see how we turn design ideas (however vague) into reality!

What does our graphic design process look like?

Before we start, remember that not all graphic design projects are the same, and we always tailor our approach to each client’s requirements. Though the vast majority of projects will follow this framework, there will naturally be a small handful that deviate from it. But regardless of whether we’re designing a business card or a content-packed 100-page brochure, our typical design process looks something like this…

1. The Initial Consultation

It all starts with an initial enquiry. When a prospective client first makes contact, we’ll generally offer a free consultation meeting. If they’re based in the West Midlands, we can meet in person, but if they’re further afield or schedules are tight, we’re more than happy to conduct this meeting over the phone or through an online conferencing platform like Google Hangouts.

We’ll listen to the prospect intently, establishing their current marketing picture and identifying their overall promotional needs. Marketing doesn’t exist in a vacuum, so we’ll also ask about wider business goals and make suggestions to help the prospect achieve those goals through informed marketing choices. This consultative approach is intended to (hopefully) provide value – whether they end up working with us or not!

This free, no-obligation meeting is arranged at a time and place to totally suit the prospect. It’s important to meet like this before work is agreed so that both parties can get a feel for each other’s tastes, skills, and ways of working.

2. Getting The Ball Rolling

If the prospect wishes to engage us further following this session, we will move towards establishing a specific brief for the project. They may wish to hold another meeting, but briefing can just as easily be achieved over email or phone call – especially when the project is fairly simple.

One aspect of our service that brings us great pride is the sheer amount of time we spend with each client. We spend time familiarising ourselves with the client’s unique marketing challenges and business strategy – even if they have already prepared a brief. Writing a brief for the project beforehand is helpful but by no means mandatory – check out our handy guide if you do wish to create a design brief yourself.

Provided they are happy to proceed, we will then raise a quote for the work required. If the client agrees to the fees and to our general terms, then we usually invoice for 50% of the project fee before work commences.

3. Gathering Data and Inspiration

Now it’s time for us to get started. But it’s not quite time for our designers to load up Adobe InDesign or Photoshop just yet – we need to carry out some creative research first.

Our design team will check out your competitors and your wider market to establish the styles of visual communication that are already present in your sector. Establishing a picture of what’s already out there helps us to come up with ideas that will stand you apart in your market whilst remaining true to what you do. It also reduces the risk of us accidentally creating anything that’s too similar to another organisation in your niche.

4. Rough Conceptualisation

Once we’re armed with this knowledge, it’s time to put pen to paper (or stylus to graphics tablet). We will start to sketch out rough ideas, keeping the brief document and our own research in mind at every step.

If we’re dealing with a design that’s fairly static (e.g., print collateral), we will create rough physical or digital sketches of the finished product. However if we’re creating something a bit more dynamic (such as anything with a user interface), storyboarding or mockups may be required to account for any required interactivity or motion.

This is generally where our (sometimes quite disparate) ideas start to distil into a cohesive whole. If any ideas are still on paper, we start migrating them over to a digital format so we can more easily experiment with colours, shapes, typography, and graphical layers. We use a variety of market-leading design applications, predominantly the Adobe Creative Cloud Suite.

5. Initial Draft Design Concepts

We continue to sharpen these ideas until we reach a polished, on-brief result that we feel the client will be overjoyed with.

When preparing first drafts, we’ll generally develop about three different ideas to present to the client – this could be three completely separate ideas or three variations on the same core concept.

We will then email over our drafts and schedule an appointment to meet with the client to discuss them (whether that’s in person, on the phone, or through video conferencing). Though we’ve worked hard on these drafts, this meeting isn’t about us – it’s about understanding the client’s initial thoughts and reactions. We listen to them carefully as they describe the elements they like and any areas where they aren’t so keen. Getting a good grip on the direction they’d like future drafts to take is essential – it helps to minimise any future “back and forth” between us and the client.

A design can look very different in the client’s head to how it looks on screen. Presenting the client with three different options helps us to get a feel for their tastes whilst also keeping them at the centre of the creative decision-making process. We find that the client will naturally select a favourite out of these three, even if amendments are needed, but there’s no pressure. If the client feels that none of the draft designs are suitable, we can go back to the drawing board at any stage.

6. Client Review and Feedback Stages

Then we will take the client’s feedback and implement it within their selected draft. For projects where a fixed fee has been agreed beforehand, we generally include three rounds of client-dictated changes within the agreed rate.

That said, we do offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee. If you aren’t happy with your design at any point, we’ll bend over backwards to put it right – even if that means going completely back to the drawing board. However, we’re confident that it won’t come to that!

Once the client is happy with all deliverables, it’s time to wrap the project up.

7. Delivering the Deliverables

Once the client is satisfied with the final outcome, we will export our digital designs into whichever format is required by the client. This may mean producing high-resolution CMYK PDFs ready for printing, or providing the designs in a specific file type or resolution if they’re needed for a specific digital application.

If your project is destined for print, be aware that OLCO also offer managed print services. This enables us to completely handle your print project from start to finish if needed.

Once all deliverables have been sent over and the remainder of our fee has been paid, that’s the project complete!

We hope you’ve enjoyed this look into our graphic design process. Though we relish in helping small businesses grow their visibility with style, we’ve also helped some big names including Ricoh, The Royal Academy of Music, and Network Rail. If you have a graphic design project on the horizon or just need a designer on hand for ad hoc support, give the team at OLCO a call on 0330 223 1193 or drop us a line at hello@olcodesign.com.

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