Do you follow a set process in order to solve your briefs and to get new design ideas?
(Long before the launch of Leader Creative’s blog, students, young designers and just regular folk interested in corporate design have emailed questions answered by Lindon Leader, many of which will appear in this category. We will add new questions and answers as they come in).
To begin, I want to understand my client’s business situation: its marketplace characteristics, its constituents’ needs and expectations, and its competitors’ strengths and weaknesses. I work with the client to define its unique brand personality and its differentiating product or service attributes. Once this strategy has been articulated I begin the design process. I always start out with a tracing pad and a pencil. I do thumbnail sketches to quickly visualize concepts. I reject most of the early designs immediately as being either something I may have seen before or alternatively, as visually interesting but conceptually off-target.
Even though I eventually work the designs out on my Mac, it is critical that I begin with mere sketches. My first semester design instructor at the Art Center College of Design, the late Bill Moore, told us, “Keep the layouts loose and the concepts tight.” In other words, Bill would rather evaluate an interesting concept in its crude infancy than have us waste our time (and his) fashioning a beautiful half-baked idea. I live by this credo to this day.
When a project begins, I prefer that junior designers stay off of the computer for the first couple of work sessions. I often get resistance from them about beginning with pencils and paper. They immediately want to get the mouse in hand. I firmly believe that starting right in on the computer deprives the designer of opportunities afforded by a sort of “stream of consciousness,” whereby an epiphany can be immediately realized, however crudely, in a quick sketch. When the discovery has to be translated from the brain to the hand to the keyboard, onto the screen, then out of the printer, the original spark is often lost in the process.
Put another way, if you’re working a circle around on a sketchpad—say you’re trying to draw a globe—your circle will be imperfect. You’re not happy with it so you erase, redraw, and in the process you might discover an interesting arc or stroke that could lead you in a different, unexpected and exciting new direction. Such is serendipity. If you start out on the computer, software immediately takes you to that perfect circle and you have bypassed that journey toward the visualization of the globe that may have led elsewhere, perhaps profitably.