My Design Process: Part One

When I’m designing, I think very little about what stages I do it in, which mediums I start with and what I’m thinking at the beginning of a design project. We’re encouraged to start with a rough sketch and from there move to a final digital stage (unless, of course, the particular design requires hand-done elements – such as my watercolors).

Lately, though, with thesis on my mind all the time, I’ve been starting my projects with a little bit of writing. It’s really been helping. I know the aim of my thesis inside out: I’ve written about it ten different ways! In my Publishing class, we’re encouraged to pay closer attention to our design process and document it! So here are the stages that I work in.

1. Get it in writing: I’m a slow (and pretty poor!) sketcher and I often think in tiny details. By writing my thoughts down – what I want my piece to do, what mediums I want to use, how I want it to interact with my audience, who my audience is – I have a better understanding of why I’ll be making the design decisions that I do. It’s important to me that I have a good understanding of (yes, this word again) function in each of my designs because it informs the visual style.

2. Thinking – the big picture: At this point I pretty much know what it’s going to look like, save for some small details. I tend to jump to the end of the design process in my thoughts and have a clear idea of the materials I’ll be using, the size, shape and format of the design. From here I just have to execute it.

3. Sketches follow: Like I said, I’m horrible at drawing, but sketching is an important part of my design process. Though my sketches are hardly recognizable as anything that exists on this earth, sketching helps me work out those smaller details that I can’t keep in my head. I also tend to forget things easily, especially when that inspiration strikes as I’m laying in bed trying to sleep! If I sketch it quickly and label things accurately enough, I can follow my thoughts later when I pick up the work again.

4. Digital work: At this point I usually begin to move my designs to a digital platform, whether that be InDesign, Illustrator or (sometimes) Photoshop. I don’t print often enough, but when I do, I rework my digital files to perfect the color, typesetting, image files, etc.

5. Construct: There’s typically always a step that follows post-printing: cutting the borders out the files is a must in every occasion. Additionally, most of my designs take the form of a three-dimensional object which means that they have to be constructed to look like that model. This sometimes includes pasting the printed files carefully to thicker paper or card-stock, putting together a book, or assembling the files in some other form.

6. Revise: Working in the art field means there’s always room for improvement, and as a designer, I’m always looking to improve! I welcome and encourage feedback so that I can produce the best possible work that I can. Feedback often means that I have to revise my work over and over again before reaching a final product – and that’s okay! It’s worth trying and trying again when the final product is something that you can be proud of.