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The 10 Stages of a Graphic Design Process

Unlike what some people may think, the design process of any creative piece is not simple. It takes time, research, thinking, testing, and refining until the final design is reached. Even something that looks relatively simple and minimalist, can take a lot of time to develop.

Each designer has their own process they follow, but I'm going to outline the 10 general stages of any design process ( which I also follow). This will be helpful not only to designers who want to refine their process but to people who are looking to hire a designer for the first time and want to understand how the process works.

graphic design process guide

The 10 Stages of Any Graphic Design Process

1. Get To Know The Client & Brief

The first part of any graphic design process is familiarizing yourself with the problem you have to solve. Because you are not only designing for something to look good. You are looking to create something that solves the client's problem. Once the graphic designer has agreed to take on the project, it's time for them to understand who the client is, what they do, and what they're asking you to do. This could mean video calls, back-and-forth emails and reading through the brief and taking notes to understand the main points and what needs to be focused on.

Also at this point, you want to have everything agreed with your client including when the deadline is, what deliverables they want etc Making everything clear from the start, will avoid any headaches later on. Communication between the designer and the client is crucial.

2. Market Research

We are still not designing anything yet, After we understand the brief and the client's needs, it's time to do some market research. What does this mean? It means understanding who their customers are and what they are looking for. Because at the end of the day, the designer is not just designing for their client, they are also designing to attract their customers and their target audience.

3. Create a mood board

Now it's time to gather inspiration using the brief and research in mind. This can include designs from competitors, designs that match the desired style, typography etc In this modern age, mood boards tend to be digital to make it easier to send to others. The mood board is what will kickstart the design process as it has all the important elements that the design should include in one place.

4. Brainstorming & Sketching

After getting together inspiration, it's time to a pen and paper to brainstorm ideas for the design. This could include words, small sketches and anything else that could contribute to the design.

5. Concept ideas & vision exploration

Using all the ideas that you've come up with, you can now start creating some initial concept ideas. It could be sketched or digital. This stage also includes exploring color palettes and styles. Some designers opt to get several concept ideas down and sketched out so the client has a wide range to choose from.

6. Initial feedback

Here the client is able to choose which design and direction they want to go in. Having this stage is important as it avoids the designer putting a lot of work in only for the client to say they don't like the concept. Getting feedback on initial designs helps streamline the process and keeps the client and designer from wasting time.

7. Developing the design

After receiving the feedback, the designer can now develop the design. If it's not already digitized, they start working in Photoshop or Illustrator using the concept designs made. Depending on how large the project is, it could take days, weeks, or months.

8. Refine & Present

This is an important step that can't be skipped. Once the designer has reached a finished design and is ready to show the client They can't simply send them a pdf of the design. Once the designer is happy, and has made all the little final adjustments, the designs should be put in the form of a presentation. The presentation should not only include the design itself, but it should include mockups, color variations, perhaps patterns, and anything else extra that makes the design stand out. The client needs to be impressed so having everything well-presented will really make the design look even better.

8. Review, feedback & revisions

Throughout this stage, the designer can send the progress to the client as many times as agreed upon to get more feedback. Depending on the contract, some designers may allow unlimited revisions or a specific number. The more revisions allowed, the longer the process will take. This is why communication is so important.

9. Final Delivery

Once client is happy with the final design, it's time to deliver. It's important to deliver the files that were agreed upon in the brief. Some clients just need the pdf file, while others need the source files too. This is why it's important to be organized and save the work in organized folders to make it easier and quicker to deliver at the end. Many designers use WeTransfer as files can get too big to send over email.

11. Bonus: Ask for a review

Well, the project is done and the client is happy. That's it right? Perhaps. Or you could go a step further and ask them for an honest review.


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