Idea Quantity Improves Design Quality

You didn’t major in graphic design. How did you learn the skill?

I minored in media design production and technology, so I took a few college courses, but I attribute most of my design skill to poking around Adobe Creative Suite, watching YouTube tutorials and a lot of practice. The college courses improved my design process and gave me the vocabulary to describe and think about design concepts.

What is your design process?

It’s different depending on the project. I’ll give you the run down for my logo design process.

The first step is research. I sit down with the client and learn about their vision, values and goals. I look into their history, current branding, similar brands or organizations, opponents, etc. I take notes and save copies of pertinent visual elements to a Pinterest board.

The next step is brainstorming. I list 100-150 words related to the client’s vision, values and goals. The first 50 or so words are obvious, but after those are on paper, original concepts start to flow.

Then I put together a reference and idea board. This will include potential typefaces, visual elements, textures, photos, etc. I look at the board and the brainstorming list, develop new ideas and write them down.

Most designers sketch out their ideas on paper, but my artistic abilities are 100% digital. Instead of drawing my ideas, I write descriptions of design concepts and then “sketch” 30-50 ideas out on the computer. These are ROUGH designs. I would never show them to a client, but they allow me to see which ideas work best. I select the best 5-10 sketches and flesh them out.

Then I share the designs with coworkers and the client. Together we mull over the pros and cons of each design, share ideas for modification and choose one or two designs to move forward with.

I modify the designs, send to the client, discuss, revise again, revise again, tweak minor details and eventually deliver a new logo.

That’s a lot of work for one logo! Why develop so many ideas for one logo?

Your first idea is rarely your best idea. If you’re designing professionally, you have a responsibility to produce original creative work. The first ideas that pop into your head are not original.

You said you revise your designs several times. Is it hard to handle client criticism of your original concepts?

The concept designs are just a starting point for discussion. I usually work with clients who have no background in design, so it helps to have artwork in front of them that they can point to and request specific modifications. As I revise, the design evolves to fit their vision.

What advice would you give aspiring designers?

You don’t need formal classes to develop graphic design skills. You can learn how to use Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign on YouTube. The rest is just practice and an eye for composition. Design posters, brochures, logos, infographics for fun.

The first 100 designs will be terrible. The next 100 designs will be slightly less terrible. You will start to notice good design work and try to emulate it. Your work will improve. Eventually, you will look back at your old work and cringe. That’s how you know you’ve made progress.

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