The Google Dictionary defines a project (noun) as “an individual or collaborative enterprise that is carefully planned and designed to achieve a particular aim.” So for me as a designer for print as well as the web, a project can be anything from a single business card to a fully-featured website.
Rather than getting into a nearly-molecular level of detail about specific kinds of projects, I’d like to talk about the process of projects in general: how they begin, unfold, and get to completion.
With apologies to Pete Seeger, for every project there is a process (“turn, turn, turn”).
In its broad outlines, there are six essential steps —
Every project, no matter how simple or complex, has to be defined. That definition is the designer’s brief. Ideally, the brief [see more about this step in the related article On Working with a Graphic Designer] answers the foundational questions: What exactly IS it that is needed, and how does it fit into the big picture? Getting the brief involves not only listing the “deliverables” that are expected at the end of the process, but also the expected uses and the essential goals of the needed item(s). Briefs can be very short and, well, brief — or they can go on for pages, describing the scope, functionality, timelines, and even the budget. They’re very useful for documenting what’s needed before the work starts and we refer back to them throughout the process.
Research and backgrounding is essential to the success of every project. Diving deeper into the content and learning about the brand, the audience, the messaging, and the information to be communicated is basic preparation. Design IS communication: creating solutions for effective communication. Learning what needs to be communicated comes with the exploration (research) phase of every project. I call my clients my “primary source” of this information because they’re the experts at what they offer, and their input always goes into the very top of the Exploration step. I also participate with further research, ideas, and recommendations for the creative part of communicating the information to the target audience.
Design it, build it, create it. This is often the longest — and most fun — step because of course it involves creating design solutions in the form of proposed layouts to present the content / message. It’s an iterative process of presenting concepts and ideas / approaches / recommendations for review and feedback. With each round of concepts, the selected approach is refined until we’re happy with the results. If it’s a logo or a print project, I send PDF files with proposed designs. If it’s a website project, we do the development on a private server that’s not visible to the public and where you can log in and view the site-in-progress before it is launched. If it’s an emailer, I can send test emails out from your email account for review / feedback / approval. In its broad outlines, the execution step is the same whether it’s a simple business card, a website, or all the elements for a trade show presence.
In this step we get the deliverables produced. Part of this step is the preparations phase, such as getting final, approved designs prepared to go to press, artwork delivered to a vendor for the fabrication of signage, or doing the finishing touches on a website to prepare it for launch to live. If all the previous steps in the process have been well managed, delivery takes place on time and always meets or beats the deadlines.
For many projects, delivery is NOT the end of the line. With a website for example, the launch to live isn’t the end. We remain available to make updates and changes when needed on an ongoing basis. We don’t just “set it and forget it.” Invariably, the item(s) created for every project can and do evolve. A printed brochure may need updates and reprints. As companies change and grow, they need new business cards for their employees, and websites are not meant to stay static for long. Completed projects are archived for future reference.
Evolution is inevitable and valuable. Ongoing, consistent availability to support this phase is what I offer. Over the years I’ve taken on websites and logos for folks who tell me that whoever did the original work is no longer available. No matter what the project is, I remain reachable for future changes, updates, and enhancements.
Like a journey, every project begins with the first step. The step before that is the true starting point, however. With over 25 years of experience in meeting my clients’ expectations, I am always available to discuss the projects that you may have in mind. My goal is to create designs and produce deliverables that will harmonize with your brand and boost your success.