Graphic Design Podcast :: The Deeply Graphic DesignCast

The Creative Process Decoded

The Creative Process Decoded

In the 68th episode of the DesignCast, Wes McDowell, Mikelle Morrison, and Nick Longo take us through their individual creative processes!
Everybody has their own approach to creative endeavors — and this is never more true than when it comes to graphic design work, since the creative process is long and winding. Not only do you have to create the projects, but you have to complete a dozen steps before and after the graphic work is finished, and having a strong and economical process to get things done can really help keep things from getting out of control.
The first crucial step is getting the information you need to do the job right from the client — and then help guide them to the best possible place. This means you have to have a firm grasp on what works and what doesn’t, what will excite their intended audience and what will fall flat. Not every idea a customer has for their own design will work, and often the client won’t know why they like what they like.
Mikelle explains what works for her at this stage and the importance of talking to the client in person and on the phone, rather than only through email. Hearing their voice and seeing their expressions could give you cues that can make this so much easier for you and them.
Wes and Nick cover the importance of inserting the legal aspects of the business into the creative process by getting signatures and documentation for every major step you take. You don’t want to spend hours completing a difficult project only to have the client tell you that’s not what they wanted, and worse, not have proof that is what they asked for to begin with!
The next step is always brainstorming. Nick recommends some tactics to help get the best out of your brainstorming sessions and Mikelle talks about how she uses the internet and customer ideas to help hone in on a quality concepts.
And, how important is quality quiet time when it comes to thinking up new ideas for your next project? Wes talks about how he needs to sometimes unplug from podcasts and other noise to let his mind work – sometimes boredom is that helpful, missing aspect in our creative lives. Most of us can’t think creatively and listen to conversation at the same time.
Next up in the process: Comp time! Sooner or later, we need to produce something for the customer to see, floating a handful of concepts and seeing what works. There a lot of ways to approach this and finding the one that works best for you is important. This is the time when your skill at design and your creative process needs to be at its best.
The DesignCast crew talks about what they consider the most important steps in their process when it comes to comps — how many concepts they deliver and how they handle the changes, as well as how many concepts they show to the client at once.
How many different designs does Wes bring to the client at this time? What does Nick think the single most important thing to show the client at this time is? Hint: Just how well have you listened to your clients needs?
In the end of it all, the most important thing is to judge your creative process honestly and make it work best for you. Everyone does things differently and has strengths and weaknesses all their own.
But by listening to the DesignCast, maybe some of our experiences can help you iron out your own best process!

Today’s Listener Question:

Advertising your freelance business is important. You can’t forget to get yourself out there in front of prospective clients.
But what kind of advertising is worth the money in this day and age? Print media like magazines have large readerships, but cost a lot to get an ad into — money that may be better spent elsewhere.
The gang lets us know their thoughts.

Show Links:

Shutterstock – Visit Shutterstock and check out their massive selection of stock images for your designs. Be sure to use the promo code deep814 for a 20% discount on any subscription!
Thinkmap Visual Thesaurus – A great way to brainstorm, the visual thesaurus draws the links between words and ideas in a visual map. – Visit to start your free trial! There is no place out there quite like — you can learn at your own pace on so many subjects and at such a good price.

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(1) responses

Maciej Matt Ruszala

September 21, 2014

Thank you very much for picking up my question and giving me an answer that confirmed that there are better ways to spend my money. I’ll explain what lead to me to ask that question.

I started a small company together with my partner not that long ago and, as you would suspect, we advertised ourselves on some portals to get the word out there.
Very soon after we were contacted by a person claiming to be interested in working together. Thinking that it was a potential client, we started talking, explaining what we do, what can we offer and so forth. When I finished he politely said that he is a representative of an online magazine and would like to offer us a deal.
I would have been happier if he said that from the beginning since I wouldn’t have to spend time explaining everything for no reason at all.
He then explained what they do, who is their target and mentioned that it’s a great opportunity for us as a small business.

Since I’ve got a couple of years’ experience working in retail, I know the name of the game and asked him: what’s the price range?
The price was around £500 for three ads, one ad every month, which is too much.
My partner and I decided that we would think about it, but we certainly were not interested in advertising for that amount. But I was thinking, what if it’s worth it?

We are cautious folks and like to do our research before we decide to spend money on something, so that’s what we did. Their website looked professional, but when we tried to call people who already advertised themselves in the magazine to ask about their experience, no one picked up the phone or got back to us. That was the first red flag.

Two days later I got a call back asking if we were ready to proceed. I declined and we were given another option – we could get an ad posted for free, and pay later.

That was the second red flag. I refused to talk with him from then on because he started getting pushy.

I’m not saying that all magazine ad offers are bad, but that we should always be skeptical about them. Everyone’s attracted to exciting offers, promising big results – just look at 99designs.


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