5 Steps to Streamline your Creative Process

As a designer I’m always trying to optimize my creative process. Since I started, lots of things have changed in my workflow, some things got simpler while others got a little bit more complicated. With these changes came the experience of learning from the mistakes but also from the successes.

In this article I will summarize how I try to streamline my creative process to make it as efficient as possible. Basically everything consists of 5 steps:

1- Understand the work

"A well-defined problem is half solved."Michael Osborne - Principal, Michael Osborne Design

It might sound obvious but sometimes we tend to assume that we know what we have to do when we simply don’t. It’s really important to know exactly what it is that you have to do before you start doing anything. If you don't, it would be like going to the supermarket when you’re hungry. You want to buy everything... The understanding of the project will filter exactly what you have to look for, it will give you directions and the context of the work you will have to do. But what's the use in knowing what you have to do if you don't know who you're doing it for? That will lead us to the second step...

5 Steps to Streamline your Creative Process

2- Audience

"A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools."Douglas Adams - Creator of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

So, you now have a firm understanding of the work, but now the question has come to: for whom will the work be intended? The audience is key in this equation because it filters and reduces even more the range of your search for inspiration. Once you have the audience figured out, you really have to get in your mind that it's 100% about them, which will lead us to the third step.

5 Steps to Streamline your Creative Process

3- Business

"Every night I pray that clients with taste will get money and clients with money will get taste." Bill Gardner - Principal, Gardner Design

The biggest difference between commercial design and art, for me, is that we design something for the audience and not as a means of self-expression for ourselves. We solve problems for them, we make it easier for them. As far as graphic and visual design goes, most of the problems arise in communication. Essentially, we’re the middle man between the client and the consumer. Our goal is to make the communication better for them (which in most cases means simplifying), and not to interfere in the communication with our own personal tastes and influences.

5 Steps to Streamline your Creative Process

4 - Challenge

"We spend a lot of effort trying to make things look effortless." Alexander Isley - Principal, Alexander Isley Design

With a solid understanding of the work, the audience, and the question of solving problems, we now face the challenge: the designing part. The challenge creates the motivation to look for the details that will make your work better and superior.

5 Steps to Streamline your Creative Process

5 - Try

"You will never really like anything you do, and you will die knowing that you still have to do your best." Garth Walker - Orange Juice Design

The previous steps won’t necessarily guarantee that you'll come up with a good design, they're merely there to form a foundation, or a stepping stone, if you will.

To recap, the understanding of both the work and the audience will create the context. Keeping in mind the business perspective will avoid you losing focus on what's important. And, finally, the challenge will give you the motivation to look for the most innovative and efficient solutions. But the only way for you to come up with a good design is to take all these things and TRY.

5 Steps to Streamline your Creative Process

This is the workflow I’ve been using since I graduated from college. Like I said, this workflow has been modified based on what I have learned throughout these years, through the wins and losses. The process should change depending on your personal way of working, but I think the one thing that will always be the secret to a good design and therefore should be a key in everyone's workflow is simplicity.

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