If you're commissioning design, the process we take as designers may seem a mystery. Whether it's a new corporate identity, website or annual report, the process we go through with you sometimes needs explaining. I'll try to do it here... wish me luck.

Writing your brief
A brief is a window into the client's mind and market. It helps us understand what you need and helps us get you what you're looking for. It should cover at least:

  • your market and who you are
  • deliverables i.e. brochure, advert or t-shirt
  • tech spec to include; size, final quantity and number of pages
  • creative steer. We are not looking for solutions, just a little direction
  • deadline for delivery.

I don't know what I want...
...but I will when I see it. Our hearts sink when we hear these words. This is a recipe for disaster. You run the danger of endless rounds of creative, usually with unsatisfactory results and mounting frustration on both sides. Not to mention digging great big holes in the budget. The best thing to do is talk. Set up a meeting with the agency and the whole team. Include everyone, as everyone can have great ideas. Discuss the aims of the project, talk about the communication aims. You are not looking for a solution at this stage – you are looking at defining a brief so that the agency can go away and deliver that solution.


Behind the scenes
You've commissioned the agency and given them a brief. So what happens next? Well, I can't speak for every agency out there, but this is how we do it at Navig8.
We all (everybody) get given the brief. We meet, talk about it and set a one hour – and only one hour – creative explosion. The team are only allowed to use the computers for research; all ideas are scribbled down with a pencil on paper. After one hour if we've had say, four people working on it, generating 10 ideas each, that's 40 ideas in an hour. Then a selection, say six, go for further development. The Creative Director chooses which three the client gets to see.

Giving feedback
Every design project is collaborative and so it should be. But if you are employing a designer, you are paying for their expertise. Dictating the design changes, or 'playing around with it yourself' will not get the best results. Promise. Collect the feedback from the stakeholders and disregard the unnecessary. If the design isn't right, tell the designer what the issue is rather than trying to give them the solution.

Keyboard monkey
This is a phrase that designers use when a client micro-manages the design process by directing them at every stage. Ideally what those clients would like to do is sit with you. Basically they want the designer to just operate the software. It's a very unsettling experience and never, ever, ever leads to good results. Every designer I have ever worked with designs to give the client and their market the very best solution.

Avoiding the pitfalls
We want the project to be brilliant. Below are a few things that will help you, the client, save money and help the design process scoot along.

  • Only send final, proofed copy. We know this can't always be acheived, but the better the content, the better the result.
  • Consider taste: you may not love the solution, but set your taste aside – would your market love it?
  • Everybody wants an Apple or Nike solution. These are delivered by a single vision. Design by committee is like everybody putting in their own colour. What you end up with is grey.

Production; boring but important
When a job is signed off that isn't the end of the process. To use litho print as an example, these are the stages and number of days the process takes to deliver lovely printed work.
1 day: Artwork
1 day: Ripped proof
1 day: Digital hard copy proof, amend or approve
1 day: Planning and plates
1 day: Printing
1 day: Drying
2 days: Folding, stitching, trimming and packing
1 day: Delivery
Litho print gives you the best price and best quality for jobs that have print runs over about 500 copies. Digital print knocks out a few of these stages and can be turned aound in a few days. But get your wallet out – it can really hike up the costs.

Have courage
Good design ticks boxes, great design challenges. Deiter Rams designed for the future – that's why Sir Jonny Ive is so influenced by him. If you are happy with a solution that looks like something you have seen before then it's likely to be mediocre; at best good, but it will never be great. This applies to a 2-page A5 leaflet as much as it does to a phone.

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