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As a designer, I?ve come to understand that creating good design is more about being a creative problem solver than a great artist. While it is definitely my aim to be a great illustrator, photographer, and visual creator, a lot of my time is also spent carefully crafting my ability to listen perceptively to clients and develop a good understanding of their goals and creating solutions for them. After a lot of learning, here are 10 steps that can be applied to result in a great design:

1. Establish the basics.

Good design comes from clear expectations. From the very start of a project, be sure to establish all the details of what you expect as the designer and what your client/pastor/collaborators expect from you. Outline the process you will take to achieve what everyone needs from this design. This should include: timelines, sizes, formats, number of revisions, schedules, assets needed, costs, etc. These will set the parameters for what you need to accomplish and how.[quote]Good design comes from clear expectations.[/quote]

2. The details.

Next, it?s time to establish a design direction. As the designer, it is your job to listen and ask questions. The main goal should be to go through a creative briefing and to establish three things: 1. Who is the target audience? 2. What is the core message of the design? 3. What is the vision for the project? If they have examples of what they want, that?s awesome. But most of the time, people have a hard time articulating what they want visually, so it is best to keep focused on the end goal of a design. Most of the time, this question alone gives me the clearest understanding of a client?s visual direction ? more than any other I may ask.

3. Targeted research.

This step can be both factual and visual. You want to know about who you are trying to reach and what appeals to them, so get to know them. I?ve designed for pretty diverse clients who, at times, have very different styles from my own. It takes time, but get to know what appeals the most to them: Where would they buy coffee? What stores do they go to? What shows do they watch? A lot of times knowing these things helps me figure out the style that best fits what they identify with.

4. Design research.

Now things can start to get interesting. For every project I work on, I can spend the most time in this phase. Now that I?ve established a design direction and know the style I want to work with, I start to hunt for visuals ? both for inspiration and for possible use within the design. Over the years, I?ve started to curate a set of designers and creative companies to follow for inspiration that can help to see what is both trending and to gain creative ideas. If you don?t already do this, start now.

5. Create initial designs.

I never used to do this, but as I?ve grown as a designer, I now rely on this phase. Some call it the sketch phase. Most of the time this is just throwing ideas out there? good, bad, and ugly. This step is to simply get things started. Try out styles, do some casual photo shoots, put together a couple of color palettes and font choices. Get an initial direction started and then? stop.

6. Step back.

Unless I?m under an extreme deadline, I always step away from a project after the initial design phase. Usually, by taking at least a few hours or even a few days away from sitting down and designing, I am able to let my brain really develop the idea into a solid direction. Sometimes I?ll run across something in my day-to-day life that helps me set the tone for a design that I would never have thought of otherwise. This time away works just as much for me when working on a project as it does sitting behind my computer. It is truly invaluable. Give yourself time to think.[quote]Unless I?m under an extreme deadline, I always step away from a project after the initial design phase.[/quote]

7. Grind it out.

Once your direction is set, it?s time to just get in there and bust it out. Get some coffee, play your favorite tunes, and get your design created. Get your previews made and sent off for review.

8. Get feedback.

This phase should be simple and open communication about what to do next with the design. For a design to be successful, the most important part of this phase is to listen well and make sure you understand any changes that may need to be made. Revise as necessary and keep clearly communicating as much as you can to get to a place where everyone is happy with the design.

9. Prep final files.

Once you get approval, make sure all of your files are ready to go. Get them all sized out as necessary, create all of the formats needed, and create final files that are cleaned up versions of working files to give over to the client. Get everything prepped, loaded, and sent. You did it!

10. Celebrate and reflect.

I have to remind myself of this all the time. But, if you can, take the time to reflect on your project and celebrate it. Oftentimes, we move right on to the next design. So try and carve out some time, even a few weeks later, to circle back to the design and recognize your accomplishments and areas for improvement.[quote]If you can, take the time to reflect on your project and celebrate it.[/quote]

While a good design is definitely a journey, it doesn?t have to be completely baffling each time. These ten steps can give you a road map to make a successful design a much more realistic end.

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