5 Steps to a Successful Design Project

Starting on a new design project? Consider these five steps to lead you on the road to success.

In my 10 years as a graphic designer, I’ve learned starting on a new design project is like planning a dinner party. First you land on the date and time, then nail down the guest list, plan the menu, accommodate any food allergies, decide on a budget, etc. A successful dinner party — or design project — can’t begin until every last detail is ironed out. And trust me, there are a lot of details.


The next time your business needs a new graphic, brochure, ad or website, be sure to keep these points in mind. Whether using an agency or in-house expertise, your team will thank you for it.


1. Initial Ideas

In the brainstorming phase, we want to hear any and all ideas, knowing we’ll weed out the good ones from the bad. When clients come to Candor with new project needs, we ask if they have examples of what they like, what they don’t like, what’s been done in the past and what could be done better in the future. From there, we can steer them in a specific direction and keep the project moving.


Side note: if a client comes to us and says they don’t know what they want, there’s a high likelihood we’ll make them go back and do some research. Having a jumping off point, even a broad one, will help us more quickly narrow the scope of the project and get it one step closer to completion.





2. Budget

Budget is a big deal. It might dictate what kind of paper we use, what printer gets the job, how much time we spend on a project and even if we can purchase stock photography. Candor always makes sure our clients get the most bang for their buck, so we may steer you away from physically printing and mailing an annual report, for example, and instead create a snazzy, interactive digital version.


Placement, distribution and advertising might also eat away at the budget. Clients must look at the big picture; do they have $5,000 to spend on creating graphics for Facebook ads, or is the actual ad spend coming out of that budget, too? If there are several pieces to the puzzle, projects can get expensive fast, so considering an overall budget is key.


3. Deadline

When we ask for a deadline, we really mean deadlines (plural). A project will have several points on its timeline, including internal content creation, first round of proofs, several rounds of edits and corrections and a hard deadline. We also always ask clients if they envision using the piece in different ways — creating different versions, say for print, online and social media, takes time. It may be necessary to set a hard deadline first, and then set expectations with clients on what we can achieve within that timeframe. Even seemingly “simple” projects like brochures, mailers and flyers can take two to three weeks from start to finish.


4. Audience/Purpose

Believe it or not, clients often forget to take target audience into consideration. No one design piece can appeal to everyone — sometimes, creating different versions of a project is actually the most effective way to reach and appeal to specific audience segments.


Where and how the piece is being used are other important factors to consider. Is the brochure meant for a younger, mobile-first audience, for example, or should it be produced in large print for seniors? Determining audience and purpose may take the project in an entirely new direction, so be sure these aspects are seriously and carefully considered.





5. Style & Brand Guidelines

Finally, we want to ensure any new project we create fits in with clients’ existing brands. Taking style and brand guidelines into account will help us maintain consistency and give brands a strong voice. Colors, styles, fonts and design choices can even help elicit certain emotions or inspire the audience to take action.


Note: if your brand is highly recognizable in red and yellow with a bold sans serif typeface, for example, then play this to your advantage. Think of the McDonald’s arches — kids recognize them from miles away. McDonald’s isn’t suddenly going to change them to blue to “mix things up.”


In my experience, keeping these five points in mind always means the difference between a successful, impactful design project and one that just falls flat. Lean on the experienced team at Candor to guide you in the right direction, and together, we’ll create a piece which personifies your brand and achieves your goals.


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