I can’t speak for every designer obviously, but I think a lot of us have similar processes. We may all execute them differently but, more or less, we do the same things. Since I can’t speak for everyone, I’ll tell you what to expect from working with me. Your mileage with this information may vary when you apply it to a different designer.
The first thing to note about working with a designer is that it’s going to take a bit of time. Good design doesn’t happen overnight (well, sometimes it does when a burst of creativity hits and you stay up working until 4am but that’s the exception and not the rule). You should expect to be working with your designer for at least a couple weeks for smaller projects and possibly a couple of months for larger ones. My clients and I generally need about four weeks to get through the brand discovery and design process for a logo. A full branding project would need more time than that obviously, add a website and that adds more time again.
Everything hinges on the brand discovery process and your final logo design so that work needs to be completed before the rest of your visual branding or your website can be created. So basically, you can expect to spend at least a month working with me on a custom design. It’s not unusual for me to work with a client for 3 months when we’re doing a full brand and website design together so keep that in mind when you’re planning things.
Speaking of planning things, January to June tend to be my busiest months of the year, July to September are steady but not as crazy as the first six months of the year, and October and November are my slow period. I often take the month of December off to relax a bit, prep for the holidays, and prepare for the start of the January to June insanely busy stretch. I usually have a wait list but in the late fall, as Christmas approaches, I sometimes don’t.
Now that that is out of the way, here’s the condensed version of how I generally progress through the design process with clients.
Our relationship starts off with a design consultation for each of my prospective clients. We can either chat online or on the phone and discuss the details of your project. Usually this is where I answer about a million questions about everything. That’s totally normal and I don’t mind a bit, by the way, so don’t worry about asking too many questions because you won’t. I’ll throw some questions back at you so that I can learn a bit about you, your business and your products or services too.
This is our opportunity to get to know each other a bit and make sure that we’re a good fit. In addition to chatting about the design details and we will usually end up a bit off topic at times and talk about random stuff but that’s totally ok. I don’t do “strictly business” relationships well and, honestly, in this line of work I think that’s a good thing. I like to know my clients on a personal level instead of being all proper and only talking business. Since I’m designing a something personal that should be authentically you, I feel like getting to know someone is a necessity to pulling off design that truly suits you anyway. Generally the more our conversation goes off topic during our consult and the more we laugh, the better I know we will work together. If we can get along as friends, that makes the design flow soooo much easier and the final results are infinitely better.
Assuming you and I hit it off, the rough numbers work for your budget, and we’re sure that we’re going to make an awesome team, this is where clients generally book in for their project. I will draw up a customized estimate for you based on our conversation and emails and send it to you to look over along with a formal design contract for you to sign and send back to me. The estimate will lay out all of the pricing and the design contract will lay out the rights and responsibilities for each of us in our design relationship. Both are written in plain english and not in fancy legalese that’s impossible to understand. I hate trying to figure out what the heck most contracts actually mean and whether or not they’re actually in my best interest so I’ve tried my best to simplify mine and make it easy to understand. If everything is cool with you, we’ll both sign off on the contract and your retainer will be due at this point to hold your spot in my schedule.
The discovery (research) phase comes next. I have a unique process that consists of surveys, worksheets and inspiration boards that each of my client’s is asked to complete before their design start date. I know it sounds like homework and, in a way I guess it kind of is, but this is fun homework – I promise! (There’s no math involved either!) Some of the worksheets will make you really think about things though! This process is key to creating an authentic brand for your business and I base all of my design choices on what we discover through completing it. During this phase, I have work to do too! I will check out your closest competition to see where they stand in the market, what they look like, and what they’re doing as well as some big names in your industry in general.
When your start date arrives, I will start my portion of the process by assembling the information from the discovery phase and create a vision board for your brand/website with colors, patterns, images and fonts that fit with what has been uncovered through doing our combined research. When I’m finished I will share this with you to make sure that I interpreted things in a way that you like. Oftentimes there is more than one direction I could go in so I base my choice on my gut feeling of what you would like from what I’ve learned about you so far. If I nail it the first time, and often I do, I’ll start on concepts for you next. If it’s not what you had in mind, I’ll ask for your comments and criticisms on the vision board and try something else.
When the concepts are finished I’ll send them. Sometimes (like for logos), I will ask you to choose one and we’ll move forward with that design. If there are any revisions you’d like me to make to get it perfect we’ll do those next and, once it’s exactly perfect for you, I’ll move on to the next task.
If we’re working on a logo, I’ll package it up with a brand style board that will dictate design decisions for the rest of your brand. The style board will lay out colors, fonts, and patterns to be used in further designs as well as an alternate version of you logo just in case you need it. You can use the style board to keep you on track when you create your own designs for your business to keep everything cohesive. For example, if you want to match the accent color on your website to the shade of pink in your logo all you’ll have to do is look at your style board for the color hex code and you’ll have a perfect match.
If we’re working on a full brand for your business or a website, I’ll start these next and make decisions for their design using the completed style board.
If we are designing just a website because you already have a beautiful brand that works for you, the process will look a little different. I design and develop websites using WordPressexclusively. I do all of the work to mock up your website offline on my own web server. During this time, I will share concepts as images rather than working web pages. Once your revisions to these images are complete, I move the site from my offline web server to my online one and you will be able to click through all of the pages and use the site live. I usually offer another round of revisions at this point and, when that’s complete I will package the website into a zip file that’s ready to be “installed” on your own hosting account. If you’ve given me access to your account to complete the install for you, I would go ahead and do that. If not, you would be able to install the site at your convenience. If you need hosting, I personally use DreamHost* for my sites and I recommend their DreamPress* plan that’s made specifically for WordPress users.
(Full disclosure: Those two links to DreamHost with the * are affiliate links. You won’t pay more if you purchase hosting through those links, sometimes you’ll even pay less, but I get a couple bucks off of my own website hosting costs if you do use them. If you’d rather not give me the kickback, I still highly recommend DreamHost so just google them instead of checking them out with my links and I won’t get a penny.)
Hopefully that helps give you a better idea of what to expect. I work closely with my clients so you can expect to be a major part of the process for a lot of our time working together. The only time you’ll really have a lull in communication is during the concept development portion of the process. While I’m working on creating logo concepts for you, I’ll be pretty quiet. Aside from that, you’ll hear from me a lot.
If I skipped over something that you were wondering about or if you’d just like more details on the specifics of things, please, send me a message and ask away. I’d be happy to chat and answer your questions.