We live in a time where there is more information, tutorials and videos on how to create any element of CSS, JQuery or PHP for your site than you can shake a mouse at. But the most valuable knowledge a young designer needs to know is not how to use write code, photoshop or even design in 3D Studio Max but how to run a design studio, handle project workflow and deal with clients for maximum efficiency.
In this article we will touch on some of the following points:
- Breaking down your projects into phases
- Taking Stock of the Assets in the project
- Proper ordering of tasks and parts of your project
- Executing each phase with sign offs
Breaking down Everything
To be a successful designer you have to be able to do much more than you are used to. You may need to become a jack of all trades and master them all as well. Most projects that clients require these days have multiple parts to them. They will require you to understand how to break various tasks up into the correct phases and order them in a way that saves you the most hours possible, this is also in your best interest. Let’s face it, we would all rather have more time to design then to fix corrections, relay copy and swap out graphics, but unfortunately that is just not reality.
Even if you are hired to redesign a website. That website is made up of many other assets. From logos to photography, what you need to do is take a thorough account of all the assets you have and grade them on a scale of quality, usefulness and appropriateness . . basically will these old assets work in your news design or will they bring that design down.
There may also be times when you have to work with what you got and make the best of it, but at least offer the client a scale of costs VS improved quality if applicable in this situation.
Take stock of your assets
Let’s take this scenario, a client who awards you a product website redesign. The first thing you should be doing after your initial kick off call with the client is, breakdown all the assets the old site has and see what you can reuse, repurpose and what needs to be rebuilt.
For example, you go through the site and find that the copy text was great! The company’s logo is very plain looking (in your opinion), the layout was okay but dated. However, the glaring problem is the product packaging looks horrible and the old packaging hero renders are really bringing down the overall presence of the new design you have in mind. What should you do?
After putting together a list of the assets that you can use and those that will need attention you should explain to the client that no matter how much work is put into this design it is only as good as the weakest part. It is crucial to communicate this point, that you can’t just paint a Ford Taurus red, slap a few stickers on it and call it a Ferrari!
If things go well and the client agrees with your assessment of the situation and they redo the packaging. God bless you, because you have made your point loud and clear and they have listened to you. Insert happy dance. Your next step is to make sure all the parts of this project happen at the correct time and order. Your first instance may be to start laying out the website since that is what you were paid to do but you would be wrong!
Making project phases fall into place like Dominos
Lets take a look at a proper example of workflow.
Thought Process – Copy – Brand – Concept Design – Package Design – Web – Print
If you look at this workflow trying to complete these out of order will result in you doing extra work and if an element is changed in mid stream or even worse right at the end, this results in a ton of extra work that you have not billed the hours for. This is where following a logical hierarchy of asset creation makes a ton of sense from a time savings and efficiency standpoint.
If a logo is used in all media and material then it makes sense to get that designed first and signed off on before you start creating any other assets. Where this will really save you time is in small things like tweaking a logo and then rolling out websites, print and packaging only to have your revision of the logo fail the board approval and you have to go back and fix all those edits. The same holds true especially for copy.
The earlier in the workflow you can get copy approved and locked the less revisions to sites, package design and print ads down the road.
Before we can proceed let’s lock this first.
As you explain this process to your client you may be surprised at how amazed they are at the amount of thought that goes into something as simple as a site refresh. I bet most really appreciate the effort.
So to wrap up, make sure each phase of your workflow is signed off and locked before proceeding to the next phase. Think of it like building blocks. You can’t build very high and of any meaningful quality if you don’t start with a solid foundation.