Professional Design Process Explained! (A 9-Steps Process)

A good design is hard to achieve. Whether it’s about creating a logo, designing a business card or redesigning a company’s website – every designer has his/her own approach to the professional design process. However, there are a few phases of the design process that remains the same.

Now, if you’re new to design and you’re eager to understand the design process, you’ve come to the right place. In this particular post, I am going to briefly describe the 10 key stages most design projects pass through to get successful.

First of all – How do you describe the design process?

The term “design process” is used by architects, engineers, scientists, and other thinkers on a daily basis to define the series of steps needed to get from the initial inspiration to a successful design/product. A well-defined design process solves a variety of problems and guides your work and thoughts to improve the overall creative quality of the outcome.

What are the steps involved in the design process?

Now that you know what a design process is, let’s outline a general design process that anyone can use as a starting point. If you’d like to design something creative, here are the steps you need to follow.

Step 1: Briefing

The first step of the design project’s life cycle is briefing – which refers to creating and evaluating the blueprint of the final design.

How do you usually do it: You gather as much information as you can about the client’s requirement and get on with it.

How it should be done: A designer should go beyond the surface level and dive into the critical details. For example, if you are designing a new logo for an eCommerce business, you should take notes from its business model, popular products, target customers, marketing programs, etc. Know your clients before you try to meet their requirements.

Step 2: Design Research

Next, you do detailed research that helps you understand the design that you are requested to deliver. This step helps to ensure that your design is not rejected because it failed to meet the desired expectations.

How do you usually do it: You seek designs that fit the industry trends and the client’s customers.

How it should be done: You should focus on the client’s competitors. Have insights into every potential competitor and generate design ideas in accordance with the point of differentiation (POD), market, audience, and trends.

Step 3: Brainstorming

Once you’ve completed your research on the design, the client, the industry, and the audience, you move to the next step where you put together all the gathered information and brainstorm ideas with the team to use the information in a structured way.

How do you usually do it: You call in a quick meeting for briefing and brainstorming ideas.

How it should be done: Meetings are great but you need something better – real-time design collaboration. There are plenty of team collaboration tools and team chat apps that can help you keep all your design-related conversations in one place. You can brainstorm ideas, send text messages, share files, search chat history, and stay up-to-date with the project’s progress without the need for back and forth emails.

Step 4: Sketching

Now that you’ve got the ideas flowing, you need to capture them. This is where you create sketches and design mock-ups. Basically, you create a layout of what you want to achieve so that you can achieve it without any kind of confusion.

How do you usually do it: You start drawing rough sketches of your ideas in your imagination.

How it should be done: Instead of using paper and pencil, find a prototyping tool – such as Sketch, Zeplin, Framer X, etc. – that lets you sketch, save, and share designs intuitively and quickly.

Step 5: Design Building

Using the sketches and mock-ups you’ve created, you give your final design its desired shape. During the design building, you make some crucial design decisions like what colors to use, what typography to go with, what shapes go best, and so on. You also use professional tools like a work management software or graphic design software to give your design process a professional touch.

How do you usually do it: You use the several versions of your selected sketches and draft design with color palettes, typographic pairings, and a grid structure that meets the client’s choice.

How it should be done: At this point, it’s really important that you put a keen eye on the design. Using design software can make this part of the design process really easy. Also, don’t restrict the design to just the client’s opinions – ask your colleagues and coworkers for feedback, too.

Step 6: Refining

No design comes out perfect in the first trail. You keep making improvements until you get the exact outcome you were aiming for. That’s exactly what you’re going to do in the refining stage. You are going to brush up your design until you are satisfied with it.

How do you usually do it: You give the client a quick chance to review the design and hope that its good to go.

How it should be done: If you really want your design to be good to go, don’t rush through the drafting and preliminary work process. And keep client feedback consistent throughout the design project management process so that there are no blank changes at this stage.

Step 7: Proofing

Almost there! You’ve completed your design successfully and it looks great. Now is the time you ask for an honest review from your coworkers, clients, and stakeholders. You seek a fresh set of eyes to help you find every possible room for improvement – something you weren’t able to notice on your own.

How do you usually do it: You send the final design to the client for review through email and wait for follow up with the list of changes (if any).

How it should be done: Email is not ideal for design review/approval. Instead, there are online proofing tools that automate the review and approval of design online. Tools like ProofHub, GoProof, Aproove, etc. allow designers like you to get instant feedback on your designs using markup tools and threaded comments, and get them approved in one-click.

Step 8: Revisions

Getting feedback on the design was the easy part. The hard part is to make the necessary changes without delaying the design delivery or worse – ruining what you’ve created. It won’t be a surprise if some of the suggested changes seem too unusual or almost impossible. Anyway, feedback and revisions are the best way to bring out the best in almost anything. So you use your best judgment and make necessary changes happen.

How do you usually do it: You make the requested changes to your design and send it for review, again.

How it should be done: Another key advantage of using an online proofing software is that it eliminates the possibility of multiple revisions. No need to waste time sending a new version of the design to the client over email or making one change at a time. Wrap up the review and approval part of the design process as quickly as possible.

Step 9: Delivery

Here comes the final step – since you’ve made all the necessary changes, it’s time to get your design approved and you are all set for the final delivery. Also, you give yourself and your team a pat on the back for a job well done.

How do you usually do it: You deliver the design and mark the project COMPLETE.

How it should be done: In a project, every effort – no matter how small – needs to be recognized and appreciated, especially when the project is completed and delivered successfully. And the way it’s done is completely up to you.

A great design can bring brand/business to life. But great designs don’t happen by accident. They take talent- and more importantly, a well-thought professional design process. Hopefully, we’ve given you a good idea of the key steps or stages you need to go through to successfully complete a design process. However, if you think we’ve missed something, feel free to share our suggestions in the comments section.

Professional Design Process Explained
Professional Design Process Explained

Featured image source: Freepik

Published by Vartika Kashyap

Vartika Kashyap is the Marketing Manager at ProofHub and has been one of the LinkedIn Top Voices in 2018. Her articles are inspired by office situations and work-related events. She likes to write about productivity, team building, work culture, leadership, entrepreneurship among others and contributing to a better workplace is what makes her click.

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