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Understanding a little bit about some of the tools and methods makes the creative process less mysterious and simpler to understand.

My process resembles throwing a temper tantrum and then organizing it.

I might skip some of the parts, reorder them, spend a long time in one place and less time in other places, or very occasionally, go start to finish with a final design as a result.


1. Gather a huge collection of stuff. Make a mess. Gather, clip, search, draw, sketch, read, copy, paste. Collect everything with possibility, including ideas, visuals, thoughts, words, colors, shapes, photos, including everything provided by the client and anything discovered or created.




2. Throw a temper tantrum, fast. This is the fun part. Toss things together all over the screen allowing every initial impulse that comes to mind. Sort of like playing, or maybe like throwing a fit. Push strange things together just to see what happens. Sometimes delete everything and start over just for fun. Put no value or judgement in what appears. Working as fast as possible helps to keep value and judgement out, if anything takes too long then move on very quickly to the next idea.  If something sticks, or if it has potential, do a quick “save as..” give it a new filename, then keep tossing until every initial impulse even if it is childish, dull, simple, crazy, or stupid has been addressed. Depending on the project sometimes the tantrum is only a few minutes, other times it can happen over the course of days.




3. Find the focus. Start the actual design by making a decision on the visual focus. Approach the design from two or three different focal points. One or a few designs might start to emerge. Use the “scraps” of potential design material to see what combinations work to fit a particular focal point.




4. Trim and Delete. Remove everything that is unneccesary to the message. Visuals, copy, extra words here and there, anything that does not contribute to the message. Use the delete button as much as possible.



Water Pour

5.  Add it back in. Looking at the design from the experience of the user, I look for what they need to know that is missing. A call to action, a date, location, title, reference, type of image, logo, any basic information the viewer needs that is essential to the message.



Fibonacci spiral with square sizes up to 34

Image via Wikipedia

6. Make it make sense by using math. Apply a grid, or rearrange the design to align with either the rule of thirds, golden rectangle, golden ratio, or golden spiral. If it looks better after the realignment, keep it. If not then let it go. Harmonize colors by looking at either printed swatches, CMYK or RGB values, or for more fun I like ColorSuckr or mail order catalogs for color combinations.  I also use this part to design and shape the white space.




7. Address typography. Change fonts, spacing, leading so that everything is readable and the right fonts are selected.  Make sure the design isn’t using any common typography mistakes.



So that’s my personal process in a nutshell. I’ve found that this basic pattern repeats for most projects I create.

It’s helpful to get to know your own creative process, it is like a crazy unpredictable friend sitting next to you all day. You might as well get personal with it.

If you found this helpful, or if it gave you any ideas, or if you’d like to share your process, I would love to hear from you.

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