My Step By Step Design Process

Have you ever addressed any type of design project and wonder what the design process is? Are you new to design and just don’t know where to start? Or maybe you are an experienced professional that wants to better understand the process of design. Whatever the reason, this article will help give you an understanding of how to approach any type of design in a methodical manner.

Whether you’re a freelance designer or an in-house designer, chances are you’ve had to work up some designs for a project. Your design process will vary and there isn’t really a “right” way to do this since every designer has their own way of doing things and I would highly encourage you to modify the following steps to fit into your own style.

I’ve learnt to design in a job, agency and freelance environment and each has been quite different. With the constant need to work in different environments, you pick up new ways of working and new habits. I would like to share my design process with you that I have taught to the majority of the designers I have worked with professionally.

1. Define the Problem

If you’re new to design, it might be tough to know where to start. This is no overly complicated question to answer: when designing, the first thing you want to do is define the problem.

Defining the problem is something you can do before you start a project or a new design/redesign. This is where client discovery takes place and after gathering enough good information, you’re ready to dig into the project.

When I design something new, I always start with a problem. Why? Without a problem, there’s no reason to make anything. By defining the problem you can understand what’s missing in the world and focus your efforts on fixing it. It also helps to figure out a way to solve the problem before you start designing. I take this idea into every part of my design process even if I already have an idea of how I want it to look.

2. Collect Information

I don’t know about you, but I tend to be the type of person who is in front of the screen for hours, looking at and thinking about design. Sometimes, I’ve spent so much time in front of the screen that I can’t see anything. That happens when you are working on a design project. You find yourself staring at the same things over and again and can’t think outside the box. The result is not always good. A good designer must be precise – he or she has to collect information before beginning a design project.

Every time I get a new design job I usually take all of the information that the client provides me and use it as a guide for my design process. If you do this then you’re like me because I always find myself with some documentation to work from. This document outlines the following:

  1. The problem
  2. The solution
  3. The main functions
  4. What it should look like (UI art screens or mockups)
  5. Technical information
  6. Your vision
  7. Colors
  8. Usability
  9. Top navigation and what is on each page
  10. Test plan
  11. Page map
  12. Mobile site
  13. Annotated wireframe

3. Brainstorm and Analyze Ideas

Have you ever wondered how designers brainstorm out their ideas? They have a process they go by, whether they realize it or not, that makes the creative design process function. Designers know the importance of having a clear and easy to navigate design which is why they take time to get their thoughts out on paper. Getting your thoughts and ideas down on paper will help you start the right path for your web design.

Design is a lot easier when you’re organized. Without a plan, the design can become messy and disjointed. When thinking about ideas, first write them down on a whiteboard or post-it notes. From there, arrange the most attractive ideas in large groups. This is your brainstorming session.

Every designer spends time brainstorming ideas, but it’s not always easy to know how to do it properly. Designers spend countless hours searching for inspiration in the flickering light of the screen before them. They worry about running out of ideas and being unable to finish their projects. This is a simple guide on how you can brainstorm your own ideas more effectively. It provides a walkthrough of my very own personal process. You’ll be able to gain inspiration and confidence as you stimulate your mind with new ideas.

4. Sketching Ideas

When deciding on a design for a new client I have a few things I like to do before even opening up Sketch or Photoshop. This gives me a chance to get ideas out of my head and onto paper which helps me think more clearly throughout the process of designing.

Sketching is a valuable part of the design process that many designers overlook. For me, it’s always been an important skill to get right. Without efficient sketching ability, you’ll find yourself wasting time every day; making the same mistakes again and again or not even knowing where to begin.

Every designer has a different approach to design, some sit down and sketch out their ideas first, others just dive into Photoshop. Generally, designers fall into two categories – the sketchers and the doodlers. The sketchers believe that anything can be solved with pen & paper and that the time spent in creation perfecting their idea is what’s important. The doodlers can’t wait to enter their ideas into the computer so they can see it more clearly. They value speed over precision and want to get to the fun part of colouring in pretty shapes.

5. Mood board designing

When designing and branding a website, a mood board is the first step. Mood board is not a physical board or a place for sketching, rather it is a place where you put all your creative ideas together. A good thing about a mood board is, it helps you to understand what you want from your brand image and what the website will represent. Mood boards can be as simple as just magazine cut-outs or online resources, jot down your ideas and start including colors, photographs, inspirational quotes, typography, etc. in an organized manner to explore your inspirations.

Mood board design is an absolutely essential part of any successful design project. It has that power to capture the whole essence of project while providing a focused theme or area of interest for you to get your creative juices flowing. As a self-confessed mood board geek I have spent hours and hours creating my own mood boards and although there are many mood board examples that are available online, I know how difficult it can sometimes be to find creative ideas that you can use as inspiration. Then one day, I hit the jackpot!

6. Develop Solutions

We are often not aware of our own behavior while designing a solution for clients. Our recent major e-commerce website involved a one and half year of design building which involved client engagement and collective execution effort. This gave us ample opportunity to analyze our approach and fine-tune the process we follow while developing solutions.

Nobody wants to admit it, but the decision of how you go about designing a website or application can be a daunting one. Maybe I will design in sketch, maybe photoshop, maybe finalize in Illustrator… But alas! There are so many options and tools for each part of the process that it just leads to more questions.

7. Gather Feedback

Good ideas are the result of multiple perspectives. It’s about creating a blend of the best suggestions, which can only be achieved by involving as many people as possible. To gather as much feedback as possible, present your ideas to as many people as possible: friends, teachers, professionals, and any others you trust to give insightful comments.

In beginning the design process of your project, gather as much feedback as possible before starting any sketching or mockups. You’ll want to run your ideas by friends and family, but you can also ask teachers at school, professionals online or offline, and anyone else you trust to give you insightful feedback.

8. Refining the Final Version

After following all the steps in the Design Process , there is a good chance that the design is on the final version, but I still prefer to do some “revisiting” and “tuning”.

A lot of times you hear about designers that say we lose a lot while in the process of creation, but actually, that’s not true. We refined and finalized everything, so it’s a good version to be released. We may have lost some fonts, some colors but everything is very organized and well defined, making this stage the final step for this presentation.

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