Design: 7 Elements of Our Creative Process

1. Clarify goals, personas, and target demographic.

Through a creative brief, we identify the goal of the project. By getting as much insight as we can beforehand and understanding what the problem is that we are solving, we can brainstorm solutions to the problem. We have a kickoff meeting with team members and help identify the message or goal of the project, discuss what success will look like for the project, and begin to establish creative direction and art direction.

2. Define project scope.

Scope can vary greatly depending on a project’s complexity or goals. We are fairly dialed in on estimating projects we’ve done before. New projects or content types are often more unpredictable and have larger scopes, as we develop a process or new tech to support our designs. We use the Agile process, which helps the whole team organize accordingly and stay true to the project’s defined scope.

3. Research designs, styles, code, etc.

Spend some time researching possible solutions that already exist, design styles, code framework, etc. This is especially useful for things like interactives, where researching what technologies and code libraries are available can help make time more efficient and gives us a better understanding of what will be feasible for the project in our time frame. By researching the designs that are out there, it helps us get a better idea of what is possible, helps us communicate what ideas we have in mind through a mood board of examples, and allows us to see what is out there so we can stand out.

Click the images below to view the corresponding story in Jira.
Note the subtasks, communication, and time required to take each project from concept to finished product.

4. Use a grid to establish a visual rhythm, make sketches, wireframes, blockframes, and sitemaps.

After identifying goals, researching possible solutions, and deciding on the best direction for a piece, we then jump to pen and paper (or mouse and screen). One of the first steps is Art Direction, which involves design inspiration and design research. The art direction is discussed with designers and writers to, as a group, define the final design of the project.

5. Create one or more visual designs.

Next comes the hands-on process. Content we make can be in the form of a landing page, a flyer, a highly-designed infographic, or even a motion graphics video. This usually is a collaboration between designers, copywriters, content strategists, and other stakeholders.

When a project involves coding, we code in an MVP process (Minimum Viable Product). With that method, we start coding the general skeleton of the project and slowly build on details, assets, and animations. In this way, we can start getting a feel for the copy and design while minimizing the risk of an unwanted increase in scope (scope creep).

For projects that require coding, an extra design pass will be done to ensure that the coded version still has the intended effect, and to ensure that it is user-interaction friendly.

6. Test thoroughly, and iterate to improve.

Once the piece is ready to go, we always check it for quality. The piece is combed through by one or more people outside the process to ensure fresh eyes can catch typos, bugs, and ways the piece can be improved from the user’s point of view. Improvements are implemented before the project wraps up.

For testing feedback, we tend to use InVision for design/copy changes, and Google Docs for coding QA/Browser testing changes.

Ideally, we strive always to have a bit of outside testing go through our projects as well. To get started, we had to make assumptions about what the best solution to a problem would be. This is the step where we test that assumption. This can be user-testing a landing page, looking for page scrolls or clicks, sending out surveys, or getting feedback via internal interviews. Once the results are in, we review the feedback for trends that we can implement.

7. Deployment time: ship, share, and celebrate.

All done? Proofed, packaged, and ready to go? Let’s rock n’ roll! Deploying a piece of content can involve delivering a project to a department like the dev team, the marketing team, or the content team, pushing a webpage or website live, or ordering a print job.