4 Steps to Developing a Design Concept

Sara LeeGraphic Designer
As each individual will have his or her personal way of processing a concept and turning it into a reality, this is simply a record of my own system as a designer.

It may feel daunting or even overwhelming when developing a new idea for a project or task, but it is beneficial to break it into smaller attainable pieces.

Here are four steps that I utilize to evolve my creative process: Keywords, Inspiration Through Research, Sketch/Outline, and Digital.

1. Keywords

Brainstorming an idea to find important keywords is an exercise that helps target ideas in more detail.
  • First, I choose a word that I identify as a focal point to begin the brainstorming process.
  • From there, I branch out from that word by listing or making a word web that extends out. (I have to remember that I need stay open to any word that comes to mind. This is a beginning step where I do not want to limit any creative possibilities.)
  • Lastly, I filter through all of the words on the word map and circle the top two to five words from the results that will best represent my design. 

By narrowing my idea into these keywords, I am ready to research typography and imagery that visually convey the message of the design clearly.

2. Inspiration Through Research

The type of inspiration that I refer to is dependent on the medium of the design itself. My influences and references will come from similar works that have already been successful. For example: If I am designing a birthday greeting card, I will visually surround myself with other existing greeting cards that prove to have a style that I would like to achieve. Through researching, I experience my direction forming and filtering regarding the typography and imagery I will later implement. When I am pleased with four to eight inspirational pieces, I proceed to sketching my ideas into thumbnails.

3. Sketch/Outline

It is very useful to have some form of a notepad or sketchbook near you at all times, but I remember having an instance where I used a napkin at a restaurant in a creative moment during dinner.
I do not spend too much time focusing on how the sketches look. Because I quickly sketch or outline the ideas that formed through the previous steps, they end up appearing a bit chaotic. Ideally, I aim to have one solid solution at the end of this step, but more often than not, I will finish with two or three that I truly appreciate.

4. Digital

This last step is the bridge between those rough drafts to polished digital versions. This is where the design concept comes to life. Whether they are printed or created for the web, they are now available in a tangible way for the rest of the world to enjoy.

As I close, I will challenge you with a question to ask yourself. Do you have an effective method to grow your concepts?

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