It’s that time: one of the biggest brands you’ve ever worked with wants your designs. You’re ready to put in the extra hours and create something greater than anything you’ve ever done before. But remember, sometimes eagerness is the enemy. If you aren’t careful about every aspect of your design, it might get thrown out. Eliminate that chance before you start working by remembering these 5 habits of effective designers.
1. Sketch First
Before lifting a mouse to browse images, start sketching. Pen to paper, marker to whiteboard, stylus to tablet — whatever medium you choose, sketching encourages original thought. The process activates your visual, tactile, and kinesthetic ways of thinking, helping you create and plan what you’re doing. When it comes time to go into production, you’ll be more effective with your time, you can communicate your thought process, and you can cut back on revision cycles.
2. Ask Questions
Make sure you understand the problem you’re trying to solve, and if you don’t, ask more questions. What’s the critical message you’re trying to convey? What’s the most important takeaway? Who is the audience? What do we want them to think and why should they believe it? In what context will your audience be viewing the design? If it’s a new client or brand, ask for brand guidelines — anything from color palettes and typography rules to logos and approved images — and any rules they have for brand management.
3. Check the Copy
The overall effectiveness of the piece will be determined by how well the copy works with the imagery and design. Copy should be a collaborative process between the designer and the copywriter. Provide examples, such as webpages or previous content, so the copywriter knows how many words and characters to use. Be sure the copywriter reviews final copy in layout to make adjustments, too. Copy should never be final — it changes as your brand evolves. Both the writer and designer need to understand this and have some degree of flexibility. Designers also need to be aware of the brand’s messaging, voice, and tone, to make sure they stay on brand.
4. Explain Why
No matter how trendy it is, your design is only as good as what your design does. Be prepared to explain every element of it: Why you made the decisions, how it will benefit the user more than other designs, the tradeoffs between design options. Outline the strengths and potential weaknesses of each design you create so you’re fully prepared to talk about it. In order to push a brand forward, sometimes you have to do something slightly different. If you’re doing something that moves away from brand standards, you’ll need to explain why. Make sure your co-workers or clients are aware of the reasons for this change. It should be a collaborative and evolving process.
5. Solicit Extra Feedback
Show your grandma. No joke. Sometimes the less familiar a person is with your space, the more you can yield surprising feedback. And the more feedback you get, the better. Sometimes designers are too close to their work and need a fresh view. To get out of the designer bubble, ask your customers for feedback and get them to participate in the direction you’re taking. If you can’t get feedback from customers, get feedback from real people, like family, friends, or colleagues. Firsthand feedback from people who haven’t seen your latest materials is far more useful than showing five directors within your company.
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