Design Methods

The Design Brief

I cannot stress enough, the importance in getting this step in the design process correct. Project will and do stand and fall on the success and completeness the design brief.

With some smaller clients this can be difficult as they may be unfamiliar with such formality, but it is important you hold your ground, impress on them the importance of the brief. It can be tailored or simplified depending upon the nature of the project/product

Larger companies will expect/welcome the formalities, as it gives both parties a clear indication of  expectations

This document outlines my previous findings with regards to preparing a brief

The Development Cycle

Once both parties are happy with the brief the development phase  can begin

Like the design phase it is iterative. The designer will refer back to the client at key milestones to make sure the project is on track. The whole point is to mitigate the committing of resources, time, money in a project only for it to be unsuccessful.

I would include the following steps in the development cycle

  • Mood boards / Mapping
  • Sketches
  • Designs
  • Mockups / Prototypes
  • Final Designs

The result of brainstorming process. This typically shows inspiration, it might convey emotions, colour palettes, textures etc. This may or may not be something you want to share with a client. But either way its a good way to kickstart the develpment process, making sure you capture varous details outlined in the brief

An example of a very clean and focussed moodboard found here.  Seems well balanced interms of colour palette, subject matter. A good example of something you could share with a client.

Another good brainstorming technique. Can be used in conjuction with or in place of moodboards. Allows you to follow or explore different trains of thought by linking keywords key phrases. Usuallly takes you to places you would not have considered otherwise. The beauty of this techques is that you can go off tangent, be much more creative and diversre than with a moodboard.

This example is taken from in response to a brief for logo for a new startup web company. What’s nice is that after exploring his thoughts he is able to pull out what he considers key aspects to focus on.


With brainstorming complete you are in a position to commit some ideas to paper in the form of sketches. These dont have to be masterpieces as the point of them is to hash out  ideas quickly, discarding some ideas as you go, and fleshing out the better ones.

The key thing here is to follow you instincts. Over time, through various experiences, you become more attuned to what works. I would say (at this stage of my development )  if you feel strongly about one of your sketches go with it. Conversely you can be chasing an idea that is just not panning out. If youre having a hard time taking an idea forward its probably best to let it go.

It also quite important to commit quite  a few sketches  to paper. The key here is to push your ideas, not become constrained into narrow trains of thought. You may even surprise yourself in that a sketch may lead down a path you hadn’t considered. Exploration is key.

In truth If your are struggling here perhaps the earlier steps were not as thorough or targeted as they could be. All this rough work is not something you  would not want to share with a client but perhaps cleaned up versions of the key proposals is a good idea.

A series of sample sketches for a graphic design business Five 54. Found at


On successful completion of  the sketches its time to  turn these into working designs, whilst adhering to formats laid out in the brief, using your software of choice.


Mockup are quite an important phase in that for the first time the client gets to hold something tangible in their hand. Depending on the product this tactile step may be of great importance. Sticking with pamphlets, brochures, booklets; it quite easier or make a partial sample with a  colour laser or inject. The quality may not be the same. You certainly wouldn’t use quality paper stock but all the layout dimension are there. A good way to iron out any remaining issues before a print run.

Another alternative is ‘soft proofing‘ using PDFs. Equally or even more important as more document are read on devices these days. These method comes into play if you want to proof a larger document e.g. a book

Final Design

In the end theres no substitute for the real thing. Depending on the format perhaps a single or short  run prints. Its surprising how often mistakes still go unnoticed  in soft proofs and carry over in the printing phase hence the less you commit to the inital print the better.


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