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.


Narratives using Imagery

1. CBS Action Ident

Currently running a couple of idents on UK TV.

  1. Chase ident
  2. Crime and Punishment ident

They can be  played and viewed here. The Lead Designer is Laura Hulme. First thing that surprised me is how short they are. Less than 20 sec. Before doing this write-up I never considered this. They have much more presence in my mind than that; especially the chase ident. Maybe because I’ve seen it so many times.

They appeal to me on many levels. Firstly, I’m a huge fan of motion graphics, be them idents ore film title sequences, etc. I’m appreciative of the  simple 3 tone colour palette and simple outline 2D graphics style.

As well as being a great graphic style, this simple reductive form allows you to concentrate on  what is being conveyed ( in my opinion ) instead of  being overly caught up in the graphics themselves. Lets face it, you’ve got a very small window to get your message across.

In this regards it remind of the now classic ipod campaign whichs is probably the archetype.

The important thing here is not the people themselves, its that they are have a great time. The frantic expressive movement and cool sounds give that away. And it alls due to the little device in  the noticeable 3rd colour which we learn at the end is the iPod

The idents play  like a storyboard, nicely moving you along from one cell to the next. Each cell has a classic scenes from the genre  its promoting. Thus allowing to relive those moments as it progresses through. All the excitement, the adrenaline! The 2 guys running along the train is most potent for me. All 2secs of it ! It brings up nostalgic memories of 70s, 80s action ( or spy) films and cop shows.

Its a motion graphic, so any tool in the field could be used. Adobe After Effects comes to mind, not that I have any experience of it. But from my perspective it something that could be replicated  with great success in Flash. Perhaps starting in Illustrator to produce all the graphic symbols.

Wow, writing that almost seems like a challenge !. Yep I think its gonna happen!

I think the ident is not only successful in informing you what you get on the channel, but in doing it with such visual flair

Pretty cool!

2. Around the world in 80 Drinks

One of many illustrative titles by Josh Agle. Due to copyright restrictions can only veiw or find a copy on amazon to look inside.

I absolulelty love this retro image style. He describes it as

‘being based on advertising and illustration from the 50s and 60s with a modern with a modern twist’

See video link below.

I would say it has its roots in American Modernism. The strong use of colour, angular elements, but not just visually but also culturally;  the jazz music, hipster lifestyle so often depicted.

Looking a bit deeper I would say that these visually elements are born out,  or influenced by movements such as cubism. You only have to look at some of the UPA cartoons between the 40s and 60s to notice  more direct references.

The book itself is thin on text. If anything I would say that these books only exist to indulge yourself in the artwork. There is some nice freehand , or bespoke fonts befitting of the period. The main content is bog standard serifs, and san serif.

This is certainly a visual experience,  light reading,to be placed on a coffee table; perhaps at a party. Light hearted, fun.

I found a really fun quote about this book. Not sure how serious this quy is,but it made me chuckle

This work certainly suits Illustrator, with a few textures here a there to give it a bit of life. If my drawing skills were up to it I would definitely turn in a project in this style. One for the near future I think.

3. HTC – Simply Brilliant Campaign

HTC ran a series of these  a couple of years ago. They employ basic black and white outline animation. In this one we have a  person struggle with a map. Your eye follows this central character  as he struggles to find his way. Just as he gives up; up pops a phone and points him  in the right direction.

Its a very simple ad that make its point clearly, whilst having an element of charm to it.

Initial Research

1. Noma Bars illustrations for Wallpaper Magazine

A great series of illustrations for the over of Wallpaper Magazine. Many more to be found at Core77. I like how the objects such as the lamp and candles form part of the illustration. The fact that the image falls on a 3D space is different. Might be interesting to seat the text on these planes.

2. Editorial Images

Stuart Bradford regularly produces digital collages for clients such as Wall street Journal, Discover magazine. The images themselves no not contain type. The comes of the form of an accompanying article.

What appeals to me here is how the photographic, illustrative, textural elements blend together in his composition, and there seems to be much more regularity than say in Dadaist collages/ photo montages.  Also because there are so many elements, it can relate to different aspects of an article. The individual elements seem simple enough, but lots of filters, blending, brushes. Could learn a thing or two here!

3. Infographics

This appeals to me on many levels. Coming from a computational background I love how they provide a more pleasing and engaging method of expressing data. It surprises me how different the design can be achieved using simple 2D graphics. In this poster, the layout and typography carry equal if not more weight. The backgrounds surrounding key text draw your attention. The diagonal strip is a nice touch. All this directly applies to web design which is a plus.