Getting a Handle on the Creative Process for Graphic Designers

Graphic Designers Creative Process

Getting a Handle on the Creative Process for Graphic Designers

By Damien Northmore of www.damiennorthmore.com

The Graphic Design industry is very competitive, and trust me, it can certainly get stressful and frustrating at times. However, it doesn’t always have to be that way. Here, I have broken down my design process. This is how I create my design layouts from start to finish. Basically, with some focus, structure, and a little bit of talent, creating rewarding and professional design work can be produced more efficiently and with less stress.

Research

Research for graphic design layout

The very first thing on my long list is to research and learn as much about my client(s) as possible. The more I know, the easier the project will be. For instance, I can only imagine the embarrassment of having a client question why images of plastic bottles were used when they only sell organic material. So to avoid such mistakes, I analyze my customers to ensure accuracy, and start off on the right foot to avoid any problems or issues later on.

Brainstorming

brainstorming for graphic design layoutsI find that striving to be as unique and innovative as possible while still following the current trends, ensures a fresh and creative way of thinking. I often look through magazines, sketch, browse the internet, and listen to music to get creative inspiration. Occasionally, I’ll look for previously designed materials a client has created, just to see where their graphic design and/or branding stands. Sometimes this helps spark a new idea or concept. Making thumbnails and rough sketches helps me work through my ideas. I also tend to ask friends and colleagues about what they think to me get a different perspective on the design. I’m most creative when I’m relaxed, so I make sure that I am comfortable, otherwise I find it very hard to keep focused. If I’m stuck on an idea then I go for a walk to clear my head because forcing an idea won’t result in a good design. This is just my method, everyone has their own way of getting in to that “creative zone”.

The Elements

For me structure is important, I use a few elements as guidelines that help me to balance the level of unity within a composition. I basically break down design into three categories typography, negative space and color.

Typography

typography in graphic design layout

Typography is a very substantial and fundamental part of any design. After I’ve come up with a good concept or two, i‘lI start looking for an appropriate typeface, one that will define the mood and act sort of like an anchor that I can work with. Usually I’ll spend a good deal of time searching for something tasteful and fitting. The following two fonts sites - www.dafont.com and www.fontfreak.com - are two pretty good font resources with lots of variety. Once I have picked fonts that I like, I’ll play with it for a while, resize it, kern it, rotate it etc. and just have some fun with it. To keep the piece more cohesive and easier to read, I prefer to keep the number of typefaces in a design to a minimum to maintain consistency.

Negative Space

negative space white spaceIt took me a while to realize that less is really more and that there are big advantages of using more open space in any design. It helps with contrast and clarity and the overall message of the design comes through clearer. If there is too much going on, and my design starts to get cluttered, then I’ll take a step back and really look at how the whole piece looks as a whole. If there’s something that looks awkward or doesn’t need to be in the design, then I remove it. I think paying attention to the negative space throughout the design process inevitably points me in the right direction and saves time with revisions or alterations later on.

Colors

color combinations in graphic design

I like to have fun playing with different color combinations. There are so many color schemes that sometimes I’ll spend hours if not days trying to decide on one that will present the look and feeling I want to portray. I always thought that the psychological effect that colors present was fascinating. For example, when you see red, food may come to mind. While seeing the color blue, the feeling of tranquility and relaxation is felt by the viewer. I always found the unique meanings of color pretty handy for design. Using the right colors will make all the difference. I’ll usually try and pick tones rather than straight colors because it’s less generic. I am also a big fan of plain black and white, because the combination and contrast is so strong. A good site I check frequently is www.colourlovers.com, which is a site where users post their favorite color combinations. Colourlovers.com also does a great job explaining what color combinations are good or bad and why.

graphic design prepress and printingAs a closing note, I’d like to say that graphic design really is a driven industry led by people who truly are proud and passionate about it. I have a hard time separating myself from my designs, and when an idea gets shot down I’d be lying if I said it didn’t bother me a little. So, what do I do? I push myself harder, because It really does reflect in the design. I’d say some of my best work came from ideas that were the result of constructive criticism.

www.damiennorthmore.com

http://www.creativeshake.com/DamienNorthmoreDesign

http://www.creativeshake.com/DamienNorthmoreIllustration

[tags]design process, design creative process, graphic design process, graphic design creative process, creative process, graphic design, design, web design, design projects, graphic design projects[/tags]

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5 Comments

  1. Posted July 18, 2008 at 5:14 am | Permalink

    Hey, nice read and great post. I liked the point about “less is more” and not being afraid to remove something that you’ve done that, when you take a step back, you think you could do without. I think that’s an important part of any design process - Knowing when to take things out.

    Keep it up, and I enjoyed the work on your portfolio.

  2. Posted July 25, 2008 at 6:05 am | Permalink

    Hi, good post i liked it too. Especially the getting shot down part, I’ve recently had a huge dent to my pride! But hey you can’t eat pride :’-( try harder. Less is definetly more, more or less.

  3. kyle
    Posted July 30, 2008 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    Good words - you have skillz with pencil and pen - keep it up…

  4. Sharon Randall-Emers
    Posted August 28, 2008 at 10:46 pm | Permalink

    I thought this article was very informative, and interesting to know that you can learn to receive constructive criticism and use it to a positive advantage….

  5. justin
    Posted September 23, 2008 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    Typography is a very substantial and fundamental part of any design. After I’ve come up with a good concept or two, i‘lI start looking for an appropriate typeface, one that will define the mood and act sort of like an anchor that I can work with. Usually I’ll spend a good deal of time searching for something tasteful and fitting. The following two fonts sites - http://www.dafont.com and http://www.fontfreak.com - are two pretty good font resources with lots of variety. Once I have picked fonts that I like, I’ll play with it for a while, resize it, kern it, rotate it etc. and just have some fun with it. To keep the piece more cohesive and easier to read, I prefer to keep the number of typefaces in a design to a minimum to maintain consistency.

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