Design – It’s more than just ‘colouring in’!

There are many different kinds of designers in the digital industry, from product designers to user experience designers. Each plays an important role in developing a brand’s identity and helping a business to grow. Today, let’s take a look at how a creative designer works.

A successful design often takes time. There a many steps and considerations that contribute to an award-winning piece, all of which need to be balanced with client budgets and timescales.

Key skills: What’s in a creative designer’s toolbox?

Any designer worth their salt will have a list of bookmarks as long as their arm, a library of colour palettes, font pairings, and other useful resources – but we will come to that exciting stuff shortly.

Not only does a creative designer need to be master of the mouse as well as a pixel perfectionist, but they also must have the ability to problem solve, communicate, push boundaries, challenge, and listen – to name just a few key skills.

  • Brilliant ideas

As a creative designer, your job starts way before you start playing with pixels. You need to bring ideas to the table, research trends and technologies, and generally push the boundaries each time you work on a project.

At Branded3, the creative process usually starts with a brainstorm where ideas are discussed, challenged, and explored until we have something worth progressing with. This is usually conducted by a mix of talented individuals from different teams with a variety perspectives and suggestions, but all are invested in the same goal: success.

  • Sketchbooks: Digital and otherwise

Once you have nailed the concept and collated the information you need to communicate, the designer will then begin to explore how to execute the idea – usually in the form of sketches and quick ideas that help visualise the concept. Normally, these are born in the designer’s little black book!

  1. Scamps: The designer will then create ‘scamps’, where the sketches will be fleshed out a little further and the creative asset will begin to take shape. At this stage the finer details don’t need to be nailed down.It’s likely the designer will instinctively start to think about the interactions, the journey, and maybe even the visual style. But for now it’s all about fleshing out the idea into something that meets the brief and presenting it in a way the client can understand. Pen and paper is our preferred method.
  1. Wireframes: Once a set of scamps has been created, it’s time to digitise the concept by creating a wireframe. There are several different tools available for wireframing, each with their own benefits.The level of detail you put in to your wireframes can vary, depending on the complexity of the project. As a rule, we tend to focus on layout, hierarchy of content, presentation of data, the user journey, and functionality.
  • Obsessing over the details

Users might take the details on a page for granted, but a designer can agonise over little things like the placement of a button – and rightly so: these decisions can make or break an asset.

Anybody who has A/B tested button placement will know what I mean. Tiny tweaks can make a huge difference to conversion. The more complex the project, the more consideration is needed. As designers, we need to think about user goals and how we can fulfil them.

  • Creating an all-encompassing theme

Until now, the actual look of the asset will have only had the odd fleeting thought. But it’s finally time to raid your bookmarks, dig through inspiration blogs, and research how best to ‘visualise’ this asset.

Consideration must be taken on the art direction of the asset. This can be broken down into smaller chunks such as the typography, colour palette, photography or illustrative style, iconography choice, and animation (to name a few). The process is much harder than it sounds as, beyond style, there are many other things to take into consideration: how do we engage users, deliver that memorable user experience, and stick to the budget, of course!

  • Piecing it all together

Now it’s time to pull all these components together and decide whether to design mobile or desktop first (a whole new debate for another time). Whatever your preferred method, you must combine the art direction, wireframes, and content into one final design.

This is the exciting part because you can really see it coming together, but it’s also the most challenging. Some of the things that a designer thinks about while producing the designs include:

  • What size fonts should I use?
  • What kerning, leading or tracking should I use?
  • How much margin/padding should I apply to elements?
  • What photo editing needs to be done?
  • What size should my icons be?
  • What effects should I apply?
  • What are the hover states of my buttons?
  • Which colours contrast or complement each other best?
  • Which font pairings work well with each other?
  • How will the layout and functionality change across devices?
  • Can the user recover from errors?

And that’s just a snapshot of what runs through our minds. What’s more, the entire time we need to carefully consider the needs of the user, the SEO factors, and the overall user experience.

As you can see, a lot of effort goes into creating an award-winning design. It requires thought, research, and a whole lot of decision making. But these are the exciting bits and, in my opinion, exactly what makes the job so rewarding (and challenging).

For me, being a designer is not just a job – it truly is a passion. And while I consider myself to be pretty good at colouring in, I’m glad it’s so much more than that.

Questions, comments, or thoughts about the creative design process? Get in touch via Twitter.

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