An effective design process has a number of stages, sometimes labelled differently, but the same thematically. The process stages, as outlined below are inter-related and shouldn’t be seen as linear. What happens later in a design project could and should be allowed to affect earlier work. While seeking out the best solution, the stages of the project should be seen as being in a fluid state, until they crystallise together at the same time. The key here is to trust the process - it’s the same process behind the best logos, most admired branding and beloved websites.
The research or investigative phase is really about understanding the project in full, for all involved. There will be a lot of questions. Questions about the project and its goals, the company behind it and the people behind the company. Who are the people that the company wants to serve and how do you want to be understood to serve them? What are your customers needs, wants and their pains and how are you responding? Questions about the specifics of your product or service, how it’s different, where it sits (or wants to sit) in the market, and how it compares against the competition.
Are there success stories from similar products, services and brands that can also be used to inspire and influence outputs?
The depth and scope of this phase really depends on the project at hand with smaller and younger companies needing a lighter touch than a large company or a rebrand. The key findings of the research usually feed directly into the next stage; Strategy.
If the research phase was about asking lots of questions then the strategy phase is about answers. At karve we help distill the findings from the research to help our clients answer key questions that shape the way forward for the design project, be it a logo, branding or website. These questions and answers form a strategic plan. Sometimes a number of alternative strategies are explored though typically for a new brand or website a singular strategic vision emerges.
The goal of this phase is to provide a solid and well considered design brief based on the strategy for a designer to work from. A brief provides an agreed direction, framework and body of work for the designer to interpret creatively in the next stage.
During the design phase the brief is interpreted creatively and visually by the designer. One of the objectives here is to to find a distinctive approach so that the design stands out out amongst competitors. The emergent design is intrinsic to the strategy, and should be able to represent, support and grow with it.
While many ideas are considered by the designer during this phase, only those with the most promise are developed to a presentation level. At karve we typically only present one or two concepts that have been considered in depth as an answer to the brief. The presentation of the design concepts will show mock-ups of how the design could look in real life situations. The creative process by nature can throw up a few surprises here and it is possible that new ideas emerge during this stage that could alter the root strategy or require further research.
Testing of the design concept is encouraged, where the right questions are asked of the right people. The feedback is measured in the context of the strategy. Modifications and tweaks based on feedback and testing are made before the design is readied for implementation.
This is the rollout of a chosen design concept onto the various media where it will live be encountered by customers and the public. A poor execution here can undo all the previous work. The rollout should be controlled and consistent. Many variables can affect outputs such as materials, sizes, colours, unusual shapes and technology. Branding style guides can help with this but there is no substitute for having the concept’s original designers involved in the various ‘touchpoints’ to ensure integrity, especially throughout the project launch.
It should also be noted that over time ‘drift’ from the initial design can occur and may need to be managed. The designed visual and verbal languages that branding is composed of, are specialist fields.