The Creative Process

The creative process is one that needs to be managed tightly and within reason and this part of the overall process can either put your project ahead of the game or can really set your project back weeks.

Working with creative directors, art directors and designers over the past decade, it’s  important to remember that the creative process is not always completely linear and the order of stages may vary. In fact results may be best when the process is approached iteratively and phases are revisited, a process which digital creative’s often tell me:

Exploration – This begins with meeting the client to discuss what their aims and objectives are for the project. Long informal discussions can help reveal more subtle objectives, expectations and help establish the current position and aspirations of a brand. Ideally at this stage, a brief is available, better yet, a creative brief together with a set of brand guidelines.

The design team would then go away to research things like competitors and industry trends. It is very useful if the client can supply information on these issues particularly if they operate in a very niche market for which they have specialist knowledge. At this point initial ideas generated by a designer should be as diverse and inspired as possible. Quantity is more important than quality. Designers often now have the tendency to rush straight onto their computer, aiming for a finished product, but the best ideas often result from lots of quick scribbles.

Inspiration – During the whole process it can be very valuable for the designer to step away from the project for a few days and simply let the creative juices flow and potential ideas seep into their subconscious mind to ‘stew’ over. Often the best ideas come when working or thinking about something completely different or being inspired from another project or just thinking at home in bed. It is therefore of huge advantage if you can allow this time to gain the best possible results from your creative lead.

Clarification – At this point the ideas created are reviewed by the designer to see how they compare to the initial strategy and objectives of the project. Initial ideas could be discussed with the internal team, account managers and then it’s decided whether or not these initial ideas are communicated to the client.

Perspiration – This is the where the hard work begins. The creative team or designer would push forward with the chosen design concepts and development them further. This with internal reviews are regularly stages can take the most time depending on how many key internal stakeholders need to have a say.

Evaluation – During this phase the designer, account/project manager and client will meet and review the designs produced. It is important at this stage to remember to judge work through the eyes of the target audience and not get caught up with being subjective or with personal preferences. Restricting the number of stakeholders can help avoid ‘design by committee’, lots of differing opinions and endless repeats of the process.

All in all, the creative process here is typical of most experiences I’ve had with smaller digital agencies. Freelancers, larger digital agencies and teams of creative all work in different ways, and not on waterfall process will always suit everyone.

Which creative process do you follow and how does it differ from the one I’ve been working with?

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