Design process

In order to get you the information you’re probably looking for, I went to Google, typed “design process” and got suggestions of articles with 4, 6, 7 or 12 steps. Seven is a great number, so let’s have a look at how a 7-step design process should look like:

1 Client Brief
2 Research, Research, Research
3 Brainstorm
4 Sketch
5 Concept Development
6 Revisions
7 Completion

Let’s compare and map these steps to the madness I encounter with each new project*

*This is about projects for small companies and startups were I’m booked as the only or one of very few designers in a small team.

1 Client Brief = Optimism and Excitement

I get to know the client and listen to his or her very detailed product idea, start asking questions about stuff I think would be relevant to get into an efficient design process.

2 Research = Taking a deep dive

The client was not able to give complete answers to said questions, but I’m still really excited to get started. So I head up to the URL bar of my favorite web browser to enter a night long research session. Also known as Google deep dive.

3 Brainstorm = Messing up a digital notepad

I click on hundreds of search results and begin copy-pasting screenshots and text snippets into some digital notepad. After a while my brain feels dizzy like I’ve gotten into a brain-storm. I know, flat joke. But this shouldn’t be funny, it’s just work. The optional step is to delete all notes now. Because I’ll probably never look at them again. Collecting stuff is more like validating and feeding information to the creative mind. I usually keep the notes nonetheless, so I do appear all organised and smart in meetings.

4 Sketch = Find a good seed design. Like when you play Minecraft?

I head over to Pinterest and Dribbble for inspiration. Getting frustrated about beautiful but utterly useless UI designs after about 40 seconds. Now frantically searching for a look and feel that makes sense. My subconscious mind should have collected enough information with last nights deep dive to hit the target. I go with the first shot on Dribbble that gets me excited and start a Figma doc.

5 Concept Development = Bring up the boxes!

On paper or in Figma I draw a bunch of boxes and assemble these into some kind of high-level product architecture. Also creating some basic elements I’ll need, like navbars, buttons, typescale, color swatches. I then identify key screens and jump into high fidelity design to get client feedback right away. I know that’s really bad behavior. Creating results way too fast. But for me this is efficient.

6 Revisions = The fun part 😬

Test and iterate until everybody is happy. Usually, that’s when I grow emotionally distant towards the product I’m working on. Because I’ve already been happy and excited in step 1 and my happiness does not stretch that much. But I got used to not being too happy in the end, I know that I don’t know it all and that it’s ok to count in other peoples’ ideas and opinions. I like a lean, iterative process anyways.

7 Completion = Launch and maintain

That’s where creative people prefer to drop out, but it can be a rewarding challenge to see a product grow beyond adolescence. I even like to drop into the project at this point, to start organizing, improving and refining a scalable design system. That’s another story though.

That was quick, wasn’t it? My process is not spectacular and it’s probably different for each project. Depends on so many things… And you know, I don’t sell a process. Simply my willingness to put my brain to work trying to solve a specific problem. That’s usually enough to climb up quite a bit. 😌