1. Research & Discovery
Jumping into any design project before examining the problem or task at hand might spin the wheels, but won’t get you very far. Any project, no matter how big or small, can benefit from research and planning before the work begins.
2. Competitive Analysis
Another helpful task in the process involves looking at pre-existing ideas and executions created by peers, mentors, heros, and/or competitors. Competitive analysis identifies the strengths and weaknesses of those existing designs.
When tackling a design project with limitless creative boundaries, I like to begin by creating lists of relevant words, topics, and phrases. By creating these lists, I try to gain a broadened perspective of the problem I’m attempting to solve, and often uncover additional ideas and concepts which weren’t so obvious at the outset.
4. Thumbnail Sketching
Once I exhausted the idea branching, I started drawing thumbnail sketches on a pad of paper. Thumbnails are small sketches which can literally be as small as your thumbnail, or as big as a couple inches in width and/or height.
To me, typography is a crucial element in setting the formalness or informality of a design. Evocations of different typefaces are subliminal to most people, but a designer will go to great lengths to ensure the selection and construction of type complements the mood of the piece.
Imagery is not always necessary in design. In fact, some of the most beautiful designs use type alone. However, selectively chosen photography or illustration can create enormous visual impact for a design, adding dimension, implication, and a deeper level of understanding far beyond a well-written headline or paragraph of text.
7. Execution & Implementation
I started writing the CSS for the design at a high-level, focusing on the layout structure, major backgrounds, and large regions of the page. Groups of elements were positioned in correct locations.
8. And More
The ever-changing design process does not end here. This summary is not an exhaustive one. Additional review and approval cycles, more design iterations, and frequent user testing all may be inserted anywhere into this process.