the design process

Successful graphic designers proceed through a number of steps before arriving at a finished design. The first step, after receiving a design project assignment, is to research the problem. The following questions are asked at this stage:

  • What are the goals? Are there multiple goals? If so, what is their order of importance?
  • Who is the audience? Does the audience have any special interests? What are the audience's demographics (age, sex, income, geographical area, etc.)?
  • Are there any limits or constraints on the format, time, and budget?
  • What kind of page designs did other people create when presented with a similar problem?

The second step in the design process is to generate as many ideas as possible through thumbnail sketches. Thumbnail sketches are small, quick, exploratory sketches. They are the visual proof of the thinking and analyzing process. They don't have to be pretty or refined. Once you have a body of thumbnail sketches on the page, you can pick and choose pieces and parts from them, which, if needed, may be recombined into better thumbnails. Many beginner page designers are tempted to shortchange this step, but it is vital for the long-term development of creative muscles.

The third step of the design process is to select two or three of the stronger thumbnails and develop them into roughs. A rough is a half-size or full-size version of an original thumbnail, with an eye toward refining the layout, typography, placement, and overall concept. The purpose of working up two or three roughs is to provide a small group from which you may select the best visual solution. to proceed onto step four, the comprehensive.

A comprehensive, called simply "comps," is the artwork presented to the client or instructor for review. For design students working on class projects, the comp is often the last stage of the design process.

Once you have completed this process, you are ready to open InDesign and Photoshop and create your layout.

Content was drawn from Basics of Design: layout & typography for beginners by Lisa Graham; Delmar/Thomson Learning (2002)

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About this module

Print Design allows your eyes to walk around the information, letting you select information objects and using spatial juxtaposition to enhance and explain page elements. Understanding the basics of print design using InDesign and Photoshop allows you to inform and persuade your viewer.