About a month ago we were contacted by Ricardo Chiappe (@6omma) with a query to put to the design community. So we sent the question out as a group interview through the channels and we heard back from several designers. We know everyone is busy right now, so we really appreciate those who were able to get back to us with their responses, and we apologize to those who did not have enough time to get them into us. However, after you read the fantastic answers to Ricardo’s wonderful question, please feel free to take a few moments and leave your own answer in the comment section below the post. We would love to hear from other members of the community on this as well. We hope you enjoy the answers provided as much as we did.
What is your process from the initial project query to starting your design? In essence, what do you do to get yourself organized, what steps you take to get the project into the designer’s hands and rolling?
Let’s say the lead comes in from our website, Brian Joseph Studios, we respond by phone or email (depending on what option they chose in their form submission) . This email thanks them and asks them a few questions about their needs… do they have a current site/logo etc. This email also introduces our company a little more, and tries to build that instant relationship. They are given one person to speak with that will be their project manager throughout the entire project.
The potential client responds with some answers, and we determine whether or not we want to take on the project or not. We have an interview process that we put the client through, and many fail at this step. I think it is extremely important to take on clients that are similar in their professionalism as you and your company.
It can even be down to small things… like if they don’t start an email addressing a name with something like “Hi John…” or anything like that. Small things like that can say a lot about the type of client they will be if you take them on, especially if you understand the truth behind some of the things that clients will say to you!
So, we begin the sales process. If the client is local or somewhat close to our area, we will arrange a meeting in person with them. This gives us the chance to really build a relationship on a personal level, beyond emails and phone calls.
We get to know the client, their business and their needs in detail. We listen to them and we provide solutions. After the meeting, we draw up a proposal outlining the solution for their project.
If they like it, we send the contract along and ask them to fax it back. We then invoice 50% of the project total and begin the project once that 50% is received.
The details in the contract, along with any notes taken by the sales person are then put together and loaded into our project management system for the designer to start working on.
Once the project starts, we keep in regular contact with the client, and ensure that they are involved in the design and development process throughout. We ask for feedback at all stages of the development and once they are happy with the final design we invoice the final 50% before we send final production files.
The client pays the final 50%, they receive the final files, (we upload the files to our server if it is a website project) and they are ready to roll with their brand new logo, website, or piece of print design.
After they are finished with the project, we still keep in touch with them regularly to keep that relationship with them and to help them with any needs in the future. This way we build up a strong and loyal client base, and we do not have to take on a huge amount of new clients to pay the bills and project costs.
If you work with 5 loyal, professional clients that have their stuff together, and understand the importance of your services, those 5 clients will always be more profitable than taking on 20 new clients of all different types. Ever heard of the Pareto Principle (80 / 20) rule? It works perfectly and has done for quite some time!
I guess every lead starts with an email. I try to direct clients to supplying plenty of info, such as project details, budget etc. This all helps give a good indication of what’s involved so I can estimate a number of hours or morning/afternoon sessions that would be required for the job, this is simply multiplied by my hourly rate. After which an estimate document is sent out, that contains an overview of the price and a list of terms. Once accepted an invoice for 50% is supplied, after payment is made it’s down to me to get cracking!
My process starts with some further research into any initial ideas I’ve had, I’ll create a client folder and save various text snippets from their email and images I come across online in a ‘Research’ folder. Next up, I’ll often dig out the pen and notepad to sketch out some ideas. Then things eventually move into Illustrator or Photoshop to continue the design in digital format.
For me, when I receive a request for a quote I send them a PDF file with costings on. I tend to stick to set prices per project so this makes this part very easy. Anyone who hasn’t been scared off will get in touch, and if they’re with me at this point it tends to be a good sign. Then I ask them for as much information as they think is relevant and can help with with the design, the usual things everything from photos to colour ideas. Anything that has been missed out or is up for discussion is sorted out via email or Gmail. Once I’ve got a clear idea of the direction it’s a quick wire-frame & mood-board to show what’s in my head, and find out if it matches what the client had in mind.
Only once all of these stages are done will I start, it’s really about me being comfortable with the process. I can’t start on something I’ve got doubts or uncertainties with so the process is really about me clearing up things and helping me understand the needs. It’s also worth mentioning I make sure to get a deposit before I start the design, and sometimes before I do a wire-frame.
If I’m working with a client I’ve worked with before I don’t always need to do all of the steps mentioned above as I tend to understand the requirements and expectations without the need for a mood-board etc, and likewise they feel comfortable enough to trust me. But generally this is my process for most new clients and projects.
In most cases, for a new client I’ll start by asking questions and try to figure out what the client is looking for. For an existing client, since we have a history and I already have an idea of what they like and dislike, it’s usually faster. I’ll often ask the client to show me some examples of sites they like and what they like (and don’t like) about them. Some clients will also have a design brief which is always helpful.
I use my own folder-based system on my computer to keep track of client infos, files, images, screenshots and inspiration material. When both me and the client are ready to move forward with the project I’ll send a quote and ask for 50% in advance (and the remaining 50% when project is complete)
Then when everything is good, I’ll grab my Moleskine notebook and start drawing wireframes and I’ll brainstorm some ideas focussed on the branding and the audience. My process will also be very different whether I’m working on a blog or on a small business website.
Once I’m getting somewhere with my wireframing I’ll open up Adobe Fireworks (I prefer Fireworks over Photoshop for website mock-ups) and start working on different layouts and grids. Then it’s just a matter of doing a couple more mock-ups, coding and voila! :)
The initial design process depends on factors such as type of project and location of the client. If possible I try to meet up with the client over a cup of coffee to discuss the project. Prior to the meeting I will have compiled a list of questions to ask. It is important to get as much information as possible. Furthermore I’ll present some examples to show the client. This enables me to get an idea of what they like and dislike. For non-local clients this will all be done via e-mail or Skype. Once the ground outlines of the job have been set I will give them a quote. Upon approval I will start with the actual design work.
Now It’s Your Turn
Don’t forget to take a few minutes, if you feel like it, and tell us about your process in the comments.
Rob is the talented author and graphic designer, celebrated podcaster and poet, who is now the co-editor and imaginative co-contributor of Fuel Your Creativity. With a background working through most areas of the arts, Rob works from a creative wellspring that shows no signs of running dry.