“What exactly do you do?” is a question many Creatives get asked on a regular basis, and my work is no exception. The answer, plainly, is that I follow a creative process to create designs that align with the current project goals. How do I do that? By following an innovative and non-linear process. This way, we can predict the needs, possible struggles, and possible advantages for any given project. My star method allows me to coax the creative process to be as effective and on target as imaginable. There are many different ways to skin a cat, or in my case, to design something spectacular. At the root of it all, my creative process follows five basic steps:
Identification, Conceptualization, Transformation, Implementation, and Finalization.
Identification – Define & Research
Before jumping head first into a pool, you have to check to see how deep it is. The same goes for creative projects–before I start any project I make sure that I have a good idea what it is I’m up against. This can include qualitative vs quantitative research, some quick internet searches, or maybe a lot of questions with the client. In any case, it is very important that everyone knows exactly where we are, and where we would like to be, before we start.
Conceptualization – Ideas & Strategy
Once we have a good idea of what the project is all about, and what we would like to see it become, then we can start thinking of ways to make that happen. Conceptualization means to form an idea, usually by piecing together other ideas or visions into something entirely new. At this point, the sky is the limit for how many ideas are allowed in the ring. More the merrier! In the next phase is when we bunker down and really pick what we want to create.
Transformation – Prototype & Design
Right before Transformation, after Conceptualization, there is actually a small gap. This gap is a resting period where we allow everything we threw up into the air during Conceptualization to sit and settle for a little bit. It’s in this lull that there will often be an “A-ha!” or eureka moment. You can learn more about this effect by reading A Technique for Producing Ideas by James Webb Young.
By this phase, we know what we have, we know what we want, and we have ideas for how to make that happen. So let’s make it happen! Transformation is all about creating and testing prototypes of the ideas we have by following design best practices. If the prototypes pass whatever various tests we’ve set in place then we’ve got a winner and it’s onward to the next phase.
Implementation – Build & Test
At any point my process can go in reverse, or may slightly jump around depending on current needs. Implementation is a phase where this can happen a lot, because it’s the phase best suited for feedback from users, the client, and other designers. Once we have a working and partially or fully designed prototype, we can start implementing our ideas by building them into a more final structure. The key here is to keep things flexible so that at anytime we can take a step back and evaluate if our current location aligns with the goals we set at the beginning of the process. If not, maybe it’s time to go back to Transformation or even Conceptualization. If so, then great! Let’s finalize the project.
Finalization – Deliver & Party!
It’s easy to overlook finalization once you have a project implemented and working on its own. But Finalization is actually the most important step of the creative process! The meal may be prepared, but we still need to clean up the mess in the kitchen. Finalization is when review the project, assuring that all goals established at the beginning of the project have been met or exceeded. This is a great time to smooth out any wrinkles that popped up along the way, and to prepare next steps for the next phase or iteration if necessary. It’s also a great time to remind ourselves how far we’ve come and what we had to do along the way to get here. Last but not least, it’s a stellar time to party and celebrate the fantastic work we did together!