ESTABLISHING YOUR OWN PROCESS
Showing professionalism, building trust, and becoming more efficient.
Every professional has a process whether it is in design or watchmaking. A process is the ordered steps you go through to complete a project. It’s important for you to understand your own process because you’ll be establishing yourself as a professional, it builds trust with your clients, and you can improve the way you work. As different people are, their processes are also different. They can vary slightly, or be dramatically different, but the importance is finding your own. For those of you trying to figure out your own process, I’ll provide you with a general outline of my own further down, but let’s understand why establishing your process is so important.
You don’t have a process until you establish it
Just because you have an idea in your head, doesn’t mean you have it established. Take the time to write out each step you take. In your next project, see if you follow what you have written out. If you start to deviate from what you have written down, then edit what you have written down. Don’t be surprised if your process changes over time, that shows that you are becoming more proficient at your work and a better professional!
Your Process is the Instruction Manual to Your Work
If you didn’t know what you were doing, then how would you ever get anything done? Would you just feel your way around until you think you have something? When would you know you have completed the project? You have a process you follow from beginning to end to create a logo. There’s starting with brainstorming, then there’s the building and revising, and then there’s the completed concept and presentation. Establishing your process for yourself helps you to know that you are on track to completing your project.
Knowing Your Process Increases Your Efficiency
Understanding the steps you take in each project allows you to become more efficient and aware of your abilities as a professional designer. When you realize that there is a step that you may not need to take or needs to be improved, you are able to make it more efficient because you are aware of your current practice.
Aware of Your Time
Understanding your process means you know how much time you spend at each stage and how long a project will take until completion. This is especially important when you’re scheduling projects and writing up a project agreement for a client. They aren’t going to want to hear that you don’t know how long the project will take. You’re the professional, you should know the timeframe for your project.
Share your process to establish trust
When you publicize your process, it shows people (potential clients) that you are a professional with a system to solve their problem. Create a page on your website where you share the general outline. It doesn’t need to be extremely detailed, you just need to give potential clients a good idea of what you do to make sure you’re on track and will complete the project in a timely manner. When people see that you have established a process, they will trust you to know what you’re doing. Thus leading to them to work with you.
Provide a detailed process for your client
When you decide to take on a client, provide them with a detailed outline of you process that specifically address their project. Giving your client a personalized process shows them what you’re going to do and how you’re going to provide them with the best solution. They’ll know you’re the professional and trust you to complete the project with the best solution in a timely manner.
To give you an idea of what a process looks like, here’s a general outline of my own:
- Questionnaire – I have every client fill out a questionnaire to understand them more and it allows me to find clients that I know I can work with.
- Contacting potential client for more information – If the client sounds like one I can work with and I believe it will be a good project, I will ask some follow up questions to better understand them.
- Research – Once I have talked with the client, I will do a little more research for any other information I need.
- On Client
- Further knowledge you need before deciding to work on project
- Project agreement – After I have a good understanding of the client, I will write up a project agreement covering what each of us (the client and me) will be doing to complete the project, I will also provide a more detailed process outline covering the specific project. This is also when I inform the client of the cost of the project and the timeframe it will take to complete.Once the project agreement has been signed off and I have received the down payment, I will start working on the project.
- More research? – If I need to do any other research that doesn’t involve information from the client, I sometimes look for
- Depth of knowledge in their field (you should have a good idea from your client, who is a professional in their field)
- Thumbnail sketches – It’s time to get to the fun part. This is where the pen meets the paper. I start by drawing out quick, small sketches to get my initial ideas down on paper. These usually aren’t very detailed. I’m just getting as many ideas down as I can to explore the best possible solution for the client.
- Larger, refined drawings of chosen sketches – After I have spent some time drawing out my thumbnail sketches, and I have found a proper direction, I will create a larger drawing of the sketch that will allow me to define the details.
- Refinement – After the first drawing, I will take note on areas I need to refine, or do over. I then go over the original drawing with tracing paper until I have a concept that I can use on the computer.
- Digitization/vectorizing – With the final drawing, I will either take a photo or scan it so I can pull it up on the computer. I then open the photo in Illustrator and trace it creating a vector version of my drawing.
- Final refinement – Once I have a vectorized version, there are times where I need to go back and refine shapes. I will print the digital version and mark it up just like my first refining stage.
- Case Study and presentation to client – The whole project was a journey to provide the best solution to my client’s problem. I take the clients along for the journey explaining how the final concept came to be.
- Create Guidelines – I want to make sure my client knows how to apply their new logo to the best extent. Providing branding guidelines instructs the client on how to use their logo so they get the most out of it.
- Deliverables – After the final payment, I will send the guidelines and every file type of the logo the client needs to the client.
This outline obviously won’t work for everyone, but it is a good starting point to finding your own.
What if I don’t have a process?
If you don’t have your process written out and you aren’t sure where to start, document the next project you work on. Take note of each step you take and how long it takes you to complete each step. Don’t pass off refinement as not a step! It takes quite a bit of time and depending on the project, sometimes you’ll spend more time at this stage than others. If you don’t have an upcoming project, do a self-initiated one. Find a company’s logo that has been bugging you and redesign it or make up a fictional company you would like to design a logo for. Both are good exercises not only for finding your process, but becoming more efficient in your work.
The importance of establishing your process
Knowing your own process, writing it out, and sharing it with the public is going to help establish yourself as a professional. Your peers and your clients will both see you know how to do your job. If there’s anything else you need to know about establishing your process, it’s that you’re hurting yourself not having it written down. Start a project, document it, and get your process written out.
Trust the Process
Once you have established your process, learn to trust the system that you have in place. There will be times that it gets challenging. Maybe you just want to get the project over with because it’s boring, or you’re really excited to see the final product and you don’t want to spend so much time refining. Just remember, your process is key to how you got to where you are today and it will lead you to your success in the future. You don’t have to take my word for it. Check out my friend Daniel Palacios’ (Highpulp) poster that he created just on the topic: Trust the Process Case Study.