The Big Idea: A Designer’s Perspective on The Creative Process

The Big Idea original sketch

If you Google “The Creative Process”, you’ll find roughly 170 million different ways of explaining how creatives travel from start to finish. One common theme I’ve noticed in my reading is that, for most of us, it’s a messy process. When I think about the steps I take to design elements for clients, it varies somewhat based on the amount of information I have. But it almost always involves the following:

Getting to know the client

In the beginning, I gather as much information as I can about the client:

  • their history, 
  • their goals, 
  • their current look and feel, 
  • and how they’d like to be perceived in the future. 

This information helps me learn the client’s expectations and gives me a general idea of which direction they’d like to go, creatively.

Surf like crazy & get the hunch


Once I have a rough idea of our branding destination, I can start looking for inspiration. This comes in many forms, and often times for me, it is tactile in nature. It could be perusing an old coffee table book of photography, flipping through a design magazine, or something from my own life experience that goes onto the pile of ideas. Sometimes ideas surface from surfing the web for articles and images related to the client’s services. Other times, I’ll have a conversation with a friend about “Wouldn’t it be ridiculous if…” and that leads to an idea! I use this collection of ideas (ridiculous or not) as a springboard to get started.

Inspiring stuff original sketch

Initial Sketches

Pulling from my messy pile of inspiration, I select a few favorites that align with the client’s values, and lay out my initial ideas. Our team often times begins projects with a logo design. This step is critical for building a brand’s overall look and feel, so we put a lot of thought into how it could be used in a variety of materials – from web use to t-shirts and business cards to huge outdoor boards. For a logo to stand the test of time, it needs to be practical in a plethora of formats. I experiment with a variety of fonts and icons to create a special look and feel for each of my clients.

The Discussion/Revisions

Once I’ve put together a handful of ideas that I’m comfortable with, I often times discuss them with the TBH team (or my business-minded husband), utilizing them as a test audience.

  • Do the ideas make sense upon first glance? 
  • Do the concepts feel fully developed? 
  • Are they practical across many formats? 
  • Do they fit the client’s vision? 

The answers to these questions help me determine whether I need to spend more time developing the ideas, or if they’re ready to move on to client review.

The Presentation/Feedback

After the ideas have been tweaked and narrowed down to the strongest options, it’s time for client review. I’ve found that communication is key here. Explaining to the client how I got from point A (the old look) to point B (the new look) is really important in creating trust for the creative process. When I do this part of the job well, clients tend to respond positively and appreciate the thought that has gone into the project.

While we always hope for a solution from the first presentation (dream!), changes and feedback are inevitable. Constructive feedback from the client is an important part of the creative process, as it eventually leads us to the best possible solution for their needs, and can improve our work!

In a nutshell, for me the creative process starts with a messy collection of ideas and boils down to one big idea. It’s messy in the beginning, but in the end, a solution is found and the client can happily move forward with a brand that leaves a lasting impression.

Interested in learning more about creative processes in digital marketing? Check out these blog articles:

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Holly

About the author | Holly O'Neill

Holly is a Graphic Designer at TBH Creative, specializing in creative design and branding. She likes to blog about design, inspiration, trends, and branding.

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