Creativity can get messy. That’s why, out of dozens, or even hundreds of concepts in development, we only show our clients the best of the lot. Experience has taught us that successful projects follow a process. The following is ours; it may vary according to the client’s needs and budget. The process of completing a project may last a few hours for a simple logo, or several months for a website or branding campaign, depending on scope and complexity.
1. free consultation
We conduct an initial consultation with a prospective client, by phone or in person, to learn about their organization: goals, communication needs, competitors, industry at large. Based upon knowledge gained in this interview, we develop a general creative brief.
2. proposal and estimate
Our creative brief form the basis of a proposal for creative work, and a budget estimate. Our proposals include job parameters, a list of our standard practices, responsibilities and payment terms. The proposal is submitted for the client’s review. Clients are always encouraged to seek answers to any questions they may have, and clarity on any issues. Adjustments may be made to the proposal as necessary. Once the proposal is acceptable, it is signed by all parties to form an agreement, a deposit is paid, and the project commences.
We adopt many forms of relationships with our clients: hourly as-needed services, per-project agreements, and retainer-based, ongoing services. The project-based form described above is a good way to get to know each other, and to test-drive a working relationship.
Picking up from the initial consultation, we conduct a study of the client’s industry and audience to form a background for the creative process. This background, the creative brief, and the job parameters guide the next phases.
4. concept development
This is where the wastebasket get filled up-with ideas we discard in favor of better ones. In this most highly creative phase, visual approaches are generated and held up to the illumination of the communication strategy. The best concept or concepts will graduate to the next phase.
5. comprehensive sketch
Selected concepts are developed into mockups representing a finished version, and presented to the client for appraisal. This mockup may take many forms; a pdf document for email delivery; a dimensional model; a projected image. In the case of a logo, one or more renditions may be shown. For a brochure, a three-dimensional working model may be created and submitted. For a website, a non-functioning representation of sample pages’ visual style may be viewed. Often, final text or image content has not yet been developed for this phase. We seek input from the client: initial response; feedback from advisors; appraisal based on communication strategy. This input guides the next phase.
6. concept refinement
Client feedback is incorporated as we rework or refine our design concepts, submitting these refined concepts for evaluation. Often, this phase is skipped when a comprehensive sketch proves ready to use “out of the box”. Once a concept is approved, we move on to the production phase.
Here elements are added to the design as needed: stock photographs are secured; original photos are taken; copy is written; illustrations are produced; functional websites are developed and tested. At periodic checkpoints, the client is able to examine project proofs for accuracy and approval of text, color, and visual content. A project may span days, weeks, or months depending on its complexity. The production phase is usually the most extensive one. It may also be folded into the concept development phase, when appropriate.
This is the culmination of all previous phases. Print materials are sent to press for manufacture, websites are uploaded in final form, logos are delivered as final digital file formats. All deliverables are made available for the client’s use. We may monitor such processes as press runs, CD reproduction, and mailing services at this phase. A final invoice is sent to the client.
Here’s where the figurative rubber meets the road: the book is published, the mailer is sent, the website is live online. At this phase, our direct involvement is suspended as we continue to observe the communication strategy in action.
This important phase is often neglected, though we encourage our clients to give it due attention. It is an opportunity for all to appraise our working process, the effectiveness if its products, and projections for the next opportunity.
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