The Complete Graphic Designer
48
Developing concepts, the most
important part of any design
project, occurs in the mind, not
on a computer screen. During this
crucial phase of the design process,
the designer should spend his time
generating ideas away from the
computer. Thoroughly analyzing
design problems through writing
exercises allows the designer to lat-
er translate abstract ideas or rough
concepts into poignant visuals that
will connect with the target audi-
ence and deliver its message.
The Designer as Writer
Using the written word, the design-
er combines fragments of thoughts
or ideas into refi ned concepts. It is
often easier to think about com-
plex or abstract ideas in words
that will provide clues as to how
to solve a design problem by using
visual symbols and metaphors. The
more literate and articulate the de-
signer, the more prolifi c he will be
in producing original ideas; many
top art directors at creative agen-
cies have roots in copywriting or
journalism because of their ability
to capture the essence of an idea in
as few words as possible.
Idea Incubation
Brainstorming is the process of
generating ideas as quickly as pos-
sible. Write down every idea that
comes to mind, no matter how silly
or irrelevant it may seem, because
it may later infl uence or spark a
great idea. Design is the process
of eliminating ineffective ideas or
concepts in order to narrow the
possibilities to a few strong ones.
The following techniques will aid
designers in generating unique
design concepts:
Concept
Development
Concepts for a company brochure are
explored fi rst in writing. In this case, the
design fi rm worked with a copywriter to
develop ideas, and then provided short
descriptions of each idea to the client
for review. Generally, once a client signs
off on an idea, the designer will further
refi ne it and create or commission visu-
als, such as photography and illustration,
to communicate the concept.
Design: Indicia Design
TB
Provision-Complete Graphic Designer
CD109-59/4028
1st
proof
CGD p038-061_Text file_.indd 48CGD p038-061_Text file_.indd 48 1/20/09 8:21:10 AM1/20/09 8:21:10 AM
The Design Process
49
1. Stream of consciousness/free association
Write down any word that comes to mind when
thinking about the subject matter including emo-
tions, colors, perceptions, or phrases; anything
and everything is appropriate. Revisit this list of
thoughts later to eliminate some of the unusable
ideas. This technique allows for unfettered thought.
2. Create an idea tree
Idea trees give visual structure to stream of con-
sciousness idea generation. Thoughts fl ow in a
logical progression as each idea builds off of the
previous one—ideas are placed onto a page with
related words “branching” off of them. To get started,
write down the subject matter (the company or
product name might also be appropriate) within a
circle. All related thoughts connected with that idea
are written down with lines connecting each to the
previous idea. Repeat this process for each word
until the ideas become very specifi c or no longer
relate to the subject matter.
3. Use a dictionary and thesaurus
Due to their descriptive nature, word defi nitions
give the designer visual clues for possible solutions.
In addition to helping understand terminology used
The Design Process
by the client, the dictionary is an indispensable tool
for translating written ideas into visual symbols and
metaphors. Write down the defi nition for each word
from the free association or the idea tree exercise.
Underline particularly descriptive words or phrases
within each defi nition, and write those words out on
the same sheet of paper with their defi nitions. Next,
use a thesaurus to fi nd related words or synonyms.
4. Combine unlikely ideas
The Latin word for thinking is “cogitate, which liter-
ally translated means “to mix together. Taking two
ideas or words from the designer’s brainstorming
exercises and combining them together often yields
unexpected and surprising results. Paul Rand was a
huge proponent of this method of generating ideas,
referring to it as “combinatory play. He believed
that the more childlike a designer could think by
combining two or more ideas, the more unique and
creative a solution would be developed, particularly
during the sketching phase of the design process.
Comfort
Contemporary
Yo u
physical
head
feet
body
eyes
face
towel
pillow
bed
fur
warm
soft
water
steam
bed
relaxation
cool
mental
soothing
skin
water
sleek
clean
health
wellness
emotion
physical
mental
human
streamlined
contemporary
colors
pattern
The creation of an idea tree helps when
brainstorming concepts for visual
solutions. Core ideas are connected to
related words, thoughts, or phrases to
visually portray stream-of-conscious-
ness thinking.
Design: Indicia Design
TB
Provision-Complete Graphic Designer
CD109-59/4028
1st
proof
CGD p038-061_Text file_.indd 49CGD p038-061_Text file_.indd 49 1/20/09 8:21:10 AM1/20/09 8:21:10 AM

Get The Complete Graphic Designer now with the O’Reilly learning platform.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from nearly 200 publishers.