The Ultimate 5-Step Graphic Design Process - Superside (2023)

For any design team, having an established graphic design process will lead to better designs, higher output and most importantly, remove a lot of potential frustration. If you’re leading graphic designers or looking to hire your own, this article will walk through:

  • What is the Graphic Design Process
  • The 5-Step Graphic Design Process
  • The Importance of Design Feedback (and How to Optimize it)
  • Basic Principles of Graphic Design

Let’s get started!

What Is A Graphic Design Process?

It’s the steps or phases taken in order to get a design to move from ideation, to finished product.

Sounds easy, right? Well, there’s a lot more that goes into making this process smooth and effective. When everything flows together, though, your team will be able to output designs faster and more efficiently (and likely be a lot happier, too).

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5-Step Graphic Design Process

Whether you’re creating a solid process for the first time or looking to refine an existing one, here are 5 graphic design process steps to consider:

  1. Start with a creative brief
  2. Conduct graphic design research
  3. Brainstorm design ideas
  4. Review process at the 10/50/99 stage
  5. Present final product

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1. Start with a creative brief

The creative design process starts with a creative brief which sets the tone for the entire project. It's the first and arguably one of the most important steps in the visual design process as it will lead the ideation phase in creating a design which meets the requirements.

A creative brief is a document that’s aimed to help the designer understand the scope of the project and what’s needed from them. You’ll want to include as much relevant information as possible to reduce any confusion, and as a result, back and forth.

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Be sure to include the following inyour brief:

  • Company details
  • Brand guidelines
  • Target audience
  • If there is one; define the problem the brand is facing
  • What the final product should be (I.e. brochure, eBook, etc)
  • Timeline expectations and milestones
  • Budget
  • What you intend viewers to do when they see the final product
  • Examples of similar work you like (and don’t)

Check out Co-Schedule’s creative brief template.

We also recommend going over creative briefs in person or over video if the project is more complex. This allows both parties to iron out any uncertainties to ensure everyone is on the same page and improves problem solving.

2. Conduct graphic design research

Depending on the scope of the project, you’ll want to include as much valuable information in your creative brief to minimize the time spent in this step. However, it’s still extremely valuable for designers to go through the researching phase themselves to build a better understanding of the audience they’re designing for (and how to make it work for you).

The research phase of the design process often involves things like:

  • Looking at competitor designs
  • Look at what the intended audience is engaging with on channels like social media
  • Taking all of the knowledge they’ve learned and applying it to the project at hand

Designers may also want to create a mood board or collection of comparable designs at this stage in order to get their ideas flowing. More on that below!

3. Brainstorm your design ideas

Before a designer goes full-throttle into a project, have them brainstorm some ideas and present them to you. This will minimize any frustration throughout the creative process. Don’t forget to outline this step in your creative brief!

If the project owner (who created the brief) has really strong ideas on how the final designs should look, it’s best for them to add in any relevant links or inspiration into the brief for optimal clarity.

Once the designer presents 3-5 ideas from their brainstorming and ideation phase, decide on which one you want to move forward with. This will make for a smooth graphic design workflow process that gets you the best results, fast.

4. Review at the 10/50/99 stage

When determining your milestones in your creative brief, be sure to check in with designers throughout the design process. The 10/50/99 feedback process ensures that you’re checking in at the most crucial parts of a project, allowing you to give the right feedback at the right time:

  • 10% done — A skeleton, outline or wireframe of the final design. At this stage, you can give feedback on the vision and direction that the work is headed in.
  • 50% done — The core components are coming together. The direction is no longer at debate so leave that feedback at the door. Instead, focus on whether or not the vision you determined is being visualized in the design.
  • 99% done — The nitty-gritty design tweaks. Finally! You can start tweaking things like spacing, colors, you name it.

Often, people will break these review rules and start giving feedback on things like color choice or fonts at a stage where the designer has only outlined a skeleton. This is not only frustrating for the designer, it’s unproductive! Make sure to follow the above design review stages to keep your projects moving along smoothly.

5. Present the final product

Yay! The design is complete. It’s time to get the final files (and invoice if working with an external design resource) and put the designs into action. If you want to go the extra mile, ask your designer for feedback on how they found the process, what they feel could be improved or tweaked and then iterate your process. Over time, you’ll be able to scale your design process effectively.

For other graphic design process examples, check out Filestage and Teksun’s processes.

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The Importance of Design Feedback (and How to Optimize it)

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When you provide the right feedback at the right time, not only will you make it a positive experience for designers, but you’ll receive a better final result, too. Giving feedback is super important to the design process, but the way you deliver it is what will bring your vision to life.

Why is feedback important in design?

Your designers aren’t mind readers. Feedback is the best piece of communication you can offer to help bring your vision to life. If the design doesn’t reflect your brand, provide that feedback.

But giving feedback isn't just about what you say, it's how you say it. Always remember to lead with empathy and work with your designers to help them, help you.

How do I give good design feedback?

According to UX Collective, here are some things you should consider when giving design feedback:

  • Frame your feedback with context. Always tie your feedback to the project goals specified at the start. Maybe the call-to-action isn’t prominent enough. Maybe the colors used are completely off-brand. Whatever the feedback is, tie it back to your goals.
  • Be clear and specific. Don’t just say, “I don’t like it.” Instead, offer concise and specific feedback about what you don’t like. An example of this would be, “In our creative brief, we wanted the design to pop by using very bright colors. The color scheme chosen here is more dull than we would like.”
  • Describe problems, but don’t offer solutions. This one is tough for a lot of people because everyone wants to offer up the how. Instead, focus only on the why behind your feedback. “I don’t think this image will resonate with our audience because they love to travel, explore and capture experiences. This creative feels like it’s intended for home bodies instead because... “ You get the point.

Overall, the key to giving good design feedback is being clear and giving examples or references. Don’t assume designers will understand what you mean when you say things like, “This needs to be more exciting.”

For designers: How do I get good design feedback?

Getting a lot of unproductive feedback on your designs lately? The best way to ensure you’re getting the right kind of feedback is to walk your client or colleague through what good feedback looks like (and doesn’t). Provide examples of feedback that you’ve received in the past that you’ve found clear, helpful and moved the project forward (without making you want to rip your hair out).

If you’re not sure where to start, try outlining:

  1. What you want feedback on
  2. What type of feedback you want at each stage or milestone of the project
  3. Who should provide the feedback—Should it come from one person, or a whole team?

Oh, and you can also share this blog with anyone who needs a refresher on optimal graphic design processes and feedback tips!

Basic Principles of Graphic Design

There’s a quote by Milton Glaser, a famous American graphic designer (who created the I ❤ NY logo), “There are three responses to a piece of design — yes, no, and WOW! Wow is the one to aim for.”

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When you successfully utilize the basic principles of graphic design, you’re more likely to hit that WOW factor. There are a lot of graphic design principles to consider, but let’s walk through nine of the most impactful ones.

What are the basic principles of graphic design?

1. Balance

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Image Source: Toptal

This can be symmetrical, when the weight of elements is evenly divided in the design, or asymmetrical, which uses scale, contract and color to achieve balance and flow in the design.

2. Proximity

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Image Source: 254 Online

Proximity describes the relationship between elements within a design based and the distance between them.

3. Alignment

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Image Source: UX Engineer

Alignment focuses on how all of the different elements within your design are lined up in relation to one another (such as left-aligned, centre-aligned, etc).

4. Visual hierarchy

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Image Source: Visme

Visual hierarchy can be achieved through tactics like using bold or large fonts to make one element of the design more prominent than the others. It’s intended to allow the viewer to consume your design in the order that you intend them to.

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5. Repetition

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Image Source: 254 Online

This is extremely effective when done across multiple designs (I.e. branding!). Repetition is a great way to tie elements of a brand to any design that’s associated with it, which makes it easy for people to associate a design with a company.

6. Contrast

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Image Source: Paper

Have you ever seen neon green text on top of a neon orange background? Well, if you have you probably didn’t say WOW with enthusiasm. Contrast ensures that the elements in your design are legible.

7. Color

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Image Source

Sitepoint puts it best, “In advertising and design, color is used to grab attention and stimulate interest in ways that would be difficult to create by any other means.”

8. Negative space

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Image Source: Creative Bloq

You don’t need to fill the whole canvas. In fact, negative space can be really powerful when it comes to highlighting certain components of your design and making them stand out.

9. Typography

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This design principle focuses more on how you arrange the letters and text to make the design visually appealing to the reader. Is the text legible and clear? Try playing around with things like font style, appearance and structure to convey your message.

When you’re bringing on designers, it’s important that you have a graphic design process established. This will reduce your project timelines, lead to better designs, and best of all, impact your bottom line (for the better). You can also follow this DesignOps guide to start streamlining your creative process.

If you need help sourcing amazing designers, Superside can help with graphic design services. With turnaround times as little as 12-24 hours, think of us as your extended design team. Book a call to learn more.

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What are the 5 basic principles of graphic design? ›

Watch to learn about five layout principles: proximity, white space, alignment, contrast and repetition.

What are the 5 ways you consider to become a good graphics designer? ›

How to be a good graphic designer
  • Earn an education in design. ...
  • Take online design courses. ...
  • Specialize your work. ...
  • Determine your signature style. ...
  • Find a mentor. ...
  • Seek feedback from other designers. ...
  • Join online design groups. ...
  • Collaborate with skilled designers.
1 Jun 2021

What are 5 things graphic designers do? ›

What is graphic design?
  • Company brand identity (logos, typography, and color palettes)
  • User interfaces on apps and websites.
  • Books, magazines, newspapers, and other publications.
  • Product packaging.
  • Advertisements and commercials.
  • Signage for stores, transportation, stadiums, and event spaces.
  • Video games.
19 Aug 2022

What is graphic process? ›

By Charles Sallee. The aquatint graphic process is a method of biting tones instead of lines, thus producing rich, deep, velvety, dark tones as well as delicate transparent tints.

What are the main stages of a design project? ›

The 7 steps of project design
  • Define project goals. In the first step, define your project goals. ...
  • Determine outcomes. Next, narrow down the outcomes of the project. ...
  • Identify risks and constraints. ...
  • Refine your project strategy with a visual aid. ...
  • Estimate your budget. ...
  • Create a contingency plan. ...
  • Document your milestones.
5 Jun 2022

What top 5 skills does a designer need? ›

8 Great Graphic Design Skills
  • Creativity. You probably don't need us to spell it out for you, but let's drill this home: Creativity is one of if not the most important graphic design skills. ...
  • Communication. ...
  • Typography. ...
  • Adobe's Creative Apps. ...
  • Interactive Media. ...
  • Coding. ...
  • Branding. ...
  • Delivering Presentations.

What makes a graphic design successful? ›

Increasing Creativity Is Vital

The main job you have as a graphic designer is making a client's website or app look appealing and functional. A successful graphic designer has a very creative mind and is able to pull great ideas for even those projects he works on out of thin air.

What is the most important tool for a graphic designer? ›

Adobe Photoshop

Adobe Photoshop has long remained the industry standard for desktop publishing. It is a popular favorite with graphic designers for a reason. Its array of image editing tools supports the beginner to the pro with a user-friendly interface and a plethora of well-written tutorials.

What is step 5 of the design process? ›

Stage 5: Test—Try Your Solutions Out

Test: the fifth and final phase of the design thinking process, where you test solutions to derive a deep understanding of the product and its users. Designers or evaluators rigorously test the complete product using the best solutions identified in the Prototype stage.

What is the 5th stage of the design process? ›

Testing is the fifth stage in the five-stage design thinking process. You often perform tests together with the prototyping stage. Through testing, you can learn more about your users, improve your prototype and even refine your problem statement.

What are the 5 steps in product design? ›

Product Design Process: 5 Steps
  • Step 1: Target Market Research. ...
  • Step 2: Initial Concept Design. ...
  • Step 3: Sketches, Drawings, and more Sketches! ...
  • Step 4: Prototyping. ...
  • Step 5: Consumer Feedback.
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What are the first 4 steps to follow before beginning your infographic? ›

Follow these steps and set yourself up for success before you even start designing your infographic.
You can follow along by creating an account on Piktochart for free.
  • Step 1: Evaluate Your Idea. ...
  • Step 2: Do Your Research. ...
  • Step 3: Create an Outline. ...
  • Step 4: Draw a Rough Draft.
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What are the 7 elements of graphic design? ›

The seven basic elements of graphic design are line, shape, color, texture, type, space and image.

What is a good design process? ›

Designers should investigate it by reading, observing, analyzing, and taking notes on the information collected. These steps bring important design insights, which will guide you through the graphic direction and design decisions in the process. The investigation gives meaning to the design solution.

What is creative design process? ›

Creative design seems more to be a matter of developing and refining together both the formulation of a problem and ideas for a solution, with constant iteration of analysis, synthesis and evaluation processes between the two notional design 'spaces'—problem space and solution space.

What are the 5 basic architectural services? ›

There are FIVE BASIC DESIGN PHASES to architectural services: (1) Schematic Design, (2) Design Development, (3) Construction Documents, (4) Bidding, and (5) Construction Observation.

Which part of 5 step strategic design process keeps the user at the center? ›

Empathize-(Consider your users' needs) -Typically via user research, you should get a sympathetic grasp of the problem you're trying to solve.

What is the most important skill of a design? ›

Communication and presentation skills

“Knowing how to use images, typography and other tools to make the viewer get the message is a critical competence in a designer's skill set. Designers must, in essence, be able to communicate through their work.

What is a good graphic design? ›

Good graphic design increases readability, communicates quickly and convincingly, and draws the reader's eye to key information within the message.

What is graphic design theory? ›

Graphic design theory research examines how designers can read about and read into designs in order to stimulate growth and change in their own work. It inspires new lines of thoughts and questioning, and opens up new theoretical directions.

What makes a great designer? ›

A good designer does the design for the end user and not for herself. A good designer interviews the target group, builds personas. Another one of the typical characteristics of a great designer is that she cares to do interviews and talk to the users in person. She is able to put aside her own solutions.

What are 4 things graphic designers have to know? ›

Soft Skills for Graphic Designers
  • Creativity. Graphic Designers are constantly tasked with developing new and unique ideas. ...
  • Communication. Graphic design is visual communication, so communication skills are at the heart of a Graphic Designer's work. ...
  • Strategy. ...
  • Problem solving. ...
  • Time management.

What is the most common form of graphic design? ›

Visual identity design is one of the most common types of design. Visual identity graphic designers must possess a general knowledge of all types of graphic design in order to create design elements that are suitable across all visual media.

What are 3 things graphic designers do? ›

Graphic designers typically do the following: Meet with clients or the art director to determine the scope of a project. Use digital illustration, photo editing software, and layout software to create designs. Create visual elements such as logos, original images, and illustrations to help deliver a message.

What are the 5 steps in the technology process? ›

Steps of the technological design process include: identify a problem, research the problem, generate possible solutions, select the best solution, create a model, test the model, refine and retest the model as needed, and communicate the final solution.

What is research design 5? ›

5. Explanatory research: Explanatory design uses a researcher's ideas and thoughts on a subject to further explore their theories. The study explains unexplored aspects of a subject and details the research questions' what, how, and why.

What are the six 6 basic graphic design principles? ›

Start with the six principles of design: balance, pattern, rhythm, emphasis, contrast, and unity. Just as instructional design models and methodologies shape your training strategy, so should these principles shape your basic visual strategy. By applying them, you can create high-impact visuals.

What are the 4 design rules? ›

Effective design centres on four basic principles: contrast, repetition, alignment and proximity. These appear in every design.

What are 5 of the 9 principles of design? ›

The main principles of graphic design are balance, contrast, emphasis, repetition and pattern, proportion, movement, white space, unity, and variety.

What are the 8 key principles of design? ›

The eight principles of design every designer should know
  • Alignment. Making sure the elements of any design are aligned is essential. ...
  • Hierarchy. Hierarchy means putting your design's most important message or purpose front and center. ...
  • Contrast. ...
  • Repetition. ...
  • Proximity. ...
  • Balance. ...
  • Color. ...
  • Space.

What are the 4 D's of design? ›

Design Thinking methodology involves FOUR distinct stages – Discover, Define, Develop and Deliver. Collectively, this is known as the 4D Framework.


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