Chapter 2. Design Process
- Explain the role of communication design in print and media
- Describe how the creative process relates to strategic problem solving
- Contrast how the creative process relates to the design process
- Define critical phases of the design process
- Discover how project research helps to define a communication problem
- Give examples of brainstorming techniques that generate multiple concepts based on a common message
- Learn about metaphors and other rhetorical devices to generate concepts
- Explore how concepts translate into messages within a visual form
Communication Design and The Design Process
The practice of graphic or communication design is founded on crafting visual communications between clients and their audience. The communication must carry a specific message to a specific audience on behalf of the client, and do so effectively — usually within the container of a concept that creates context and builds interest for the project in the viewer.
See an illustrated model of the design process here: A Model of the Creative Process
Overview of the Design Process
The process of developing effective design is complex. It begins with research and the definition of project goals. Defining goals allows you to home in on precisely what to communicate and who the audience is. You can then appropriately craft the message you are trying to communicate to them. Additional information regarding how to deliver your message and why it’s necessary are also clarified in the research stage. Often the preferred medium becomes clear (i.e., web, social media, print, or advertising) as does the action you want your audience to take. Asking a millennial to donate to a cause is a good example. Research reveals that transparency of donation use, donor recognition, and ease of making the donation are vital to successfully engaging a millennial audience (Grossnickle, Feldmann, White, & Parkevich, 2010). Research also reveals that millennials resist negative advertising, so the message must be crafted in positive terms that are anchored to a realistic environment (Tanyel, Stuart, & Griffin, 2013). Knowing this information before the concept development begins is vital to crafting a message that will generate the response your client needs. Critiquing and analysis allow you to evaluate the effectiveness of the design approach as it develops through the stages of an iterative process.
In order to design visual materials that communicate effectively, designers must understand and work with the syntax of visual language. Meaning is expressed not only through content but through form as well, and will include both intellectual and emotional messages in varying degrees.
Developing Concepts into Design Solutions
Designers are responsible for the development of the creative concepts that express the message. A concept is an idea that supports and reinforces communication of key messages by presenting them in interesting, unique, and memorable ways on both intellectual and emotional levels. A good concept provides a framework for design decisions at every stage of development and for every design piece in a brand or ad campaign. An early example of this is the witty and playful ‘think small’ Volkswagen Beetle (VW) advertising campaign of the 1960s. By amplifying the smallness of its car in a ‘big’ car culture, VW was able to create a unique niche in the car market and a strong bond between the VW bug and its audience (see Figure 2.1).
When you implement solutions, you put concepts into a form that communicates effectively and appropriately. In communication design, form should follow and support function. This means that what you are saying determines how you say it and in turn how it is delivered to your audience. Design is an iterative process that builds the content and its details through critiquing the work as it develops. Critiquing regularly keeps the project on point creatively and compositionally. Critiquing and analysis allow you to evaluate the effectiveness of the whole design in relation to the concept and problem. The number of iterations depends on the skill of the designer in developing the content and composition as well as properly evaluating its components in critique. In addition, all of this must occur in the context of understanding the technologies of design and production.
As you begin to build and realize your concepts by developing the content, the elements, and the layouts, you must apply compositional and organizational principles that make sense for the content and support the core concept. Compositional principles are based on psychological principles that describe how human beings process visual information. Designers apply these principles in order to transmit meaning effectively. For example, research has shown that some kinds of visual elements attract our attention more than others; a designer can apply this knowledge to emphasize certain parts of a layout and give a certain element or message importance. These principles apply to all forms of visual materials, digital media, and print.
When dealing with text, issues of legibility and readability are critical. Designers organize information through the use of formal structures and typographic conventions to make it easier for the viewer to absorb and understand content. The viewer may not consciously see the underlying structures, but will respond positively to the calm clarity good organization brings to the text.