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Chapter 2. Design Process

2.3 Define

Alex Hass

Step 1: Define the Communication Problem

The inventor Charles Kettering is famously quoted as saying “a problem well-stated is half-solved.”
Clearly the first step in any design activity is to define the communication problem properly. To do this, you will need to meet with clients to establish initial goals and objectives.

Here are some of the questions you should ask:

  • What is the business of the client; what products or services does the client offer?
  • What are the client’s long-term business goals? (What does the client want its business to have accomplished in 5 or 10 years?)
  • What is the purpose of the project? What does the client hope to achieve with it? (The goals of a specific project are usually narrower than overall long-term business goals, but should fit within the larger picture.)
  • What are the performance criteria that will be used to evaluate whether project goals are met?
  • Who is the target audience?
  • What is the client’s message to this audience?
  • How does this project fit in with existing corporate materials?
  • Does this piece require more than one format or medium?
  • What corporate guidelines (if any) must be adhered to?
  • Are illustration, photography, or any other special services required?
  • Are there any special or unusual considerations around this project?
  • What quantity is needed (for print)?
  • What distribution method will be used (for print)?
  • What is the budget?
  • Who will approve the project? Will that person be available for sign-off when required?

Good planning at the beginning can make a project run smoothly and without surprises. Don’t assume anything; both the designer and the client should listen closely to each other and ask plenty of questions. Keep in regular communication, document discussions, and ensure that you have written confirmation of decisions.

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2.3 Define by Alex Hass is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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