Creating a Productive Graphic-Design Project Workflow

November 7, 2022

Freelancers and others working for project-based businesses must adapt to fast-paced workflows. Getting a project completed on time can often be tricky. Depending on the circumstances, the pace of a project might not be as efficient as you would want. Graphic designers often work with new clients, so they must constantly shift gears and adjust to new ways of working.

Developing a smooth workflow strategy is important for any service- or business-related job. Because the expectations of the role of a graphic designer are ever changing, careful planning and strategy are beneficial in this field. In this article, I’ll describe how you can create a plan for your own productive graphic-design project workflow.

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Design Brief Overview

Whether graphic designers are working with a client or for a company, they follow the direction of a design brief, which is an outline of a project’s details. Working alongside your client or team, you must gather all the necessary information for the graphic-design project. The goal of a project brief is to enable you to comprehend the overall object of a request. This initial planning helps you to build a strong relationship with your client. Establishing a connection with those you are working with helps decrease the likelihood of conflict.

For future projects, consider the following key points of the design brief:

  • background—Before beginning a project, you’ll need to gather some background information, including the concepts behind the requested design—for example, the business niche, your client’s expectations, and their reasoning behind the graphic-design proposal. You should initially get some background information about the client, then get to know them better.
  • goals—Once you’ve got the necessary background information for the project and know those who are involved, it’s time to go over the project’s goals, which direct the development of the graphic-design idea. If a client wants a design that attracts new customers, gaining this knowledge will make it easier to fulfill their request. Defining goals is a key part of planning an effective workflow for a graphic-design project.
  • budget—A business’s or client’s budget has may limit the possible outcomes a graphic designer can achieve. The higher the budget, the further a graphic designer can take an idea. Discuss the budget with your client before you start creating the design. This prevents possible confusion and tensions. Once you know a client’s budget, you can state clearly what you can deliver within their budget.
  • inspiration—Seeing the inspiration for a graphic-design proposal is important. Sketches, reference photos, and other details are crucial to making an idea come to life. Designers should see the visual inspirations that pertain to the project’s theme. A picture board is a wonderful addition to any design brief. Picture boards provide the foundation for a graphic-design project. Just as artists use pictures, scenery, and other reference sources, graphic designers need similar visuals to inspire their work.
  • design type—There are various types of graphic design, including social-media posts, logos, 3D pieces, and Web-site design. Ensure that you know what types of graphic designs you’ll be producing for a project. This information is vital to completing a project successfully.
  • timescale—Another section of the design brief you must consider is the project’s timeline—the time period within which you must complete a project and meet its milestones. Knowing exactly what parts of the graphic-design project you must finish when lets you organize your design process effectively.

Include all these key points of the design brief in your project planning. Going into graphic-design work with a solid plan is the first step to building a productive project workflow.

Research and Experimentation

Once you understand the design brief, you should access further information. Being well-informed about the type of project helps. No matter how experienced a graphic designer you are, knowing as much about the design medium as possible is helpful. You can conduct secondary research on design software, tips, methods, similar projects, and other relevant topics. Once you’ve done your research, add your learnings to a document. Writing such notes is useful because you can refer to them at any stage of the project. Absorbing both the design brief and your research prepares you for the start of your project workflow. Investing time in planning pays off in the long run because you won’t be going back and forth while you’re working on a graphic-design project. Client’s might become displeased if they discover that you didn’t thoroughly plan out the project after receiving their informative details and project requests.

Your first draft or drafts of a project shouldn’t be the final work that you’ll submit to the client. After the planning period, it’s time to experiment with some early-stage designs. Take everything you know and play around with the ideas and vision. Taking some time to try out risky things is worthwhile whenever you have the time and the approval of your client to do so. At each revision stage, get those you’re working with on the project—both your client and coworkers—to review your progress. Experimenting during the early stages of a graphic-design project can enhance the creativity of your designs.

The research and experimentation you do during the early stages of a graphic-design workflow set you up for the more intense phases of a project. Before you can make your final revisions, you’ll need to gather feedback from your client. You can do this efficiently, both by getting your client to review your early, rough drafts and by meeting with them regularly throughout your project.

Fostering Consistent Client Relationships

Maintaining consistent relationships with your graphic-design client base is a positive outcome of your successful projects. Even if you work as a team with other graphic designers, your one-on-one relationships are extremely valuable. In the customer-service industry, the strength of the experiences that a client and a designer share is key. Communication is a huge part of the relationship between a client and a service worker. Prioritize meeting with your client multiple times over the course of a project. This accelerates the completion of any graphic-design project. Updating your client and checking in with them to get their thoughts is important. Meetings with your client can also remove any worries or concerns that they may have about the results of your work.

The Pros of Strong Client Relationships

There are endless pros to maintaining a consistent and strong relationship with your client. Building strong client relationships does the following:

  1. Helps you build your client base.
  2. Engenders positive endorsements and testimonials.
  3. Keeps your clients returning with more projects.
  4. Lets you achieve an accelerated workflow.
  5. Strengthens your social skills.
  6. Fosters better project experiences.

During meetings with your graphic-design clients, request and receive their feedback. Gathering feedback just before the completion or end of a project is a terrible mistake. Getting feedback from your client is necessary throughout the course of working on a project.

Why Feedback Is Necessary

Without feedback, you’ll likely run into issues when creating designs for your customers. Whether you’re a freelancer or a graphic designer for a business, it’s your responsibility to follow the wishes of your clients. While following the design brief is one way of ensuring that you fulfill your client’s requests, getting their feedback is also crucial. The last scenario any graphic designer would want to encounter is having their client completely disapprove their final designs. Not only would this situation be inconvenient to both parties but it could entirely derail your project workflow. At every stage of the design process, request your client’s feedback. Once you receive their feedback, start applying their criticism to your designs. While feedback can positively impact the success of a graphic designer’s work, distasteful feedback can negatively impact the client experience.

Coping with Upset Clients

In any customer service–related career, there is no way to avoid sometimes having to deal with upset customers. While you may have done everything in your power to satisfy your client, they could still get emotional despite your efforts. Therefore, you must be the bigger person in such negative customer-service situations. If a customer bashes your work, don’t argue with them. Simply ask whether you can do anything to resolve the issue. Never tell a customer they are wrong—this response backfires in most instances. So, unless an issue involves your safety or unjustly impacts your professional reputation, fighting with a client isn’t worth it.

By accepting accountability for your customer’s dissatisfaction, you can regain control of any dispute. At the end of the day, you shouldn’t take a customer’s insults or problems to heart. Being mature about handling what are often unavoidable situations is a great coping mechanism.

Resolving a client’s emotional outburst will hopefully lead to peace and harmony and enable you to continue the project for the client to its successful completion—instead of the project going off the rails. You may make some revisions to your designs immediately after you’ve received your client’s feedback, then make thorough revisions to complete the designs.

Revising Your Designs

This is the period of your graphic-design workflow that takes the longest. While your first drafts are essential, the later revisions of your graphic designs play a greater role. These final revisions are crucial to the success of the final product. Each revision brings you one step closer to finishing a successful project for your client. Don’t forget to show your clients all the revisions so they’ll know exactly how the design project is going.

Making these later revisions is probably the most difficult part of a project for a graphic designer. It can be tough to keep reworking designs when they are so close to being completed. When graphic designers get tired of working on the same project, the pace of their workflow often decreases. Instead of giving into procrastination, push through the final revisions instead. By getting them done as soon as possible, you’ll find that you’re less stressed and can be at ease. The best part of the revision process is when you’ve completed all your revisions. Once your client approves the finished design project, there are only a few things left to worry about.

Completing Projects and Getting Results

Initially, you’ll be relieved that you’ve finished your project. However, there are still a few things you need to handle. As a graphic designer, your goal is to create an optimal experience for your client. A satisfied client will want to support you and seek your services again in the future. If you are a freelance graphic designer, ask your client for an endorsement. Endorsements can help you gain more clients in the future. If you work at a graphic-design company, you are more likely to catch a client’s interest because you are part of a larger business. Growing your clientele within a graphic-design business proves you are a talented graphic designer. An important consequence of finishing any graphic-design project successfully is getting returning clients.

Things to Avoid to Achieve a Productive Workflow

When you’re developing a productive graphic–design project workflow, knowing what to avoid is vital. Anyone working on a project could face many distractions. Avoiding interruptions and distractions can be a challenge, especially when the work isn’t going smoothly, but also accelerates your project’s progress. Consider how to avoid the following obstacles to ensure you achieve a productive project workflow.

  • becoming disinterested in a project—Instead of being bored by a project, find a way to relate to the themes of the designs. Graphic designers are extremely creative individuals. Ponder the design elements and decide which parts inspire you as an artist. Seeking inspiration lets you find some parts of the project that you can enjoy.
  • struggling to produce the work—A lack of motivation prevents graphic designers from completing projects at an efficient rate. Finding reasons to motivate yourself is an easy solution to this obstacle.
  • not having a well-organized schedule—Graphic designers should always have a well-organized schedule. Otherwise, they’ll struggle in completing projects for their clients on time. By using a planner, you can plan adequate time for your design work.

Applying This Advice to Your Graphic-Design Practice

Realistically, you won’t be able to apply all of these approaches to your graphic-design practice overnight. The best way to adopt these practices is by putting them into practice for your future graphic-design projects. 

Project Manager at Academized

Tampa, Florida, USA

Rebecca LeighRebecca is a graphic designer, writer, and marketer with over 13 years of experience. She earned her undergraduate degree in graphic design at the University of Texas and found success in the field soon after graduation. She has worked with teams at several high-profile companies and as a freelance agent, helping brands create the images and designs they need. Rebecca currently owns and works as a graphic-design consultant at Academized. She speaks at marketing conferences and at universities, sharing her work experiences and helping other marketers and designers find success in their own work, whatever that may be.  Read More

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