How does a graphic designer turn your idea into a design?

Posted on: Sep 05, 2018

How can you describe your job in one short sentence? I usually go with something like: ‘I take my client’s ideas and turn them into a design’. That idea could be just a few words, such as ‘I need some fun illustrations for my website’, or it could be a much more detailed idea with pages of notes and market research. It's my job to take whatever brief I'm given and turn it into a piece of eye-catching commercial art.

Most of my clients already have great ideas for how to promote their business, they just need someone like me with the creative skills to make them real. But what does that process actually involve?


If you decide to work with a graphic designer, how can you explain your vision and make sure you get the result you want?

I don’t have a ‘one size fits all’ approach as my clients vary so much, but there is a general process I go through with each new client to make sure I’m delivering what they want (and hopefully exceed their expectations!)


cup of tea and brainstorm

Meet & brainstorm

It’s always best to meet a new client in person if at all possible, and if not then a video chat can work just as well. I like to get to know my clients and find out their personal taste by asking them cringy first date questions like ‘what’s your favourite colour’!

We'll also chat about their business, their background, and how I can help with their plans for the future.



sketch stage

Share your scribbles

I love it when a client shows me a sketch, however rough and basic it may be it always helps to explain what they’re after. A lot of people are shy about their drawing skills (and obviously I’m not expecting anything amazing as that’s why they’re hiring me!), but even a scribble on a napkin can start the creative juices flowing.

I’ll usually begin a new project by sketching ideas on paper before moving the concept into Illustrator or InDesign.


Pinterest screenshot

Show me your pins!

If it’s a logo design client then I ask them if they’ve seen any logos they particularly like. It’s also very helpful to know what designs or colours they hate, so I know what to avoid!

I often suggest they start a Pinterest board that they can share with me – this is one of the quickest and easiest ways to figure out a client’s taste. I only need to see a handful of ‘pins’ to figure out where their head’s at.


stage two

First draft

All designers get nervous about sending that first draft. If I wasn’t nervous I think it would be time to hang up my Adobe subscription!

I always encourage honest feedback – it’s so important for my client to tell me exactly what they think about the first draft. Otherwise, we could start off down a stylistic road that they actually aren’t that keen on, only to be forced to perform a U-turn further down.


stage three

Develop & refine

Once the initial concept has been discussed and the client is happy, I carry on with the development of the design. Usually there are a few back and forths at this stage, especially with logo design as there are things like colour palette and font selection to decide.

I don’t put any pressure on my clients to come back with a decision straight away – it’s better to let a design ‘sit’ with you for a few days before deciding which one to go for. Some clients like to do a straw poll of friends or family, which I encourage too. If you're choosing a piece of art to go on your wall that’s entirely down to personal taste, but a piece of commercial design needs to have popular appeal.


sign off

Sign off

Happy day! This is my second-favourite part of the process (brainstorming is the first). The client is happy and the design is signed off. I provide artwork files in whatever format is most suitable (PDF for print, jpeg or png for online, etc.).

At this point I usually ask for a testimonial – they are so important for freelancers and small businesses!


So there you have it – not so much mystery and magic as a tried and tested process.

It’s an extremely satisfying process too: there’s nothing better than a client telling you that you’ve successfully interpreted their vision.

If you’ve got an idea for your business that you’d like to see turned into reality, get in touch!

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