Graphic Design Process: 6 Steps + 5 Basic Principles of Graphic Design

Graphic Design Process: 6 Steps + 5 Basic Principles of Graphic Design
Article by Jelena Relić
Last Updated: July 18, 2022

Graphic design process is a series of steps that a designer follows to bring design ideas to life

Graphic design is the art of creating appealing visuals that convey a certain message.

But the process involves so much more than just creating pretty images and logos. In fact, when creating designs, graphic designers don’t just apply their creative skills — they also follow a detailed process with clearly defined steps.

If you’re looking into graphic design services, it might help to learn more about the graphic design process so you know what to expect.

In this article, we’ll explain what the graphic design process is, the steps it contains, and the importance of following a detailed process.

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What Is The Graphic Design Process?

The graphic design process is a series of steps a graphic designer follows to bring design ideas to life and meet client requirements.

While the job of a graphic designer does require a lot of creative work, it also requires following logical steps to complete a graphic design project. Besides creativity, the graphic design process also involves communication, problem-solving skills and critical thinking.

5 Basic Principles of Graphic Design

Graphic design involves a lot of principles that allow designers to create high-quality, customized designs. While there are many more, these are the basic principles of graphic design:

1. Balance

Balance refers to the distribution of graphic design elements. It can be either symmetrical or asymmetrical.

Symmetrical balance is when the weight of the elements is distributed evenly in the design. Asymmetrical balance uses scale, contrast and color to create balance and flow.

2. Contrast

Contrast is essential in graphic design to keep the distinction between design elements and make sure they are legible or clear. This is what makes design elements stand out or “pop” so to speak.

Contrast is achieved when design elements are placed in opposition. For example, dark shades vs. light shades, or bold fonts against a white background.

3. Alignment

Alignment refers to how the design elements in a design are arranged in relation to one another. For example, left-aligned, right-aligned or center-aligned. Alignment serves to organize the elements in an orderly and visually appealing manner.

To achieve alignment in graphic design, designers need to consider size, proximity and the positioning of every element in the design. This ensures that everything fits in nicely and there is a flow that appeals to the eye.

4. Proximity

Proximity refers to the distance between various design elements. It creates a visual relationship between design elements, such as color or font, and helps designers avoid clutter in the design and ensure a great user experience.

5. Hierarchy

Hierarchy in graphic design is a principle that refers to focusing on particular design elements and giving them more weight compared to others. It means making the most important elements stand out.

This can be achieved by using large, bold fonts, colorful visuals or by placing the key message above the fold, for example. Hierarchy allows the website visitor to consume the design in the way it was intended.

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The Process of Graphic Design: 6 Steps

Whether a graphic designer works on a freelance basis or in-house, they follow a clear set of steps designed to streamline the workflow and develop impressive graphic designs. While graphic design trends continue to change and evolve over the years, the logical steps behind the process stay the same.

Here are the steps a graphic designer follows throughout the process:

Step #1: Write a Creative Brief

The first step is to write a creative brief, which serves as the foundation for the graphic design project. A graphic designer puts together this brief by meeting with the client and asking relevant questions regarding the brand, its offering, requirements and expectations for the project.

This brief helps ensure that both sides, the graphic designer and the client (or stakeholders), are on the same page regarding the project.

A brief should cover:

  • Company information
  • Brand guidelines
  • Target audiences
  • Project timeline
  • Delivery format
  • Budget

Step #2: Conduct Research

The next step is research. In this stage, the graphic designer conducts research to understand the product or service they will be representing, and observe the client’s competitors and their designs.

This allows designers to see what works and what doesn’t in competitors’ designs, identify potential issues and figure out how to make improvements. Designers typically use Google to search for client competitors, observe their websites and compare designs.

Research also helps designers find inspiration for design ideas and determine the design approach they will take for a particular project.

Step #3: Build a Wireframe

In this step, graphic designers brainstorm design ideas and start building the rough framework for the final product. This is also called a wireframe or a mockup. It uses simple shapes to provide a visual representation of what the final design will look like.

This way, the designer has something to pitch to the client and make sure that it aligns with what they asked for.

For this step, designers can simply use a pen and paper or even iPads to quickly draw out the design concept, especially when working on a small-scale project. Others use software tools that enable them to create designs, store and edit them easily. Some of the best graphic design software for this purpose include Figma, Canva or Adobe XD.

Depending on the complexity and requirements of the projects, this sketch, wireframe or mockup can be very simple or more detailed, with some design elements such as colors or brand elements.

The simplest wireframe is called a low-fidelity wireframe, which outlines the basic concept of the design. A step up from the basic wireframe is a mid-fidelity wireframe, which contains more accurate descriptions of the layout.

A high-fidelity wireframe is the closest representation of what the final product will look like and contains a lot of design elements such as typography, content and colors.

Step #4: Create The Design

The next step is the design stage. When the client and all the stakeholders involved approve the initial concept or mockup, the designer proceeds to the design.

In this stage, the designer starts adding design elements to the sketch or mockup, including color, shape, typography, space, imagery and animation.

Graphic designers often create several variations of the design so the client can choose between them.

Step #5: Get Feedback

In this step, the designer submits their designs for review. Collecting feedback is valuable because it ensures the graphic designer’s work is aligned with client expectations.

If the client requests any changes in the design, the designer can then update their work to implement the requested changes. Depending on the project, this process may take a while and designers may have to work on implementing changes multiple times after each round of feedback.

The process is repeated until the client and all the stakeholders are content with the design and feel it fully meets their requirements.

Step #6: Final Delivery

When the client and/or the stakeholders approve the updated design, it is time to deliver the final product.

The designer sends the work in the requested format, using the correct file type and size, so the client does not need to make any edits and can implement the design into whatever format they need.

The Importance Of Following A Graphic Web Design Process

So, is the graphic design process really necessary? The simple answer is yes, it is, because it is beneficial for both the client and the designer.

A graphic design process:

Aligns Expectations

Sharing what the graphic design creative process looks like with clients helps align expectations from both the designer’s side and the client’s side, and set realistic goals for the final product. When a client understands the time and effort that goes into the process, the two parties can work on setting realistic deadlines for the project.

Keeps the Project on Track

Creating a custom-made design requires a lot of careful consideration and work to deliver design solutions that reflect the brand identity and engage target audiences.

A graphic design process takes all of these factors into consideration and helps a designer stay on track until the completion of the project. It serves as a guide throughout the process and helps the designer stay focused on the project needs and requirements.

Eliminates Miscommunication

Following a graphic design process helps avoid miscommunication along the way. From asking all the right questions when creating the creative brief to collecting feedback after delivering the initial design solution, a graphic design process helps both parties avoid misunderstandings.

It ensures the expectations and requirements are clearly conveyed and understood, from beginning to end.

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Wrapping Up On The Graphic Design Process

As you can see, the graphic design process is about more than just creating pretty designs. It involves a lot of critical thinking and problem-solving.

When working on creative design, designers must consider the basic principles, including balance, contrast, alignment, proximity and hierarchy.

The graphic design process includes:

  • A creative brief
  • Research
  • Brainstorming design ideas
  • Creating the design
  • Getting feedback
  • Final delivery

A graphic design process is highly beneficial for both parties, as it helps both the graphic designer and the client set clear expectations, avoid miscommunication and reduce the risk of failure.

Professional graphic design agencies can help you in that regard by providing their expert opinion on the matter and guiding your business as fits your market.

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