designer process / by breanna rose

So far in my mini series on the Designer Process, we’ve talked about strategy + visual checkpoints, which is sort of like tailgating. They are important and fun – but not the main show. Once enough information about a brand has been collected, the client gets to sit back and relax while the designer does their own thing. Now, this is the part that really differs. Each and every creative has their own process and way of developing concepts, so I’ll give you a little bit of insight into my own. But remember, feel free to share your own thoughts in the comments section so others can read and discuss!! There is no true “right” way.

With a strategy of how to move forward in hand, the first thing I always do is create a large artboard in Adobe Illustrator ( I use pen + paper on more handwritten projects ) where I basically get all sorts of MESSY. I scribble, pick out typefaces, create shapes + patterns, and begin defining compositions. Things remain unorganized for awhile as I start, stop, edit, revise, and eventually finalize concepts.

More often than not, my canvas will end up as a ( crazy ) conglomerate of abandoned ideas juxtaposed with strong design solutions. But that’s what’s great about giving yourself time to create : if something isn’t working, you can leave it behind and focus on something else. All of this usually happens ( for me ) within a 1-2 week time period, where I chip away for a little bit each and every day.

In the end, I organize the 2 strongest design concepts into a clean PDF so that I can present the ideas to my client. Now, some designers prefer to present upwards of 3-5 solutions, which is totally fine if that’s what you want to do. It all depends on how many options you’d like to give your client as well as what is fair to you + your time. But remember, choice can be paralyzing. I’ve found that it’s easier for people to choose their brand direction when they aren’t cluttered by too many ideas.


I will dive into revisions + finalizing the design next week, but I do have a surprise for you in the meantime!! Courtney of Design Work Life + Seamless Creative has kindly offered my readers a 20% discount ( promo code = BREANNA ) off her upcoming Skillshare classs which is all about crafting a brand identity. I thought today’s post would be the perfect time to bring up something like this. If you are an intermediate designer and want to brush up on your skills and learn from another talented designer, than this is a good one for you. You can read more about what’s all included right here. It’s affordable and looks awesome!

  1. JEN says:

    I think it’s awesome that you only present 2 designs! I’ve been trying to show less and less – I find that when there are too many options it’s hard for the client to focus their feedback.

  2. I am generally a very organized person, but can see how sometimes a disorganized art board can help with the creativity when coming up with ideas and designs!

    Chase Miller
    The Smell of Summer – A Boutique Lifestyle Blog

    • breanna says:

      Totally, if you just let yourself go – there will be a natural flow that you notice. Sometimes leftover ideas can be combined with new ones a week later. It’s just …. cool to see. :)

  3. Nesha says:

    I like the idea of only presenting 2 ideas, but I would personally feel like I’m limiting my clients. I think I would do well to narrow it down to 3 choices though! You’re totally right, too much choice isn’t healthy for clients.

    • breanna says:

      Yes, I think 2-3 is a good sweet spot. :) I should have mentioned – but each option is filled with a small handful of variations. Two concepts with a few different choices within each PDF!

    • Nesha says:

      Ahhh!! That makes more sense in my mind now. I currently offer clients 4-5 initial concepts but I find that not every one of those designs is going to be amazing, and my favorite designs are often lost in the large selection. Now I’m thinking 2 options with variations of each is a smarter way to go!

    • breanna says:

      Yup, exactly! So for instance, one of my options may be “vintage modern” with a focus on script + sans serif combos. My other option may still be “vintage modern” with a focus on only modern sans serif type + textures.

  4. I love seeing so many different designs as your first part of the process. I think it’s important to generate as many ideas as possible even if they’re crazy, whether it’s for writing or for design, when you first start a project. You never know where inspiration or your next great idea will come from, don’t limit your creativity by trying to be perfect on the first go!

    • breanna says:

      Exactly!! There’s no point in wasting time on something that just isn’t working. Move on and something good will come. :)

  5. Tanea says:

    I love that initial time I get to just go crazy with concepts. I’ve read that going wild with different ideas, no matter how plausible, is the best way to get your creativity flowing. You’re basically throwing out all of the rules. I think that’s why your work is so amazing!

    Thanks for the coupon! I may have to take you up on this offer.

  6. I’m the same way with just starting a new project and going crazy. There’s something about playing with fonts and trying different techniques within illustrator that gets my creative juices flowing. ;)

    I’m loving this series!!

  7. alicia says:

    It’s always great when you can present your client with 5 or 6 concepts but I don’t think it helps either one of you. It ends up getting confusing for both you and the designer and you can easily get off of track form the original creative brief.
    I find 2 or 3 is always a good option. If you ask your client to pick out his/her favourite out of three they will never decide but if you ask them to pick out their favourite elements out of the three they will know what to pin-point. This way you can revise the three logos down to one or two for the next revisions and slowly but surly you are on your way :)

  8. alicia says:

    Also, when you present your client six designs I can promise you, you yourself will have your favourites amongst them. Chances are the client will end up NOT picking your favourite one(s), but more so the one that you like the least. Cause that’s just how things roll….
    Less is more :)

  9. I’ve found that I start with a sketchbook while I’m with the client. I’ll scribble down notes of what they like/don’t like (like if they off-hand mention that they hate the color purple and horses, but love green dinosaurs) I’ll write it down. Intermixed will be initial impressions and design ideas. After the client and I part ways, I start really sketching out some ideas. Once I get one or two real true ideas down, I start the mad mess in illustrator (something in common!). I finally get it down to three designs that are truly solid. Of course in the back of my mind I’ve already picked my favorite, but the client is always right and almost never picks my favorite. I keep client-discards for later use and inspiration. Sometimes I sell them as premades or give them to friends who are stuck on designs and need a break.

  10. Kory says:

    Wow. I had truly never thought if just letting loose when first getting started on a project. That’s such a good idea. One of my design teachers used to talk about creating a hundred or so ideations before going back and editing them down to just a few. I can see how that would be a good idea. Definitely going to try this with my next client.

  11. patti says:

    My method/process is very similar. I create a large artboard that I chip away at and as I get closer to finalizing I create a new document and create small artboards and look at each separately. as I start to narrow it down. Thanks for sharing!

  12. Adriana M. says:

    Really love your series, Breanna. But I feel like these posts are only directed towards experienced designers who have a process of their own already. I’m a self-taught designer at a beginning level so I’m lost. What advice could you give to others, much like myself, who don’t have a process of their own yet and are barely starting out? ;~;

    • breanna says:

      Thanks for the feedback! Yup, this mini series is meant for a designer in practice, that’s why I’m talking about the process. :) Perhaps I will give more design related tips someday.

  13. Nikkol says:

    Hooray for messy artboards and sketch pads! Letting the ideas flow in the initial creative session is so vital. Labeling a thought as “poor” before allowing it to morph into other ideas limits the entire project. I find that throwing ideas around with a creative friend (even in another discipline) is always inspiring. All it takes is one word, phrase or off=hand remark to spark a brilliant idea!

  14. Jo says:

    I personally find 3 to be the sweet spot. Anything more than that becomes overwhelming, but showing just 2 seems too binary. But I wonder though, do you just show two options or two concepts with different variations? This because in your process posts you usually show several options that didn’t make the cut. Also this is something to outline in the contract/invoice at the beginning right?

    The surprise at the end is just great, because I’ve been eyeing that class for a couple of days. Now I just might go ahead and join.

    • breanna says:

      As it says above, I show two concepts … but I realize that could be interpreted differently! Basically, there are two concepts each with a handful of variations inside. that’s why when you see my process shots, there are often more options there.

      And sure thing – I definitely cover the amount of initial designs in my contract and project proposal.

  15. Sharna says:

    I always have trouble diversifying my ideas. My initial artboard is so boring; nothing like the beauty you have created here!


  16. Rebecca says:

    I may have learned the actual skill sets in school but honestly your blog Breanna is the education I felt I was missing or fumbling/trying to discover on my own. So thank you for taking the time to write these great articles! And I signed up for that class (thanks for the code)!

  17. Julianna m says:

    love hearing your design process, it is so nice to get some tips and affirmation that what I’m doing isn’t too far out!
    i signed up for the skillshare class!! i have been wanting to sign up for one, but never got around to it. This is perfect timing, all my friends are going back to school so I will have something to keep me occupied!!

  18. I so wish you never stop these kid of posts Breanna. They are full of information and offer a different viewpoint to what someone might usually do/think, totally eyeopening at a certain point.
    Love the upper right design, such a great use of type.

  19. AllieKris says:

    My art boards are always crazy in the beginning and as time goes on they become more focused and I really enjoy working that way as well. Thank you for sharing!

  20. […] few weeks back, I spoke about the initial design phase of the creative process, but haven’t yet touched on revisions. There are so many ways to go […]

  21. Kaye says:

    This is so awesome! When you present your strongest ideas what color background do you use? An off white or do you leave it the standard bright white of the Illustrator Art Board?

    • breanna says:

      Thank you! When I present initial designs, I always do it in greyscale, on a neutral white background. It’s all very black & white, but clients are then able to focus on typography + composition instead of get bogged down in color.

  22. Marie-Eve says:

    You know what you should make?
    An online guide for the designer. Or a book.
    I’d buy that right away.
    Thank to be so transparent and collaborative. It is much appreciated.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.