Basic Design Development Process

Basic Design Development Process

There are more ways than one to accomplish your goal, so now that you have selected a designer to work with, it’s good to get an idea of what the process looks like from the time that you agree on pricing, to the time you receive final artwork. Below is a general overview of the design process so you know what to expect.

Basic Design Development Process


The overall process is the same for most projects and most designers. Certain projects may require some additional steps, but you can expect your designer to walk you through anything out of the norm.

  • Project Agreement & Deposit
  • Design Brief
  • Research, Sketching & Conceptualizing
  • Design Solutions
  • Refinements
  • Final Design

Project Agreement & Deposit

You should expect that some sort of project agreement will need to be signed. It should clearly outline what you (the client) and they (the designer) expect from one another. Things like ownership of artwork, project delays or cancellations, payment schedule etc. It’s intended to protect you both and to provide a place to reference if there are any bumps along the way. Be sure to read it carefully.

A designer will also require a deposit prior to starting work. Generally, this is 50% of the estimated fees, but depending on the project length and what arrangements have been detailed on the estimate it could be in thirds or another mutually agreed upon amount.

Design Brief

Communication is key to ensuring a smooth project. Before any design work is started, you should be provided with a project assessment form or design brief, including key questions to make sure both you and the designer are on the same page as to what will make the design successful.

The project brief focuses on your company’s core values, your target audience and the desired outcome and business objectives. It’s not just a list of likes and dislikes, aesthetics of the design are the designer’s responsibility.

Research, Sketching & Conceptualizing

In addition to understanding what you want to communicate to your target audience, it is important to learn what your competitors are doing. No, not to copy them, but to identify what works for them, and also what does not. It’s important to ensure that you stand out, not mimic the rest of the industry.

This part is more of an internal process and not something a client sees unless they have requested and paid for a report. Not all designers offer this, so make sure you discuss upfront (at the time of estimating).

In addition to industry research, there’s visual research, to determine the style of the artwork. Sketching is a fun way of getting ideas out. It’s a rough process, down and dirty, so the client won’t see these outside of case studies.

From several sketches, a few options are selected to refine and ready to present to the client.

Design Solutions / Presentation

At this point, you will be provided with some designs to react to. The designer should explain the thought process behind the concept and how they feel it works within the design brief. This way, you’re making a choice based on strategic decisions instead of personal preferences that might not be in line with the target audience.


After you’ve had a chance to review the design solutions provided, refinements can be made to fine-tune your design. There can be anywhere from no revisions needed (if you like one of the concepts provided as is) to several rounds of revisions. It all depends on how well you and the designer can communicate with one another regarding the changes to be made.

Always make note of how many revisions are included within your estimate so you can avoid incurring additional costs.

Final Artwork

Once the design has been approved, artwork can be delivered. The final deliverable will depend on what was agreed upon in the estimate. A logo, for example, will have a deliverable of the final design selected in various file formats (generally print-ready, web-ready and a black & white version). In the case of a website, the deliverable would be your website being launched and available to the public.

At this point, final payment would be made in exchange for the final files.

While the steps listed above are fairly straightforward, there are some tips to keep in mind to ensure your project doesn’t go overtime or over budget. I will offer some suggestions in an upcoming part of the Design Your Business series so stay tuned!