The Only 7-Step Graphic Design Process You'll Need (2024)

Whether you're a team of graphic designers, a solo designer, or someone who works with designers, following an established graphic design process is key to keeping everyone on the same page. Having one will result in less friction, improved designs, and overall alignment along the entire design process for everyone involved.

Without one, you'll be winging projects and crossing your fingers saying: "This time it will go better."

The good news? A solid graphic design process is easy to set up. Even better? I've done all the hard work for you.

Follow along and copy the 7-step graphic design process steps below that we've used with our design service for thousands of designs without fail.

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What is a Graphic Design Process?

Why is a Graphic Design Process Important?

The 7-step Graphic Design Process

The Basic Principles of Graphic Design

What is a Graphic Design Process?

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A graphic design process is a structured approach that graphic designers follow to create designs in a low-friction way. Typically, it will include a series of steps from design conception to final delivery, aimed at producing effective and aesthetically pleasing designs at scale.

While the specific stages may vary depending on the project and designer, a graphic design process usually includes steps such as research, brainstorming, sketching, conceptualization, design iteration, feedback, refinement, and final delivery.

Why is a Graphic Design Process Important?

A graphic design process can make or break a graphic designer's ability to produce impactful design at scale. Let's say you're creating a singular logo design for your brand with no plans for further designs after. Who knows, this might be the only design you take care of all year! In this situation, you might think a graphic design process is a bit overkill; and I don't blame you.

But let's switch it up a little. Imagine today, you'll need to create 3 different designs for 3 different brands. There are multiple stakeholders and needs involved, along with some tight deadlines. Could you see how having a reliable and repeatable process might help the latter situation not become a gigantic mess?

Let's dive into 3 further reasons why a graphic design process is necessary in most graphic design situations:

Fewer Review Rounds, Better Designs

With a proper process in place, you'll be communicating effectively across the entire design process. A graphic design won't make it to the final design stage without having been looked at a few times by those involved. Plus, with everything clearly communicated, graphic designers will know what success looks like from the get-go.

Think about it - have you ever had a tough time completing a project when you didn't know what 'done' or 'success' looked like? Completely normal. This addresses that common headache head-on.

Alignment from Graphic Designer to Manager

Alignment in any business setting is crucial for success. We as humans love to be complicated, and without proper guardrails in place, we do a fantastic job at it. By following a creative design process, the guardrails are put in place for you. There isn't any room for a he-said she-said debate as everything has already been decided and agreed upon at every step along the way.

Higher Graphic Design Project Delivery Cadence

If you're in the design business, you probably aren't completing projects whenever you feel like it between coffees. In the world of marketing design, teams need to move fast. Needs are always changing and CEOs are always losing their mind about the latest trends they need to take advantage of.

The 7-Step Graphic Design Process

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Tired of design ideas turning into design messes? Consider these 7 steps in the graphic design process and forget about stressful nights on your Adobe Creative Cloud programs:

1. Define Objectives and Goals2. Start Your Creative Brief3. Conduct the Research Phase4. Brainstorm and Concept Development 5. Design Iteration and Refinement 6. Reviews and Approval7. Finalize and Deliver the Design Assets

1. Define Objectives and Goals

Always a great starting point, first ensure you have objectives and goals defined. This will make the remaining steps easier and give everyone involved a better understanding of what a successful design should look like.

Every graphic design project has been created for a reason. To ensure a smooth design process, make sure that reason is well-communicated and well-known for all stakeholders. The last thing you want is to find out someone has a different definition of success while the design is in its final stages.

2. Start Your Creative Brief

Use the objectives and goals you set out in step one to put together a creative brief. The creative brief is the foundation and rough framework that a successful final design relies on.

Your creative brief should be robust, detailed, and have all the information a graphic designer would need to achieve the vision. The creative brief could include:

  • Information about the company or customer
  • Brand guidelines and brand assets
  • Goals and Objectives from Step One
  • Target audience or ICP
  • Description of the request and what the final product should be
  • Expectations for timeline and deadlines
  • Budget caps and constraints
  • The purpose the design will serve
  • Inspiration and examples of work you do and don't like

I know this can be a lot, so I created the Ultimate Creative Brief Playbook, which includes a free downloadable template for you to pass around your team and use. If things still get a little too complicated, I recommend using a tool like Loom to support the creative brief with a video and screen recording.

3. Conduct The Research Phase

Research the topic, target audience, competitors, and design trends. Collect all necessary materials such as images, text, and brand guidelines.

The creative design brief that you developed in Step Two will provide a solid foundation for you to conduct your market research. Look at what the competitor designs look like, are they pushing the bounds of anything that you can take inspiration from?

It's good practice to put yourself in the shoes of the target audience. What sort of content would you engage with on social media and other channels if you belonged to that group? What would you resonate with?

Overall, this step in the graphic design process is a perfect opportunity to get everything on the table to support the next step: The initial concept, development, and brainstorming process.

4. Brainstorm and Concept Development

Before you go any further in the graphic design process, you need the graphic designer to brainstorm and present various ideas and options to see if anything clicks. Performing this step can save time, as this can usually be decided now and not two steps down the road.

Providing rough options will also give the customer various directions to choose from. We as people naturally feel more comfortable with choice. By getting various design ideas out in the open, the choice is up in the air for client feedback before continuing further and risk wasting time.

5. Design Iteration and Refinement

Now that the whole design thinking process is underway, you'll need to make sure you're checking in at the proper times while setting milestones that make that make it easy to do so. While the brainstorming process serves as the first milestone, you'll want to check in on the design at the halfway mark.

The halfway mark throws all the design direction debates out the window and leaves you focused on the direction at hand. Think back to the direction you decided on - is that vision being achieved? If not, get back to the drawing board and find another way to approach things. Keep iterating and refining until the design is where it needs to be.

The last stop for refinement and iterations is at the 99% mark. This is where the final tweaks are made, and where you can guarantee all the basic graphic design principles are applied. If all else fails, use our handy graphic design principles list at the bottom of this article as a checklist for final delivery.

6. Reviews and Approval

Now that most of the creative process is complete, it's time to make your final reviews and get approvals. Send off the previews of the design and get feedback. Make any edits if necessary. It's time to wrap up the creative process!maybe end with !

7. Finalize and Deliver the Design Assets

With client approval from all stakeholders, it's time to finalize the design and deliver the final product. Note the formats from the creative brief that were asked to be included. Export the design in those formats, name the files something easy to organize, and send it off.

Congratulations, you've just completed a design in the most organized and repeatable way possible using the graphic design process!

The Basic Principles of Graphic Design

Even with the world's most robust graphic design process, if the basic principles of design aren't followed, you might not get very far. Following these principles will help ensure you flow through each step naturally, instead of spending time on the brainstorming or iteration phase.

Most good design practice comes down to a few basic principles. A framework alone won't create a show-stopping design; but when combined with basic principles, you'll save loads of time on revisions and iterations. Check out these basic principles for design below and combine them with the graphic design process for a surefire shot to design success.

Balance

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Balance in graphic design refers to the distribution of visual weight within a composition. It creates a sense of equilibrium, making the design feel stable and aesthetic. Balance can be achieved through symmetry, where elements are evenly spaced in a mirrored fashion, or through asymmetry, where different values of elements are used to create an overall balance without mirroring. The key is to ensure that no single part of the design overpowers the others, leading to a unified and harmonious outcome.

Contrast

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Contrast is a powerful principle that involves placing opposing elements next to each other to highlight their differences. This can include contrasting colors, sizes, shapes, or textures.

Effective use of contrast can make certain aspects of the design stand out, draw attention to key elements, and enhance the overall readability of the content. Not only does contrast add visual interest to a design, but it also aids in organizing information, making the message clearer and more dynamic.

Alignment

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Alignment brings order to a design by lining up elements systematically. Each element should have a visual connection with another, creating a clean, organized look. Proper alignment not only enhances the professionalism of the design but also improves readability. Whether it's text, images, or other design elements, alignment ensures cohesive, logical, and visually appealing compositions.

Proximity

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Proximity involves grouping related items and creating associations between them. This principle helps organize information, improves readability, and guides the viewer's eye through the design. By logically arranging elements that are related, designs become more structured and easier to comprehend. Proximity can turn a chaotic design into an orderly and effective piece of visual communication.

Visual Hierarchy

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Visual Hierarchy is about arranging elements of visual representation in a way that signifies their importance, guiding the viewer's attention to the most critical information first. Using size, color, contrast, and spacing, designers can create a clear visual order, leading the viewer's eye through the design in a predetermined sequence. Hierarchy is crucial in all types of design work, from posters to websites, ensuring that the message is received in the intended order of importance.

Typography

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Typography is the art of arranging type to make copy legible and visually appealing. It involves choosing typefaces, adjusting font sizes, and spacing letters and lines to enhance the reading experience. Effective typography can significantly impact a design's tone, readability, and perception. By carefully selecting and applying appropriate fonts, designers can convey mood, reinforce the message, and ensure that their work leaves a lasting impression.

Color

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Using color in your design allows you to add emphasis and mood where it's beneficial to the intention of the design. From warm tones to cool hues, designers strategically leverage color to create visual interest, convey brand identity, and send the intended message to their target audiences.

While color psychology is still taught in most graphic design courses today, understanding how to interpret a color wheel, determine complimentary or contrasting shades, and appreciate the cultural nuances behind some hues before incorporating them into a design are seen as more valuable skills.

Repetition

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Repetition in graphic design is a powerful tool used to establish consistency, rhythm, and unity within a composition. By repeating visual elements such as colors, shapes, patterns, or typography throughout a design, designers can create a sense of cohesion and reinforce branding. Repetition helps to guide the viewer's eye, establish visual patterns, and strengthen the overall message of the design.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What are the steps of the graphic design process?

The seven graphic design process steps are: defining objectives and goals, starting a creative brief, conducting research, brainstorming and concept development, design iteration and refinement, reviews and approval, and the delivery of the finalized design assets.

What is process in graphic design?

In graphic design, a process is the structured approach that designers take to create visual solutions, involving steps from initial conception to final delivery. It includes stages such as research, brainstorming, design iteration, feedback, and refinement, ensuring that designs effectively communicate the intended message to the audience.

The Only 7-Step Graphic Design Process You'll Need (2024)

FAQs

The Only 7-Step Graphic Design Process You'll Need? ›

The seven graphic design process steps are: defining objectives and goals, starting a creative brief, conducting research, brainstorming and concept development, design iteration and refinement, reviews and approval, and the delivery of the finalized design assets.

What is the 7 principles of graphic design? ›

The fundamental principles of design are: Emphasis, Balance and Alignment, Contrast, Repetition, Proportion, Movement and White Space.

What is the 7th key element in graphic design? ›

The most widely accepted seven basic components of graphic design are, in descending order of importance: 1) line, 2) shape, 3) color, 4) texture, 5) type, 6) space and 7) image.

What are the 6 steps of the design process in order? ›

The Product Design Process: A 6-Step Guide
  • Define the Problem. The first step in the product design process is to define the problem that your product will solve. ...
  • Conduct Research. ...
  • Ideation and Conceptualization. ...
  • Prototype Development. ...
  • Testing and Evaluation. ...
  • Production and Launch.
Mar 30, 2023

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