Next week, we'll be having you embark on your first take-home assignment that requires collaborative making, as opposed to how you'd work through every aspect of a design problem on your own. With this in mind, I wanted to get you oriented to how this process would play out in the setting of a design firm, and get you the tools you'd need to manage your time effectively to work in similar constraints.
I drew this sketch to show how, once you've got a solid idea nailed down for your project, you've got to enter into the actual "design process," using whatever tools are at hand to create a visual comp. After you've iterated through the design process to the point that you feel that your work can be shared with others, you bring the work into review with your peers. They provide their feedback, and you re-enter the design process or, if the work is very tight, you move on to present it to the client. This is verboten at any design firm, and you've lived through this kind of process a number of times in school.
What isn't often talked about in design school is how you need to conform your design process to the design firm's business process. I know that before I worked at a design firm, my personal design process looked something like this:
In a personal practice, especially with small-scale clients or pro-bono work, you've got a big swath of time and energy available to devote to exploring a range of design executions. There aren't hard boundaries.
In a design firm, however, you're usually billing on time -- unless your boss has noted that time is no object on the project -- so you have to work within constraints. Otherwise, you're going to go over budget, jeopardize the profitability of the project, and cut into other projects that may require your attention. None of those are good things. Creative and art directors that manage you will usually lean very hard into your process and meddle with your working methods until you "get it." Otherwise, they may peek at your work too late in the game and freak out if they don't like where you're ending up:
It takes most designers fresh out of school a year or so a bit of time to click with agency process and rein their thinking into the company's business process. After a while, most designers' workflow begins to resemble this:
At many agencies, designers explore a wide range of executions, then bounce them off their art director, copywriter, creative director, account manager, and/or other designers to get feedback before refining them down into final comps. When the clock is ticking and you're under a very hard deadline, you often don't have that kind of luxury. This is usually you have to get very collaborative in the making process.
I know of many other firms where they spin out a dozen very polished comps to settle on their final design to present to the client. Depending on your speed to execute, that can be very quick in the computer. The zone of refinement that I noted above, however, will still be of critical importance. It's where you apply the polish that makes your idea really shine. If you're still doing big ideation during that time period, it's going to be a rough ride.
In the next post, I'm going to talk about the working models for collaborative making.