Sometimes starting a new design project is a piece of cake. You have this amazing idea and the design just seems to flow together. Othertimes, you may end up procrasticating for a full week before you have the will power to start the sketch or create a new file. Whatever situation you're in, there are tons of different ways to begin the design process. Here are ten of them:
Before putting pen to paper or mouse to Photoshop, take a step back and check out some other designer's work. You'll be amazed, or not. You'll get a fantastic idea of what you should do, or maybe of what you shouldn't do. Plus, you're passively growing your skill set by exposing yourself to different thoughts and styles. Check out some of these sites (and list your favorites in the comments):
Sometimes, it's best to step away from the creative process and start a new design with a more logical approach. Perhaps your last project went out of control and you ended up designing twice as much as you should of, or you realized you designed something that was completely not in the project scope.
Take a step back and gather your materials. Grab the information your client sent you and any tools you need. Write yourself a step-by-step to do list of what needs to be accomplished before the project can be complete. Then proceed by tackling each step one by one.
Outdoors, whether it's around town or in the woods, can be a great escape for the creative mind. Take your camera with you and take a photo of anything that makes you think of the project (or that you generally like). Maybe there's a sign that captures the feel you're trying to create, or maybe the way the grass is blowing is just the right feeling you want to invoke through your design.
Don't forget water, your camera, the memory card, and a charged camera battery.
I'm always amazed at how many amazing tutorials there are on the web (many of which are free)! Choose one that you may want to use in your design, or maybe just one you've been meaning to try for a while but may not necessarily be used in the design.
After going through the tutorial, you're bound to have some fresh juices flowing and you'll be all warmed up for getting to the real deal.
If you've got an idea, go for it! Grab your sketchbook, spare paper, or whatever you like using and immerse yourself in the design. Whether or not you use your sketches in the new project doesn't really matter. What does matter is getting your thoughts out of your head an onto paper.
Don't forget to set an alarm if you need to be anywhere or do something at a particular time. It's easy to lose track of time when you're in the middle of a good sketching session.
Browse your collection, create a new Pandora station, or go and explore and create a new music playlist to use while you design. Creativity crosses through multiple channels, and it can be a really interesting to see what you design based on what kind of music you were listening to.
Try to choose music that you think reflects the kind of design you want to create or choose music that reflects the kind of mood you wish to be in while designing. Also, customize the playlist length if you work best for a specific period of time.
Print photos, sketches, project flow charts, project specs, or anything that relates to your new project and create a project board. Use a glue stick, tape, or even staples to compile the pieces across cardboard, a whiteboard, or on the wall near your workspace.
Having this visual information directly in front of you and not tucked away on the web in bookmarks and folders can make the design process much more fluid. Plus, the act of creating the project board helps focus your thoughts and your client's wishes before starting the actual design.
If you know you work best at 8am or 3 in the afternoon, schedule a chunk of time to start the design. Turn off your phone and email for at least a half hour and take advantage of the design-only time.
Alternatively, if you're looking to shake things up, schedule design time at a really strange hour. If you normally work 8-4, schedule design time for the evening or on a weekend morning. You probably don't want to make a habit of working at strange times, but shaking things up may change your perspective for the new project.
There's always one part of a project that you absolutely love to do. Maybe it's picking out the fonts, or developing the navigation, but try starting with this single element first. It may not always make sense to start with the task you love, but you might find that the rest of the project is more enjoyable or turns out differently than you would have expected.
Alternatively, choose the task you dislike the most. Getting the awful stuff finished will make you feel accomplished and allow you to enjoy the rest of the project with fewer worries.
Sometimes it's good to get a reminder of what you're capable of. Compile some of your best work and think about what made each piece great. Is there something that unites that that you can pull from for the new project? Or were they projects that you enjoyed for a specific reason? By examining yourself, you might able to replicate the results.
Do you follow the same procedure every time or have you tried any of these techniques? How'd it go?