By Published On: October 10th, 202312.5 min read
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The best creatives are organized.

Sorry to the moody, “I don’t believe in logic” creative types that can’t answer emails in under a week. It’s just a fact.

It’s also a fact that for many creatives, organization does not come naturally. We call this lack of mutual exclusion nuance.

If we apply some general logic, we can see then that the best creatives push into what does not come naturally to them in order to gain some benefit. We call this voluntary discomfort discipline.

For the nuanced thinkers out there who believe in the value of discipline, we’re going to share our (very humble) design process steps. Hope it helps!

Sourcing Design Process Inspiration from the Web’s Depths

Looking in the ocean for design process inspiration

You’ve got an internet connection, a mission, and probably an impending deadline. Let’s be real: sometimes, the creative brain needs a nudge (or a full-blown push) in the right direction.

The Web: Your Ocean of Chaos and Creativity

It’s vast. It’s overwhelming. And much like life, 90% of it is absolute crap. But buried deep in the chaos? Pearls of striking design process ideas that are screaming to be found. The name of the game is looking for elements that jump off the page at you. Look for something that feels impactful as soon as your eyes land on it. Sometimes it’s helpful to do this with another person, if both of you point at something at the same time you know you’re onto something.

  • Motifs: From intricate patterns to simple shapes. They’re out there, and they’re waiting to be the backbone of your next project.
  • Colors: We’re talking about palettes that don’t just look good but slap you across the face with their boldness.
  • Typography: Finding fonts that speak louder than words, and maybe shout a profanity or two.
  • Layouts: Crafting spaces and alignments that don’t just guide the eye but grab it and demand attention.

The deal is simple: dive deep, swim through the muck, and emerge clutching those elements that not just ‘look nice’ but resonate with that gut feeling of ‘damn, that’s it.’ While you’re doing this be sure to take notes, this is super important.

Constrained Creativity: Setting Design Constraints

Ah, the paradox of choice. Give a designer a blank canvas, and you might just send them into an existential spiral. But toss them some constraints, and suddenly, they’re Picasso in a productive frenzy. It’s the same philosophy as telling someone they can’t do something – it suddenly becomes all they want to do.

The Not-So-Secret Power of Limitations

During the inspiration phase, it’s easy to get swamped in a deluge of ideas, much like a kid in a candy store with an unlimited allowance.


  • Q: Why set design process constraints?
    A: Constraints keep the chaos in check. They’re the guiding lights in the overwhelming fog of possibilities.
  • Q: Can constraints become too limiting?
    A: Absolutely. Like anything in life, moderation is key. You want to tie a neat bow, not choke the life out of creativity.
  • Q: How do I decide on the right constraints?
    A: Reflect on your inspiration notes. Those are your breadcrumbs. They’ll guide you on what to embrace and what to shelve for another day.

A Step-by-Step Guide to Harnessing the Chaos:

  1. Draw from Inspiration: Revisit your notes from the inspiration phase. Those weren’t scribbles of a madman; they’re the seeds of genius.
  2. Prioritize: You can’t (and shouldn’t) act on every single idea. Pick the ones that scream the loudest.
  3. Set Boundaries: Decide on colors, typography, motifs. Seal some elements in stone while leaving others flexible.
  4. Challenge Yourself: Introduce a wild card. Maybe a color you’d never typically use or a layout that feels risky.
  5. Re-evaluate: Periodically step back and assess. Are the constraints aiding or impeding?
  6. Iterate: Modify your constraints based on what’s working and what feels like a straightjacket.

Remember, constraints aren’t about putting creativity in a straitjacket. It’s more about giving it a roadmap in an otherwise directionless expanse. Embrace the boundaries and watch them become the launchpad for your most audacious ideas.

Prototyping: Design Process Steps for Experimentation

In the theater of design, the prototype phase is that raw, unedited rehearsal where actors forget their lines and props go missing. It’s messy, it’s chaotic, and it’s absolutely necessary. Think of it as the punk rock stage of design: unrefined, loud, and rebellious. It’s not about being perfect; it’s about being audacious.

design process steps: prototyping

Diving Headfirst into the Design Deep End:

  1. Freestyle: Let loose. Put everything on the table, much like an impassioned journal entry after a rough day. Spill the beans.
  2. Piece-Mealing: Start slotting those motifs, colors, and typefaces into place. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle with pieces from different boxes. Confusing? Yes. Exciting? Hell yeah.
  3. No New Tricks: This isn’t the time to enroll in an online course or binge tutorials. Use the tools you’ve got, and use them well. Save the learning curve for later.
  4. Trust the Gut: As you mature in your craft, you’ll develop a sixth sense for what’s gold and what’s glitter. Newbies? Keep pushing until your instincts sharpen.
  5. Iterative Evolution: Each draft is a stepping stone. It might not be the final product, but it’ll pave the path.

You see, a prototype is not about the endgame. It’s about the journey, the stumbles, the retraced steps.

Debunking the Prototype Myths:

  • Myth: A prototype needs to be perfect.
    Fact: A prototype is meant to be flawed. It’s the rough draft, not the published novel.
  • Myth: You need to know every tool and technique before starting.
    Fact: Use what you know. The best tools are the ones you’re familiar with.
  • Myth: Ditching a prototype means wasted time.
    Fact: Every failed prototype is a lesson. It’s tuition for the school of design hard knocks.

Prototyping is like diving off a cliff without knowing how deep the water is. It’s risky, exhilarating, and absolutely vital for growth. So, dive in, make waves, and remember: it’s the splashes and ripples that shape the masterpiece.

What Do You Mean It’s a Hot Mess?

So, you’ve poured blood, sweat, and possibly a tear or two into your design. Now comes the reckoning. This isn’t about patting yourself on the back or wallowing in self-doubt. It’s the brutally honest, unfiltered moment of truth. The question isn’t if you like it; it’s whether it can withstand the scrutiny of both loving eyes and those itching to shred it to pieces.

My design process is a hot mess

The Self-Sabotage Session

Welcome to the harshest critique session of your life: your own. This isn’t about coddling or looking for the silver lining. It’s about nitpicking, poking holes, and identifying every conceivable flaw. If you’re not wincing at parts of your work, you’re probably not being ruthless enough. Remember, if you can find a reason to despise a part of it, someone else out there is ready to launch a full-blown hate campaign.

To Edit or To Extinguish?

After the self-sabotage session, it’s decision time. Do you polish the diamond in the rough or admit that maybe, just maybe, it’s not even coal? If your piece has potential, give it the edits and revisions it deserves. Turn that potential into prowess. If it’s a dud, well, it’s time to drop the pride and face the music. Sometimes, the best action is to crumple it up, throw it in the metaphoric bin, and start from scratch. Maybe it’s a fresh attempt on the same constraints, or perhaps it’s a hard reset back to the drawing board.

Here’s the raw truth: Not everything you create will be a Mona Lisa. And that’s okay. Because every misstep, every ‘hot mess’, is a step closer to your next masterpiece. The trick? Knowing when to push forward and when to pivot back to square one.

Editing: You Have to be Ruthless

Designing isn’t for the faint of heart, and editing? That’s for the stone-cold killers. Here you are, staring at your labor of love and deciding which parts live and which parts meet the guillotine. It’s dirty work, but someone’s got to do it. And that someone is you. Because let’s face it: the difference between a good design and a great one? The courage to slice and dice without mercy.

The Cold, Hard Truth About Refinement

Every element in your design should justify its existence. It should scream, “I belong!” with the confidence of a rockstar in a sold-out arena. Anything less? It’s dead weight. Like a band-aid on a wound, it’s best ripped off quickly. So, when you’re wielding your editing tools, channel your inner samurai, precise and relentless.

The Ruthless Editing Checklist:

  • Does It Add Value? If it doesn’t make the design better, it’s making it worse. Simple as that.
  • Consistency Is Key: Are the fonts, colors, and motifs singing in harmony or waging a war? Find the discord and eliminate it.
  • Less Can Be More: Overcrowded? Simplify. Strip down to the bare essentials, and let them shine.
  • Feedback Loop: Yes, you’re the creator, but others see what you might miss. Get a second, third, or fourth opinion. Just make sure they’re as ruthless as you are.
  • Iterate, Iterate, Iterate: The first round of edits rarely nails it. Be prepared to circle back, refine, and repeat.

At the end of the day, editing is less about mutilating your creation and more about sculpting it to perfection. It’s recognizing the genius that lies beneath the excess and chiseling away to reveal it. Remember, in the ruthless world of design editing, it’s survival of the fittest. Make sure every element earns its place or shows it the door.

Blinkers Off: Stepping Away for Those Essential Fresh Eyes

We’ve all been there, deep in the weeds of a project, when everything starts to blend together. It’s like when you’re deep in a grueling workout and can’t differentiate one set from another. Your vision? It’s becoming as foggy as a hot yoga room after an hour of sweaty warriors and downward dogs. Sometimes you gotta step out of the ring, clear the mental cobwebs, and recharge those cerebral batteries.

Why the Break?

It’s no secret: humans aren’t designed to hyper-focus for hours on end. Sure, you might feel like a beast powering through, but, let’s face it, after a while, it’s diminishing returns. That design you’re working on? It might start looking like an optical illusion if you stare too long. So, here’s the game plan:

  1. Cognitive Reset: Give that brain a rest! It’s like resting between sets at the gym. Muscles grow during the break, and your creative muscles? They’re no different.
  2. Perspective Play: Ever try DMT? (Kidding. But not really.) A short break from your work can offer a new perspective, almost like seeing things from another dimension.
  3. Avoiding Tunnel Vision: You get so zoned in that you miss the bigger picture. It’s like watching an MMA fight so closely you miss the submission setup. Step back, see the broader game.
  4. Mental Stamina: Taking breaks isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s strategy. It’s about going the distance and not burning out in the first round.

Listen, creating isn’t a sprint; it’s a marathon, with a bit of jiu-jitsu mixed in. It’s about flexibility, strategy, and knowing when to tap out for a moment. So, take a breather, shake it off, and come back with a clear head. Trust me, that fresh perspective? It’s game-changing.

Design Process Steps for Inviting Critique

Critique. It’s a word that sends shivers down the spines of many creatives. Why? Because it means your baby, your masterpiece, is going under the microscope. But here’s the rub: genuine feedback, both the laudatory and the scathing, is essential for growth. Welcome to the pit, where every blow makes you stronger.

Ego at the Door, Open Mind on the Floor

We get it. Your work is personal, a reflection of who you are. But in the brutal arena of design, you’ve got to wear a thick skin. Because every critique, every jab, is a lesson in disguise. It’s about honing, refining, and evolving.

Navigating the Feedback Jungle:

  • Pick Your Panel: Not all feedback is created equal. Some people just want to see the world burn. Choose those whose opinions genuinely matter and can offer constructive insights.
  • Listen Actively: Resist the urge to defend every choice. Instead, absorb, process, and evaluate.
  • Dissect & Digest: Don’t take things at face value. Delve into the ‘why’ behind each piece of feedback. Understand the root, not just the surface remark.
  • Apply What Resonates: It’s your work, after all. Implement the feedback that aligns with your vision. Discard what doesn’t.

Feedback is not an attack; it’s a sharpening tool. Imagine being in a Fight Club, not for fisticuffs, but for ideas. Each punch, each bruise, is a lesson. And every session? It’s making your work stronger, sharper, more resilient.

Final Flair: The Last Touches that Make All the Difference

Perfection is an illusion, but damn, those final touches can bring you pretty close. It’s like the finishing move in a perfectly executed combo – it doesn’t just end the game, it steals the show.

The Art of Finalizing:

  1. Details: Zoom in. Look for any inconsistencies, stray pixels, or tiny errors. These minute glitches can be the difference between good and great.
  2. Harmony: Ensure all elements – from typography to color – blend seamlessly. It should be a symphony, not a cacophony.
  3. User Experience (UX) Check: It’s not just about looks; it’s about function. Ensure your design offers a smooth, intuitive user experience.
  4. Test Runs: View your design on different platforms and devices. Make sure it translates well everywhere.
  5. Final Review: Take one last look. Savor the moment. Be proud, but also be vigilant. Any last-minute tweaks? Now’s the time.

When all’s said and done, it’s these last, meticulous strokes that elevate your work from the realm of the ordinary to the extraordinary. It’s the finesse, the flair, the cherry on top.

Conclusion: Embrace the Process, Revel in the Result

Design is chaos and order, inspiration and perspiration, agony and ecstasy all rolled into one. It’s a rollercoaster, one that takes you through dizzying highs and crushing lows. But when you emerge, battle-scarred but triumphant, with a design that stands as a testament to your journey? There’s no feeling quite like it.

From inception to completion, every phase, every step, is a lesson. A challenge. A growth opportunity. So, roll up those sleeves, dive into the fray, and remember: it’s not just about the destination, but the wild, wonderful journey along the way. Embrace it. Cherish it. And let your designs tell the tale.

Kyle Rutten

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