Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Design Process: Defining the Project Scope

Last time we looked at the process of gathering information. This is important because good decisions come from good information. And good information comes from good questions and good listening.

But good information will do you no good if you don't understand what you have. And the best way to understand what you have is to write down in your own words what you've heard. Then develop it into a workable design project plan or creative brief, that can be understood and accepted by the client. Another name for this is a strategy and outlined objectives.

How to Approach Defining the Project Scope

A good place to start is to do research:
  • the client's competitors
    • check out their websites and notice how they market themselves
    • go to your local library and find information about them
    • notice the differences and advantages the client has with their competitors that the client may not have communicated to you
  • their customers and target audiences
    • start with the Census Bureau for some demographic data
    • pay attention to stats in the media about the target audience
    • notice how the competition markets to the same audience
  • their industry
    • find the associations and organizations that cater to your client's industry and consider joining them or getting in contact with them
    • read a few insider publications
  • and associated industries
    • look for industries that are not in direct competition with the client but cater to the same audience or genre
    • research how they reach the target audience or partner with the client's industry

The next important step is taking the information and making sense of it with a creative brief or outline. This will be the basis of your design strategy which you will communicate to the client. To achieve this you must answer the following questions in your brief:
  • What does the client want you to do?
  • When does it need to be done?
  • How should you approach the design style and mood?
  • What are must-haves and required items?
  • How do you plan to connect with the target audience emotionally and visually?
  • What are the design stages and deliverables?
  • How many revisions do you plan to do at each stage?

From these questions you can put together a plan and scope that the client can agree to or help you make more exact. This is the time to hone down what really needs to be done. And this document will help keep the project on-target and the design process objective for you and the client. This will help in not only doing the project according to what the client really wants, but it will help in producing a more accurate quote.

This is the time when the designer customarily collects a deposit and initiates the creative work. When the client signs your brief and you agree on the parameters and approach it's time for the creative work to begin.

Photo courtesy pakorn of

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