Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Why Designers and Clients Need a Visual Design Plan

Photo courtesy of bluekdesign at Morguefile.com

Last time, I talked about the importance of starting out right when beginning a new design project. I explained that it's not a good time to do design work, but to understand what's needed. Whether the client supplied a creative brief, or the designer made one, both parties must understand what is expected of them. And it's important to be clear as to the expected outcome. If all this is clear, the next step is for the designer to work up a visual design plan.

A visual design plan is something that isn't a completed design, but a sketch or road map of how the design can be handled based on the creative brief. It's a good idea for the designer to present at least two approaches for a client. These can consist of a set of mood boards, wireframes, or sketches. The idea here is to demonstrate looks and feels without getting bogged down in details. The designer wants the client to choose an approach that best fits the objectives in the creative brief, while communicating the client's brand.

At this stage it is very easy to try different looks and feels before committing to a design approach. But once an approach is accepted, and design work begins in earnest, it is much more difficult to change an overall style decision. So, at this stage it is important to nail this before moving on to any other stage.

If the client has no idea what to say, and needs copy written, this is a good time to bring in a copywriter. A copywriter can evaluate the approach a client wants to make, the style a client has in mind, and provide the client with a copy outline. This way the designer and writer can be on the same page when implementing the design approach. And this helps the client make better informed design and copy evaluations (according to the creative brief) later on in the process. In some cases a client may even see a need to reevaluate the creative brief itself before moving on — which will save money in the long run.


  1. This is a really interesting article, mostly because I come from an interior design background, where visuals are the key elements of communication between designer and client. I can't imagine projects without visuals! Talk about money saved, especially with interior projects.

  2. Hi Jenn: You're right. This approach works for many other disciplines — from interior designers to architects. People respond to how something looks, and it's best to figure what that response will be before going too far into the design process.


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