The Creative Process

Design thinking and the design process is like Kanye hot right now… right? Startups, CEOs and the public in general is embracing design in ways they all may never have before. I think specifically though, people are really buying into the process and problem solving aspects of design. Designers have been solving real world problems in very creative ways for decades upon decades, but because of the rise of the web and personal devices, design thinking really has a spotlight.

The design process doesn’t have to be limited to just the design world. I am extremely blessed to be able to solve design problems for a living with my “day job” and still find the time and energy to build my illustration career on nights at weekends. One thing that really helps me as an illustrator is that I get to bring what I learn and experience from the process that goes with my design job to how I approach illustration. So I’d like to really say that this design process can really be a creative process, or a way to approach any creative project, heck you can really use this process and apply it to almost any aspect of your life.

In case you are wondering what I’m talking about here is a rough road map of the “creative process” :


First off, I don’t want to take credit for the steps of this process. I went to a great talk hosted by General Assembly by a designer from a very successful design agency who laid out this process for us. Designers have always gone through some kind of process like this but I was wondering during the talk how I could I apply this to my other creative “less designy” projects. Here’s what I came up with:

Discover: In my last post, a quote I posted from Ira Glass states that the first part of becoming a creative is really finding the kind of work you love and like to see, or in other words, letting your taste in art, music, design or whatever it is you want to do, lead the way and work your way into having your skill catch up to your taste. I definitely agree with this, while eventually I believe you need to get away from Dribbble or Pinterest or other design/art blogs, I think it’s okay to discover a style or a type of art you love and see what you can take from that style and make your own.

Plan: This is obviously an important part of the creative process. For a lot of creatives that means sketching. I know that you can see a ton of examples out there of really beautiful decked out sketches that are full to the brim of ideas and concepts.. of course that’s a great way to go, but by no means is there a right way to sketch. Since I am looking to specifically hash out ideas, my sketchbook is mostly super rough doodles and written notes. My point is is that as long as you are doing even a small amount of planning that’s good because it will make a difference to the overall result you have from your process.

Concept: This is the fun part! You get to make the thing you want to make! Don’t worry about being perfect or making some kind of masterpiece.. we will get to why that is later with the other parts of the process.

Implement: In the design world, this means launching the thing you made (website, brand etc.) in the general creative world this could be posting on your website or Instagram; or maybe it means taking the thing you made to a portfolio review or a job interview… either way it means showing what yo made to the world!

Analyze: For designers, this is where A/B testing comes into play along with user testing, studying analytics etc. For creatives in general this is about simply getting feedback. Ask you friends, family, colleagues what they think of what you made, don’t be afraid of criticism. Criticism is the best way to evaluate your process and your work. By analyzing your work and getting feedback you’re learning how you can make the next thing you make even better! (assuming you are planning on making a ton on work.. I hope that’s your plan.)

Evolve: I kind of hinted this in the analyze break down, but if you do this process over and over again (at some point you may want to minimize the discover phase, but that’s for another post.) I promise you the work will get better and better. In the design and development world this is called working in an agile environment.. but for creatives in general it can mean just constantly looking to improve or get better.

I’m definitely always trying to learn and get better at both design and illustration, I don’t think there will ever be a day where I think “okay cool I figured it out and my work is amazing!!” Don’t get me wrong I am always able to pat myself on the back when I can visibly see my work improving but at the same time I always ask myself what I can add or subtract from my work to make it more engaging and interesting. Are you familiar with the design process? If so how do you apply it to your work or lifestyle?