The Most Difficult and Time-Consuming Step in My Creative Process

Like most occupations, it's helpful to have a process in place as I go about my work. I haven't seen many creatives approach this subject, so I thought it might be helpful to spend the next few weeks sharing my own creative process. While my method may not work for everyone, my hope is that these posts will encourage you to streamline your own process and think through the steps you take as you go about your work.

The most difficult and time-consuming step in my creative process // Elle & Company

The biggest fear of any perfectionist/designer is being unable to come up with a great solution that a client will love, which is why this step of my process always makes me a little nervous. Creating rough drafts is the most difficult and time-consuming part of my creative process, and the final design hinges on what I come up with during this step. That's why I spend so much time in steps 1 and 2, compiling information and preparing for this step in particular. So why does it take so long and how do I go about creating rough drafts? Here's a peak into what this step looks like for me.

Set aside uninterrupted time.  In the 4+ years that I've been designing for clients, I've learned that I can't sit down for 30 minutes and crank out 3 concepts. I've also learned that I don't work well when I divide my time and create rough drafts for the same project on different days. I have to have at least a 2 hour window of time to dig in and get lost in Adobe Illustrator, and for most of my projects, I set aside an entire workday to create my initial concepts. 

Set the mood.  It may sound a little ridiculous, but creativity doesn't come easily to me everywhere. I work best sitting at Starbucks with coffee shop tunes playing in the background and a vanilla latte at the ready (or, if I have to, I recreate that atmosphere at my kitchen table with Spotify and my coffee maker). For some reason that "mood" helps me concentrate and inspires creativity. 

Refer back to steps 1 and 2.  There's a reason behind each design decision I make when I'm creating rough drafts, which is why this step is the most difficult for me. I keep all of my client meeting notes and my inspiration board on hand so that I can refer back to them as I design. I'm careful not to choose a typeface or add an illustration without making sure that it's in line with the scope of the project.

Self-edit.  Before I show any concepts to my clients, I revisit and revise the designs I've created. I try to give myself a day or two away from those rough drafts before I make revisions so that I can see them with a fresh perspective (because after you've been looking at them on your artboard for hours on end, it all begins to run together). I check for oddities in spacing and composition, I clean up illustrations and fonts, and I double-check colors in my Pantone book.

That's step 3 in a nutshell! What does this step look like for you? Do you have to set the right "mood" in order to be the most productive? 

More posts in this series