Set Yourself up for Success: 5 Questions to Ask Before Starting Any Design Project

Design Tips for Design Project

Each design project comes with its own unique set of goals and problems to solve. Creating a motion graphic requires a different approach than designing an interactive microsite.

But with every design project, no matter how big or small, you should start out by asking yourself the same few questions. Carefully answering these questions will help ensure your project’s success.

Let’s take a look at what questions you should ask and why. Plus, we’ll offer up some tips on the best way to go about answering each question.

1. What is your 1 goal for this design project?

One of the most common mistakes we see among people hoping to start a new project is that they have too many goals in mind at once. Imagine, for instance, that a company wants to both gain more Facebook followers and earn more engagement on Snapchat. For those who are well-versed in these platforms, the problem is apparent: while Facebook audiences tend to be older, Snapchat mostly attracts Generation Z. How can you create a piece of content that will appeal to both of these very different groups?

The answer is, you probably can’t. What you’ll end up doing instead is trying to compromise, to meet somewhere in the middle. The end result will be a motion graphic or an infographic that sort of appeals to each group — but doesn’t really appeal to either.

The better approach would have been to create two separate pieces of content, each with one goal. That way, each could be fully optimized to meet that goal. Your goal will also determine what type of medium (motion graphic, interactive web page, etc.) is the best fit, and will likewise drive illustration style, color palette, font choice, and overall tone. You can see why knowing your 1 goal, right away, is essential.

2. What audience are you targeting?

We’ve already seen how targeting too many audiences at once can dampen the effectiveness of your visual content. So if you had to define the audience you’d like to reach with this piece of content, who would they be? Draw up a profile: age range, geographic location, sex/gender, interests and hobbies, favorite social media platforms and websites.

Knowing who your audience is also affects key design decisions such as illustration style. As you might imagine, an audience of 40-something businesspeople might expect more professional, realistic character illustrations than an audience of teenage skateboarders.

The audience for this motion graphic, which Killer Infographics created for the 2016 GeekWire Awards, was clearly defined. It would be shown to attendees at the event, a group of forward-thinking technology and business leaders and entrepreneurs. As a result, the motion graphic’s design style projects a youthful sense of hope and a belief in what the future may hold, using visual effects akin to J. J. Abrams’s Star Trek reboot. Check it out:

3. Where will your visual content live?

Now that we know more about who we’re talking to and what we hope to achieve, we can talk medium. Another common mistake we see is that clients come to us already knowing they want an infographic, or a motion graphic, or a GIF, before they’ve clearly answered the first two questions. Those questions should actually help you decide what type of visual content — and how many pieces of content — you’re going to create.

Think about it. If your audience is primarily on Instagram or Snapchat, you might opt for vertically oriented videos that are optimized for Stories. But if you’re trying to create a great homepage video with the goal of driving more sales, you’ll of course opt for a horizontal orientation. Then again, a GIF might be better for Twitter. Decide what types of assets you want only after you know where you’ll be posting those assets.

4. How will you measure success?

This question is really linked to question #1 about goal-setting, but it merits some extra attention. The ideal goal is one that you can measure. For instance, if you’d like to boost social-drive traffic by 200 hits a day, that’s a measurable goal.

Knowing the particular ways you will measure your success will help you craft your content to achieve your goal. After all, if you’re trying to boost site traffic, you don’t want to create a social media asset that simply encourages sharing but doesn’t urge viewers to click through to your site to learn more.

5. What’s your deadline?

This may seem like an obvious question, but if you’re new to creating visual content, you may need to ask it earlier than you expect. Crafting quality visual content that’s fine-tuned to meeting a particular goal and targeting your audience takes time. It requires careful planning from ideation through wireframing (the creation of a kind of sketch of your visual content) through first-, second-, and sometimes third-draft designs. It requires attention to detail and a commitment to the time it takes to create something of quality.

So, in an ideal world, expect that the creation of any visual asset will take a little planning. Many visual assets take multiple weeks to create — though the time frame can be much shorter or longer than that, depending on your medium, the level of content work required, whether you’re creating from scratch or drawing from a workbench, and myriad other factors.

Every project is different, so your best bet is to start talking with your visual content creation team as soon as you know you need assets. Even if the idea isn’t ready to begin at that time, planning ahead can save plenty of time and money in the long run.

Erin McCoy

Author Erin McCoy

Erin McCoy is director of content marketing and public relations at Killer Visual Strategies. She earned her BA in Spanish with minors in French and Russian, and holds 2 master’s degrees from the University of Washington: an MFA in creative writing and an MA in Hispanic literature. She has won nearly 2 dozen awards in photojournalism, and has dedicated those skills to boosting Killer’s brand recognition and thought leadership in visual communication. Since Erin took on her marketing/PR role, Killer has been named a member of the Inc. 5000 for 4 years in a row; has been featured in such publications as Inc., Forbes, Mashable, and the Huffington Post; and has been invited to present at such conferences as SXSW and SMX Advanced.

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