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My Design Process Part 2: Research & Ideation

Since my last post I have been spending a little bit of time each day working through the research and ideation part of my personal branding project for my freelance self.

Since my last post I have been spending a little bit of time each day working through the research and ideation part of my personal branding project for my freelance self. It’s been really nice spending the time really thinking about what I am wanting to achieve with this and not limiting myself to small thinking. In this post I’m going to go through what happens once I have written a brief and have an initial mood board to set the tone and vibe I am looking for.


When it comes to branding, research can be asking more questions, looking for visual inspiration, planning out the kinds of ways I will be implementing the brand and doing lots of sketching, cutting and pasting.  When creating this brand for myself, I’ve done all of those things including filling out my brand start worksheet and going over the brief and continuing to ask why.

At this point, I like to write a lot. I write out my brief in my visual diary and stick my mood board in too. Doing this helps me to get back into the zone of where my mind was at when I wrote the brief.


I also like to do a whole lot of mind mapping / word vomit where I just write down a bunch of words and ideas around the concepts I am trying to come up with. This time when I did this, I would just go and write down things when they came to me over a couple of days. I actually got the idea for the main concept I am thinking of creating when I was putting laundry away and hanging my clothes up in my wardrobe.

With research, I spend a bit of time looking at Pinterest, and looking around me for inspiration at home, outside, in books and magazines and just in my day to day.  I usually make a Pinterest board at this point that explores further parts of the project such as ideas for print and digital execution.


Once I have written down a heap of notes and little scraps of ideas and keywords, I start concepting. Usually I take what I feel is the strongest idea I have come up with so far, and start looking into it further. Again I go through my ideas and ask Why. I think about how the idea ties into what I am trying to achieve with this project and how I can tell a story with the idea.

Again, this is a thinking exercise, but at the same time it’s about taking an idea and moulding it into something tangible that exists in the world and not just in my mind. I am continuously questioning whether the idea feels right, and also how I can make it better.

An important part of the ideation is to not look at any other work. I don’t look at Pinterest or Instagram, but only on what is already in front of me. This is the time where I put my blinders on so nothing outside of my bubble influences me.



Once I have done a bunch of research and thought of some key ideas, I like to start sketching. I always start with ways I’m applying branding, print collateral / layouts and logos. For this I have an aim to do a minimum of 25 thumbnail sketches. This gets me thinking more about all the options for design and pushes me to really think about it.

For sketches, I usually use a pencil but some times I can’t help sketching in pen in amongst my notes to try and provide a visual for what I am talking about.


After I have done a bunch of sketching, I usually make a list of steps to complete - like a to do list for getting the project done. I then have a break from the process for a day at this point, to allow for any further ideas to emerge. I think for me, that it’s good to work on this part of the project for a maximum of 2 hours at a time. I think any more time spent after that without having a break is unproductive. I get distracted and start wandering onto other things. Also, because this is a bit of a side project, I will be fitting it in amongst client work and other stuff happening throughout the week.

What’s Next?

Once I get super clear on what is next, I will create myself a project timeline and a final list of what needs to be done. I’ll also continue to explore ideas over the next week and start to refine everything so I can start designing the basic visual elements of the branding such as the logo, patterns and basic stationery.

Next week, it’s design time, where I will be creating logo and visual element concepts and tweaking them as I go as well as creating mock ups.

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