The Creative Process
“Creativity does not just happen; it is a cognitive process that produces new ideas, or transforms old ideas into updated concepts.”
Creativity has been defined and redefined countless times. While some view creativity as purely a natural talent or even genetic predisposition, it is actually a series of steps that all artists go through, no matter what discipline they work in, or if they even consciously realize they are performing the steps. At a cursory glance, the main objectives for creativity appear fairly simple and straightforward; Preparation, Incubation, Illumination and Implementation. But even Wikipedia’s entry on creativity is over 20 printed pages long.
Every artist has their own unique method of following this basic protocol, and designers are no exception; some follow a process that is very literal and straightforward, while others develop a process so complex and secretive that it is actually patented and held as a closely-guarded business secret.
The Zen Orange viewpoint on the creative process is that creativity – like anything else in life – is refined, adapted and perfected over years of constant use. No one can become a successful guitarist overnight; it takes many years of hard work, dedication and effort to master the instrument. In this aspect, all art forms are the same; years of dedication, effort and hard work will refine and hone not only the art, but also the creative process itself.
After 20 years, I think I have a pretty good grip on my own creative process for successfully completing client projects. While certain types of projects will call for additional or different steps involved, you will find a basic outline below of what to expect when working with The Zen Orange.
Forming the creative foundation
At the onset, The Zen Orange will need to gain an understanding of your overall business goals and objectives regarding the project. This initial contact can be made in one of a few different ways; for most clients, the information is passed along in an RFP (Request For Proposal), an AB (Advertising Brief), or during an online/in-person meeting. After this, a discovery consultation will be arranged; the purpose of this meeting is to gather the necessary detailed information about your company, your product and/or service, learn about key information and other elements that you wish to incorporate into your project, and to fully understand the timeline.
Some information that you, as a client, would typically provide:
* If your company is missing some of these key elements listed above, don’t worry – The Zen Orange can help! These are all important marketing aspects and information that every business should have, and I would be happy to assist in gathering this information for you.
Using the information from the initial contact and our discovery consultation, The Zen Orange will gather all the necessary data regarding the requirements, materials and work needed to complete the job. I will then return a proposal to you that covers all of this information, as well as the timeline necessary to complete the project.
Depending on the scope of your project, you will be offered different options for payment; hourly billing, a per-project rate, or a flat retainer fee. For larger or ongoing projects, the retainer option typically works best for clients of The Zen Orange, as you are assured a regular, fixed monthly fee that is generally less than the accumulated hourly rate or per-project rate, and you are guaranteed a particular level and quantity of service.
If you only care to see the bottom line figures and a completion date for your project, The Zen Orange can provide just the numbers and dates for you. However, if you want to know more details about what is being planned, I can also provide an overview of your proposed project that outlines overall steps, costs and the timeline for the project.
Uncertain about some elements, or have a major change in plans or project scope? Let me know – I can quickly refine the proposal at this stage, to make sure that everyone is on the same page and understands all that the project entails.
Once the project has been approved and the deposit or retainer information has been settled, a Creative Brief will be delivered.
This document is a comprehensive review of the creative process involved in your project, which contains items such as a detailed task calendar (Gantt chart), itemized steps, due dates by line item, and who is responsible for each step of the project.
At this point, any necessary additional materials will be collected from your company, such as required icons, identity graphics and the company style/usage guide.
Piecing the puzzle together
The first step in piecing the puzzle of your actual project together is also one of the most important in the conceptual stage of design; performing research and analysis. This step creates a rock-solid framework for The Zen Orange to build your project around.
Depending on the scope of your project, this can range from studying the existing, provided data regarding your company, or – if your company does not already have this data available – I can take the steps necessary to perform the research and analysis for you, gathering data about your company, competition, product and/or service for you. The Zen Orange can perform mixed-method, qualitative and quantitative research such as SWOT Matrix, PEST analysis, business/industry studies, product marketplace and positioning studies, competitive analysis, focus groups, interviews, questionnaires, social experiments, surveys, impact studies, etc.
The information gathered during this phase will be provided to you with the initial conceptual designs, at your request.
As the name implies, this step of the process is where The Zen Orange takes all the gathered data and information – the narrative of your company, product and/or service – and become immersed in your business world. Combining the aspects of the Creative Brief with all of the data points of the analysis, I can formulate a definitive creative plan to achieve the best possible results for your company, product and/or service.
This is the stage where years of experience, understanding of the marketplace, comprehensive information about your business, hard data and gut instinct all merge into one – inspiration. Contrary to popular myth, inspiration is not something that an artist just sits around and waits for; inspiration is found by people who actively seek it out and place themselves directly in its path.
Sometimes the combined facts found in the data will point towards the best solution, and other times it is the softer, qualitative information that has been gathered that leads the way. But this is where the proverbial rubber meets the pavement; brainstorming a kaleidoscope of free-flowing thought, finding patterns and categories, making sketches on napkins, filling up whiteboards and note books, and posting sticky notes on anything that doesn’t move – all of this allows The Zen Orange to formulate a wide range of creative ideas to take to the next level of the process.
Bringing concepts to reality
In The Zen Orange creative mapping phase, I take all of the initial ideas that were generated, and put them into a structured outline; categorizing, condensing, combining and refining ideas into a cohesive package that will become the first set of conceptual artwork.
The first set of concepts will go through a rigorous refinement process, until I feel that the design meets a well-defined balance between business logic and design aesthetic; the concepts not only look great, but will be easily understood by the intended audience and create an impact on the marketplace.
At this point, the concepts are laid out in their respective formats; folding package mockups or renderings, outdoor signage renderings, website window layout, trade show booth renderings – whatever the project might entail. This process gives you a clear and concise view of what the concept will look like in it’s actual environment, as opposed to handful of flat artwork on a screen or piece of paper.
Once the first set of concepts are finalized, they are presented to you for review. At this time, if any modifications are requested, they will be discussed for potential incorporation into the project. After approval is given on a finalized concept, we move to the production phase.
This is where all the puzzle pieces fall into place. Depending on the requirements of a project, this can entail press checks, production reviews with manufacturers, testing, sample runs and final tweaks, etc. – all facets of the production process are carefully watched and managed, until everything is ready for the final phase of the process: implementation.
Carrying out the objective
It’s go-time! After all the planning, research, creative work and production, the final product is released into the marketplace. This is an exciting time, and The Zen Orange will be there to celebrate with you – but there is still more work to be done.
The story doesn’t end on launch day; I don’t simply walk away once the confetti settles and the party hats are swept up. Even though a lot of hard work and effort has been made already, the project is just starting to take life in the public eye.
The Zen Orange is still with you – I will be tracking data, researching media, updating content and working on other elements of the overall project (if required) and closely following the progress of the project, to ensure that business metrics are being met or exceeded.
After the project has had some time to mature in the public forum, the Zen Orange will schedule and hold a PIR (Post-Implementation Review) meeting. Think of this as a “post-game wrap-up” with your team, to share the analytical data from the project so far, public reaction, ensure that metrics are being met or surpassed, and to discuss how the project can be expanded and complemented for the future.
Along with any ongoing support or project work (if included), The Zen Orange will make recommendations and suggestions on next steps for the project, so that your product and/or service does not lose momentum in the marketplace.