July 1, 2017

Where Do We Start?

Coffee... and a 3-Point Plan of Attack

Starting a project can be empowering and easy when you know exactly what you want.  But it can also feel like coming home to a house run by toddlers armed with markers, stockpiles of toys, and unending traces of whatever it is they had for breakfast.  (I need coffee just thinking about it.)  When the panic wears off, however, you eventually have to throw back that venti latte and ask yourself where to start.  

Where do we go for inspiration?  What comes first- form or function?  Are my ideas anywhere within my budget?  WHERE DO WE BEGIN?  Years of working with clients on various projects has taught me this: what you do in pre-production will dramatically affect your timeline, budget and work relationships.  We have saved our clients thousands of dollars by working together up front on what I refer to as the 3 A’s…

This 3-point plan of attack will help you draw inspiration, narrow your visual goals, and bring designer and client to the same table. 


You may not know exactly how you want something to look, but chances are, you have an idea of how you want it to feel.  Talking in analogies can be a powerful way to translate those feelings into useful descriptions.  Start with the phrase, “It’s like…”

Let’s say you wanted to create a postcard for a bank to promote their new home loan lending product.  The postcard will be mailed to potential new home owners who might not otherwise be able to purchase a home.  So we ask ourselves, “How should this piece feel?”  When the recipients hold it in their hands, what thoughts do we want to emote? 

It should feel like…

Getting the keys to your first home.

Sitting on your own freshly mowed lawn.

Carrying your new bride across the threshold.


Once you have your analogies, dissect them.  Imagine yourself doing those very things.  What is it about those settings?  What do you see?  This will give you visual and emotional descriptive cues. 

Getting the keys to your first home………… Exciting, Warm, Confident, Secure, Growth
Sitting on your own lawn……………………. Accomplished, Bright, Breezy, Free, Sun-kissed
Carrying your new bride…………………….. Belonging, Strength, Cozy, New, Happy


Believe it or not, those descriptive words are visual cues for your designer.  This brings us to the next step…




These descriptive words and adjectives that we get from our analogies are helpful for trained designers.  Color, contrast, lighting, tone, shapes and photos are chosen carefully to give meaning and mood to the piece.  Every line and stroke is deliberate.  And adjectives are incredibly effective tools for designers. 

The trouble comes when the meanings are interpreted differently.  What if I said, “Picture a dog”?  You may have an image of a toy poodle, but I may be thinking of a Great Dane.  This is why we created True Client Connect (currently getting a facelift).  This fun interactive website successfully saves both time and money by bringing designers and clients to the same page (literally) regarding abstract visual descriptions before beginning a project. By providing visual talking points for the language we use, designers and clients can communicate more specifically about the goals and desires for each design.

Ask the Right Questions

Analogies and adjectives give visual life to a project, but the devil is in the details.  Forgetting to ask certain questions in the beginning can add unnecessary man hours and frustration down the road.  Ask questions about the client’s brand and identity.  Ask questions about the target audience.  Ask questions about the project, itself.  And ask questions about how to evaluate and communicate about the project. 

Feel free to check out our Pre-Production Questionnaire.  It is a full list of incredibly helpful questions to address with your client/designer before beginning. 


The next time you’re faced with the ever dreaded blank page and worried about whether your creative glass is half-full or half-empty, just knock the glass over and use every drop of whatever you have.  Because your own life experiences are enough to breathe life into a project. 

“Inspiration comes from things that are infused with life.  When we are inspired, ideas that are living inside us will find a way to be expressed.” – John Kavelin


Christina Hunter
Graphic Designer. Media Specialist. Communication Strategist.