Developing A Design Process: 01

ask nubby advice

ask nubby advice

Moodboard for Sasha Gulish Photography branding

One of the questions I get asked most often is about my design process. Most of us have a method for working through a project but once it’s done often enough, it begins to feel like second nature. I’ve continually held off writing this article until now because truthfully, my design process has become so routine that I don’t think of it as being significant. But, when I take the time to step back, I realize that we each have a different method for working through projects and can learn from one another. Today, I’m going to share an overview of the general design process I go through when working on a project. Please note that the process detailed below is focused solely on the creative side of a project and not on any of the administrative or strategic tasks that take place.

1. The Questionnaire

ask nubby advice Questionnaire

When I’m working with a new client, I begin my process by sending out a questionnaire. It’s comprised of a short, succinct set of questions meant to jog memories and provide the basic information clients might not otherwise think about. The last question encourages clients to gather their own visual inspiration and links to sites and content they like. After all, we know ourselves better than anyone else and the more we share about what we love & loathe, the easier the designer’s job becomes.

ask nubby advice Pinterest

2. Visual Research

While the client is doing their own visual research to show me what they like, I’m doing mine at the same time. Conducting visual research is important because it helps you become aware of current trends. This doesn’t mean that you should rip off every hot color, font and lockup you see. It’s meant to inform you of what’s happening in the world around you. Think about the flipside; you don’t want to end up with a logo that looks exactly like someone else’s because you didn’t do your homework! Clients tend to want a logo that’s on-trend while still remaining unique. But by on-trend, I mean current, not trendy. Nobody wants to go through the hassle of redesigning their logo every few years if they can help it!

My top places to search for visual inspiration are:

1. Designspiration

2. Pinterest (This is my personal account where I save some of my favorite images).


4. Flickr: I have a private folder that I upload everything I find into and have been actively adding to it since college. I do this mainly because I can be anywhere in the world, log in and have my full collection of inspiration at my fingertips.

ask nubby advice

Thumbnail sketches from a recent logo design

3. Thumbnail Sketches

Ah, yes. Our college professors made us do page after page of thumbnail sketches and they do have their benefits! My head is usually full of potential fonts and lockups the second I start working on a new project and getting them onto paper helps me define some of the options I really want to explore. Plus, being away from the computer helps me clear my mind and creatively focus in a fresh way. To be completely honest, I’m not a big sketcher. Often, my notebook pages will be composed mostly of lists, like “try this font” and “reference this image.” Sketch, make lists, do whatever suits your style best. Just try to do some part of your creative process away from the computer. Breaking up your routine often yields some of the best, most unexpected results.

ask nubby advice

Inspiration section from my presentation deck

4. Presentation with Visual Research

A moodboard (at the top of this post) is more of an arbitrary, outward-facing step I’ve included to show online folks what outside influences inspired me on a particular project. But usually, the visuals I’ve gathered are placed in a section within the first client presentation I deliver called, you guessed it, “Inspiration.” This is beneficial for the client because it can make them more feel more confident of the outcomes when they understand the general reference points. Also, something lurking in the visual inspiration may very well grab their attention. Perhaps they’ll say, “I love the layout of option #4 but the type feels off. Can you modify it to feel more like the type in XYZ?”

5. The Moodboard

I’ve noticed a huge trend lately of designers showing moodboards online of what inspired a particular project. I’ve never shared this part of my process with my readers but am considering making a change the next time I showcase a project. Of course, in my world the inspiration is just a folder of gathered imagery tucked inside the client’s job folder on my hard drive but in an effort to present a so-called organized, methodical look, an example of the visual research I gathered for photographer Sasha Gulish’s identity development is at the top of this post. Looking back, it really did help speed up the design process and aligned perfectly with the colors we’d already been considering.

ask nubby advice

The final outcome of Sasha’s identity / business cards (note that only the blue version was printed).

6. Revise / Review / Redeliver

Once you’ve delivered that first round, it’s time to wait for client feedback, revise the options they liked, perhaps gather even more visual inspiration if they’re feeling a particular direction and send off the second round. Rinse and repeat until complete!

I’ve titled this article Developing a Design Process 01 because I figured that you might have more questions about specifics. If there’s something further you’d like to know about developing a process, please leave a question in the comments!

The Typofiles #103: Elle Revisited

The one fail-safe fashion magazine that I continually subscribe to year after year is Elle. The art direction and type treatments are always amazing but beyond that, the articles are intelligent, often times humorous and extremely well-written. I have a few other fashion favorites (W, Marie Claire and the freshly redesigned Bazaar) but relate most to Elle. Now the world’s largest fashion magazine (with 42 international editions in over 60 countries), they’re constantly pushing their boundaries with the design and I appreciate that. Plus, the fashion is killer. I’ve always felt like I related more to the world of advertising than fashion but my one exception is Elle. My ultimate dream job is to work at Elle.

I always have a stack of books and magazines sitting around. Fresh issues of Elle are almost always on top because their fresh type treatments and edgy fashion draw me in every time.

These are a few of my favorite pages from the last few issues. Elle always feels so crisp and modern. I should mention that beyond the design, my guilty pleasure each month is flipping straight to Ask E. Jean; do any of you read her as well? Maybe Elle appeals to so many because it’s so much more than just a pretty picture. The images draw you in but the content goes deep.

What I Wore: 5.6.12 // Tire Swing

what i wore

what i wore

When you’re walking down the street and spot a tire swing, there’s only one thing to do: try it out! I don’t think the neighbor lady peeking out of her front window was as entertained as I was yesterday. But in these moments, if I’m unsure of what to do, I ask myself “WWMJD?” Really, what would Michael Jackson do? He’d sure as hell hop on the tire swing! I may be 30 now but who’s counting? I’m all for having a good time!

what i wore

what i wore

I Wore:

Zipper Jeans, Silence + Noise
Lace Top, Forever 21
Hair Bow, H&M
Minimarket Wedgewood Boots, Solestruck
Neon Belt, Target

what i wore

I’ve been working way too much and these little moments remind me that life is short and we should squeeze in some fun whenever possible. I hope you had an awesome weekend. My friends Star and Tim were visiting from San Francisco and I got to show them a few of my favorite hangouts. Ah, Monday. Time to refocus!

what i wore

The Week In Pictures: 5.5.12

week in pictures

week in pictures

What a week. Major deadlines, really late nights, friends and family in town, too many lattes. Glad to have made it through! I sat down last night and started reading a new book that I’m really excited about. As soon as I finish I’ll post a review. Feeling really, really inspired. I need to remind myself to never underestimate the power of words on paper (and to read more often).

week in pictures

My current desktop looks like this (in the dark). I LOVE this cover of USED Magazine so much!

week in pictures

Even though it seemed like I spent the last few days of my life shackled to a computer, I did manage to squeeze in some fun times earlier in the week. My mom was in town visiting and during some downtime, we visited Target. I feel like I’m so busy working that I never shop in stores anymore? It was really nice to wander the aisles for a change! Anyway, it was like a color explosion. Rainbows of awesomeness everywhere. I was recruited to work on a Target campaign earlier this year….wish it would have worked out because I love what they do. And, how good is that top packaging?!

week in pictures

Since my mom was in town, we drove Rocky out to the suburbs to visit his ‘grandma.’ He loves riding in a car and hangs his head out the window to feel the breeze in his hairdo! The next morning, my mom and aunt took me out to breakfast and when they ordered coffee, the cream came in baby bottles! The stars aligned that day because when I got home, my dad stopped by to help me with some house projects. Then, my grandpa called to let me know he was at a bar down the street. I live in the city and he’s an hour and a half away in the mountains so I was really surprised to find him 10 blocks from my house, gambling and having a beer! Everyone calls him Sharky — he’s in his 80s and still out-parties me! A few days later, I was standing in line at a coffee shop and noticed these doll arms peeking out of the planter. Totes creepy and awesome!

week in pictures

When Joey and I were shooting outfit photos in Ladd’s Addition over the weekend, I noticed this house. Pretty amazing, huh? I think that people imagine that most of Portland looks like Ladd’s….I love the tree-lined streets and beautiful old houses. Reminds me of a fairytale.

week in pictures

Soooo….I have a thing for this llama, Nigel. We’ve met on many occasions and visit at least once a year. Everyone seems to know about our friendship. Last year, I walked into a bar and the first thing my friend’s boyfriend said was, “So, I hear you have a relationship with a llama.” Haha! When I heard he was going to be in town this week, I raced downtown to R.E.I. and circled the building. No Nigel. I paced around the store in all black and Adidas wedges, looking slightly out of place amidst the camping gear. I finally found Nigel’s owners, Wallowa Llamas giving their slide show about backpacking in Eastern Oregon (the llamas carry the gear) and they told me that Nigel’s trailer had broken down. No Nigel this time! You should have seen my friend and I whip out our planners, trying to find an open weekend to go visit him. Wallowa was beyond entertained and even offered to bring him down to the hotel in town to hang with us. We’d probably try to squeeze Nigel into a sweater and do his hair so not a good idea! Ahhh, Nigel. He loves the attention! Another reason to visit Nigel on his native territory: he fathered his first baby last year named Rhubabrb! I asked around and nobody seems to know who the mom is. ;)

One of my go-to daily lipsticks is NARS Love Devotion. It adds a touch of warmth to my deathly pallor. Oh, and yesterday two dozen Voodoo Donuts magically appeared. I normally skip them because years ago I worked at an agency that was doing a campaign with Mountain Dew and Voodoo delivered Dew-infused donuts with neon green frosting. People were taking bites, turning around and spitting them back out. I’m not into funky flavors so I played it as safe as I could with a tiny sprinkle donut. Finally, my friend Star is in town! She has a solo show at Sequential Art Gallery that you must see. It’s got some amazing installation pieces and much of the work is composed of wood and acrylic.

week in pictures

You know how there’s always lost pet posters tacked up everywhere? I always wonder if they made it home and this poster totally made my morning. Tabor the cat not only made it home but walked in smelling like grandma’s roses! And just look at that seductive pose! Gotta love a happy ending. Have a great weekend!

nubby signature

Link Love: 5.3.12

link love

link love


• What exactly goes on during Pantone color forecasting meetings? And perhaps more importantly, is black really the new black? “A good navy,” says a French woman with short blonde hair, “is going to fulfill the role that black used to fill, because black is now launching into another dimension.”

• The recession is waning but artists are still starving.

• If you’re feeling stuck, please read the Zen Habits Do What You Love Guide. It’s simple and life changing. I was especially drawn to this: “It’s the doing and loving that matters. Many people focus on growing, or hitting goals, or making money, but they forget what matters. What matters most is loving what you do.”

• I love how Molly Crabapple answered this question about having a strong work ethic!

• You have to check out Jacquie’s jaw-dropping D.I.Y. Pantone nails post. Wowza.

• I feel the same way Anna does about design. My design, my house and the way I look are all connected to form one big picture.

• Have any of you stayed at The Saguaro in Palm Springs? Seeing it in all its rainbow-colored glory on Gala’s travel list reminded me of how much I want to visit!

• Designers, if you’re struggling with what to include in your contract, here are some good pointers.

• This post showing us the inner depths of Hermes made me appreciate their eye for detail and craftsmanship even more.

• I’ve been staring at grids all week and this grid wall just takes things to a whole new level.

• Are you a designer who didn’t get paid? Add your total to The World’s Largest Invoice!

The Latest & Greatest #5: Hello, Yellow!

latest and greatest

latest and greatest

I’ve been oddly inspired by all things yellow lately. It’s odd because up until a few short years ago, I loathed the color and wouldn’t go anywhere near it. My dad disliked the color when I was growing up and it definitely rubbed off on me! One of the turning points was two years ago when I came across these insanely cool architectural Margiela heels. I told myself that if I wore these blazing lemon beauties with all black, it would be okay…I’d just dip my toes into the pool of yellow. Wearing shoes like this with a monochromatic ensemble really inspired me; they felt like an explanation point at the end of my outfits. I began embracing more things yellow in my wardrobe but the first addition to my house was this light from Schoolhouse. Our all black and white house felt somber and lifeless and I wanted a touch of color for the dining room. Even my dad, a hater of all things yellow helped me pick it out! This goes to prove that it’s good to keep an open mind, even with the tiniest things. Hello, yellow!

1. Yellow Cross in the kitchen, 2. 3.1 Phillip Lim Double Layer Floating Kit Tail Top, 3. My Margiela Heels, 4. “Roma” by Arian Behzadi, 5. 6 Building (source unknown), 6. Fall 2010 A.F. Vandevorst Dress, 7. Pretty Blue Guns & The Revelators Poster by Adam Hill, 8. Those Shoes Again, and 9. Remix Magazine.

The Typofiles #102: J. Crew Style Guide

Remember my post a few weeks back about subscribing to free catalogs for inspiration? Well, this is one of the issues I’ve received since then. Honestly, you can’t really ignore a catalog that shows up in your mailbox with a blazing deep tangerine cover proclaiming, “NICE TO MEET YOU.” I was smitten from that alone!

J. Crew has a knack for curating the basics into lust-worthy objects of desire and, well, they know what they’re good at. In this latest issue, J. Crew says, “Today, we’re so much more than a catalog — in fact, we hear it from you every day…so really, we’re just catching up with you by calling this book what you’ve been calling it for some time: a style guide.”

The type treatments, photography and layouts feel worthy of a glossy fashion magazine moreso than a catalog so I can see why they’ve elevated it to a ‘style guide.’ Designers, if you’re ever working on any look books, this is a great starting point for inspiration. I especially love the spread featuring a grid of swimwear options (above). They keep it simple with their layouts. Nothing more, nothing less.

J. Crew knows its audience and has fun with the basics without feeling overly trendy. The tone of their style guide matches this aesthetic perfectly and needless to say, though I don’t own much in the way of J. Crew, I’m a big fan of their design aesthetic. Get your copy of the catalog here (because there are a ton more pages that are just as awesome lurking inside).