How To Put Together A Website Project Plan

Over the past few years, I’ve put together website project plans for National Councils and committees that details our path to a successful website build and launch. I worked on the designs for the current Kappa Kappa Psi and Tau Beta Sigma national websites. Through those experiences, I have discovered a process that works well for me. Creating a plan and presenting that plan is important to do before starting any massive project. It is especially crucial when working with multiple people. The general 5 steps that I typically lay out are the following: setup/strategy, content gathering, design, testing/approval, and launch.

Setup/Strategy

First and foremost, it is paramount that everyone involved know the purpose of the website and the target audience. None of the remaining steps can even begin until everyone is on the same page. Here is where the north star is established. The particulars will need to be discussed. What content will the user need to be able to access? What content is of highest priority? We need to create and agree on an initial sitemap. The sitemap establishes the hierarchy within a website. This helps in creating the menu and information structure. Speaking of structure, I usually suggest setting up a Content Management System (like WordPress, for example) at this stage.

Content Gathering

Once we are all on the same page, we can begin gathering content. You know what you want to display on the site. Now, it’s time to get all that information. Making content gathering its own stage allows you to do inventory and double check the accuracy of the information. It’s much easier to correct any mistakes here before getting lost in the fully designed website. Also, content doesn’t just refer to the information but also any visual assets that need to be gathered or created.

Design

This is where we finally populate the site when all the content that has been collected. We’ve set the table. Now, it’s time to put the food on it. You’ll be designing the website with the sitemap in mind as the structure and populating it with the content collected. Obviously, outside of launch, this is my favorite stage. It is here where the aesthetics and functionality are put together to create something great.

Test/Approval

After everything has been designed, it’s at this stage we test everything. We’ll need to click all the links, make sure everything works properly, and make sure nothing crucial is missing. At this point, we may show additional parties the website to see if it works as it should. At this stage, it’s often necessary to get fresh eyes on the site. You’ll want some people who haven’t been looking at this project for months to give it a look. It might be good to get a sample of your target audience to see if it works for the user you had in mind.

Launch

We have finally arrived! This starts the official countdown to releasing this thing into the wild for the world to see. For the Kappa Kappa Psi national website & the Tau Beta Sigma national website projects, this is where we transferred our work from development to the live server. Once we confirmed everything was working to our liking, we took off the countdown/dev splash pages and went live!

The best way to lay out this process is to work backwards from the desired launch date. Give each stage more than enough time to be completed. It’s always better to finish early than to be scrambling late. Laying the entire plan, with dates attached to each, is great for tracking progress and accountability. Plan, prepare, and present like a professional.

~b.

How To Create A Logo For Super Bowl 52 Like The Logos of Old

Last year, I talked about my dislike for the decision the NFL made to standardize the Super Bowl logo. I was a big fan of the personality shown in the old logos. So, I decided to start a design series in anticipation of the then-upcoming Super Bowl 50. I continued that with my Super Bowl 51 design. This year, after much struggle and many deleted concepts, I arrived at my version of the Super Bowl 52 logo.

Super Bowl 52 will be held at the U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. So, the very first thought I had was to try to incorporate the unique shape of the stadium architecture in the logo design. Deciding how to incorporate the shape proved more difficult than anticipated. I mistakenly tried to jump right into Adobe Illustrator and play. After failure and frustration were achieved in vector form, I took a step back and decided to go to pencil and paper. Sometimes you have to just stop and start over instead of trying to force a square peg into a round hole – especially, when you’ve created an obscene amount of layers with no solution in sight.

Wikipedia
So much failure in vector form.

Once I recalibrated and created a new concept on paper, I felt a lot better about the possibilities. In 2018, I’ve pledged to do more pencil and paper work – not just for rough ideas, but drawing full concepts before opening Illustrator. With the Super Bowl 52 concept, I finished my idea and then analyzed it. I drew guides on the drawing, which helped me see how I would want to construct this on the computer. It is important to determine as much as possible before opening Illustrator. The drawing, with guides for construction, proportions, and angles, helped give me clarity before assembling the vectors.

The hardest part of designing these Super Bowl logos – actually, logos in general – is achieving something I feel like could even stand in the same room as those that have come before. I’m not comparing myself to other designers, positively or negatively. It’s about the work. It’s about creating something that has a worthwhile polish that will appreciated and accomplish the goal. I was constantly looking at the Super Bowl logos that have come before, while reviewing what I had done for 52. I arrived at something I felt comfortable enough showing to the public.

~b.

Creating A Logo To Recognize Outstanding Student Musicians

Few things excite me more in my position at Kappa Kappa Psi & Tau Beta Sigma National Headquarters than getting an e-mail asking me to design a new logo for a Fraternity or Sorority program or initiative. My love of designing logos is well documented at this point. So how do you think I responded to a request to re-design the Kappa Kappa Psi awards page with 10+ new logos?

Continue reading “Creating A Logo To Recognize Outstanding Student Musicians”

How To Create A Graphic Design Video Show With A Cool Name

In 2018, I embark on a new creative journey. Towards the end of 2017, I decided I wanted to produce more video content on a consistent basis. I began working on a new video series to premiere in 2018 called “Run The Layers”. Run The Layers is a show created because I thought it was a cool name and I love Adobe Illustrator (+ the entire Adobe Creative Cloud) and making logos. The purpose behind the show is to take the viewer on a journey on how designs are created. I want to break down all the layers, figurative and literal, within pieces of graphic design.

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How To Get Clients To Trust The Process

I’ve written about the process I take my freelance clients through. In this post, I want to discuss my thoughts on how to get those clients to trust the process. The first step in doing this may surprise you.

Choose The Right Clients

“Serious Inquiries Only”

There is a reason you see this when people post their business contact information.

Be selective about who you work with. Once you accept the opportunity to work with someone, that client and that project is your responsibility. In my field, I like to only work with people who understand the value and importance of design. I also love working with people whose projects will bring some positivity into the world, whether through a service or product. Take the time prior to accepting a job to evaluate how well you and the potential client fit with one another. Evaluate how well you can accomplish what is necessary for the project. Be thorough in determining what they need and establish yourself as a teammate and not a tool. Some people are simply looking for technicians while others want to invest in a specialist to join their team for a time.

Keep The Focus On Their Goals

Never take for granted their decision to reach out to you for help. Appreciate every opportunity you have to serve someone else. While appreciating, make sure you are digging. You build trust by digging deeper into their backstory and the backstory of the project. The more they can tell you are personally invested in their success, the more they trust in you as a teammate. You must be invested in their vision beyond the mere monetary transaction. As a graphic designer, I’m not chasing money. I’m chasing purpose. I feel these skills I’ve been blessed with have a purpose attached. My purpose is tied to helping others more efficiently fulfill their purpose through the visual medium. The overall goal and purpose of the project should inform every decision.

Explain The Process & Reasoning

Do your due diligence in “on-boarding” your client. Take the time to explain the process and make them feel welcomed. Just as you need to feel like a teammate so do they. Throughout the process, explain your design decisions with clarity. Also, be open to critique. Try what they may want to see before rejecting their input. Showing is always better than telling. Give options and explain why, in your professional opinion, you would go with one over another.   Be the professional and take responsibility for your part in getting the project from idea to tangible reality.

Deliver

At the end of the day, you need to deliver. A satisfied client will become an ambassador for you. They will go forth and tell the world of how great you are. Others will be listening and come to you with confidence and excitement. Word-of-mouth references are the best. Potential clients will come ready to trust your process after seeing how well it worked out for their friend or colleague. The equity you have built with your client will go a long way in bringing in new ones. Your positive reputation grows with each successful project – putting you in a better position to serve in the future.

~b.

Client Services: Create/Discover Your Trusted Process

Writing down your process is important. It is great to know how you best operate so you can communicate that with those who potentially want to work with you on a project. In this post, I will take you through the client process I typically use for my freelance design clients.

The Questionnaire + Q&A

Information is vital to understanding. Whenever anyone reaches out to me about possibly designing something for them, I send them to the contact page on my portfolio website. My questionnaire gives me much needed background of the project, their goals, and any design preferences. It is my job as a designer to bring the vision of the client to fruition. I can’t do that unless I know everything I can as early as I can.

After receiving the initial questionnaire answers, we delve deeper and have further discussion with the goal to gain the utmost clarity on the project needs and goals. This is where I learn more about you as an individual and the impact you want to make on the world (or your local area) through this endeavor. Clearly defined company and project goals are required to successfully translate the story of your brand to the public. As a designer, I want to know as much as possible before any sketching or designing actually begins. Knowing the goal(s) makes it easier to come up with a brand strategy — visually and otherwise.

Design Brief and Proposal

Based on the questionnaire and our follow-up discussion, I will put together a contract that will include the design goals, pricing, and policies. The question of “How much” is reserved for this stage because an estimate can not be made without the project goals and needs being clearly defined and agreed upon. I personally don’t have set generic prices I advertise. Every project is given it’s own price estimate based on its particular needs and scope.

Project Start to Finish

Once the proposal is approved and the first deposit (usually 50%) is made then the project will begin. The personal investment made by the client means that there is buy-in from the beginning. It means they value my time. The receipt of the deposit secures their project into my schedule.

After initial sketching and digitization and refining, we will go through rounds of necessary revisions until we achieve the optimal solution. We are teammates in this endeavor. Once we have agreed on the final design(s), the remaining balance will be due. Once final payment is received, all necessary files will be turned over to the client for use.

Conclusion

Create your own process. Discover what works best for you. There is a confidence that comes with having one mapped out. With practice, you’ll know when to deviate and/or re-evaluate. However, the clarity of process will do you good.

~b.