The Techism Creative Process

Pricing a design phase can be difficult in the early stages because there is a range of services that can be offered and a variety of processes to use.  Before the project is defined, asking for a price on a website is like asking for a price on a car:  It depends what kind of car you want, what warranty, and how soon you want it.   With web design, and creative work in general, this is even more the case.

Techism can loop in an executive team of business experts and MBAs to review your organization’s goals and marketing strategies and then dedicate months to custom-tailoring your message and tying it to market-driven metrics to gauge creative success.  Techism can also just put a page up, slap on your logos and colors, give you the keys and update your creative as time and budget permit in later iterations.   How much to spend on a site design, and when to spend it, will depend on your organization’s internal needs and capabilities – not to mention time and budgets.  Some companies need to spend 100k on their website, and others need to spend 100 dollars.

It’s often too hard when a relationship is new, deciding just what those needs might be.  To start the conversation I find it’s easiest to group typical tasks and capabilities into three easy to understand ranges of creative service to give customers an idea of what’s on the menu.

Process 1:  Strategic Resource

Advantages: Safe, assured, verifiable, smart and effective.

Disadvantages: Slower and more expensive.

Techism’s Strategic design service begins with good marketing.   Your current messaging is reviewed and contrasted against your competitor’s efforts.   A distinctive message is crafted to set you apart from your competitors and fine tuned to produce a creative brief.  This may include short paragraphs exemplifying the tone of your message, colors and themes to use, an identity review, and information about your competitors and their messaging.   This is reviewed until everyone agrees it’s right.  Following the direction established in the brief, an informal set of sketches may be produced demonstrating sample executions of the chosen strategy.   Once there’s a consensus on the general approach and a thumbnail sketch is chosen, it’s on to the comping stage where mockups are presented showcasing the design’s proposed final look with sample content in place.  The approved version is produced and deployed, thereafter its success is measured through tools that gauge important metrics from net promoter scores, retweet rates, online sentiment, and much more.  If desired, lateral efforts involving other mediums may be defined such as direct mail, trade show materials, brochures, facebook and twitter campaigns that all execute the same creative strategy.

In a nutshell:

  • In-depth Research and Analysis
  • Creative Strategy
  • Thumbnails
  • Comps
  • Revision
  • Strategic Review
  • Approval
  • Initial Execution
  • Ongoing Calibration and Promotion
  • Lateral Efforts

Process 2: Creative Resource

Advantages: Fairly quick, range of choices, verifiable, reasonably economic if you know what you want.

Disadvantages: Uncertain, inflexible, arbitrary direction, risk of a trendy but not enduring design, often produces bad UI

A more common approach is to trust your gut and just pick something that you find appealing.   In this workflow a designer will spend a few hours getting familiar with your industry by checking out the competition you name.   A general creative direction will be hashed out over email, in basecamp, or on the phone.   The design is drafted, often picking up and refining themes from your existing materials (logos, brochures, old sites, etc).  Usually three distinct versions are presented, though sometimes a strong creative affinity between designer and customer may produce a winning concept right away.  This is refined until approval and then finally deployed.  Changes to designs produced with this method are fairly common after deployment as real-world data starts coming in.

In a nutshell:

  • Quick Research and Analysis
  • Comps
  • Revision
  • Approval
  • Initial execution
  • Ongoing changes

Process 3: Development Resource

AKA : “Get ‘er did.”

When time and budget are in short supply and a company just needs a site up and running asap, the risks of a poorly calibrated design seem like very distant concerns.  This company often wants it to look “professional” and to “match their stuff”.  The shorted path to execution is favored, often leaving creative direction solely to the discretion of the designer with the reservation that minor tweaks may be necessary after launch.   Creative projects like these are designed “as you go” and may use stock layouts customized with the company’s colors and logo.  Sometimes this has worked very well for customers.  It’s particularly good for website design since web designers often know what the latest and best practices are in website layout and design where most reviewers might have to get up to speed to make informed decisions.

Advantages: Fast.  Cheap.  Assured schedule.  Relies on expertise.

Disadvantages: Inflexible, arbitrary direction, spare, risky, will need follow up.

In a nutshell:

  • Quick and Dirty Research and Analysis
  • Initial execution
  • Ongoing changes

Design Process Summary

Since every creative project is different, every company needs their own process and a good design staff should know how to tailor the process to fit your needs.  It’s unlikely that any of the processes above are perfect, but they do demonstrate the range of creative services that can be found with Techism.   Techism can design your site with contemporary looks and usability from scratch or by customizing a wordpress theme in-place.  We can spend as much time as you want researching, drafting wireframes and thumbnail sketches and using creative briefs to guide the process.  It’s up to you what sort of process you are looking for.


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