Okay, so it might not have the ring of 10 commandments, but what we do isn’t rocket science.

There are many elements of design. I’ve found there’s always been a conflict between the right and left sides of my brain. There’s the creative side—and the reason I’m a graphic designer—which visualizes what an idea can become. What it can look like. What the experience will feel like. This is the right side. It’s the side we use to translate the ideas into concepts.

But we need the left side of our brains to turn ideas into reality. The logistical, practical, and strategic type of thinking. This is the side that gets shit done.

I’m a motivated guy. I like getting shit done. But the one thing that has preventing said shit from getting done is my right brain. Is executing not my bag? Am I destined to be an ideas guy? Hopefully not. One can dream all he or she wants. But unless one gets shit done, one doesn’t make money.

I suspect I’m not the only one who has run into this challenge. That’s why I thought I’d share these simple questions to ask whenever you start a project. This is how you build a project brief. This is graphic design 101, people.

So, without further ado, here are five simple commandments to act on when you’re starting a project. Before you get creative, you must give your creativity focus. Here’s how to do that.

Know thy big picture

Ask yourself a few questions: who is my client? Who are they looking to reach? What are their goals? It’s also a good idea to get any additional context like best branding practices and tone of voice.

Think through thy big picture

This is where you iron out the details. What questions will my client or stakeholders ask? What details do I need to pass on the the people I’m working with? All great questions to start with. If you’re a one-man-band like I often am, this the part you don’t want to fuck up. How am I going to execute what I’m pitching?

Of course, this is where you have to think about the requirements versus budget. If your client’s requests don’t align with the budget, here’s where you think of some options for them.

Know what thy need to make and strategize

This is where you act on those big picture questions. Make a list of your deliverables—and the critical path to achieving. For bonus points: what can you do to exceed their expectations?

This is the logistical part. Make sure it makes sense given your client’s timeline. We all want to create something new and unique, but be confident in your resources for getting it done. For instance: if you’re working on print collateral, know when you need to have your files to the printer.

Manage thy client

Once your strategies are in place, keep your client up-to-date on your progress. Let them know if you run into stumbling blocks. Set clear expectations from the get go. If there are concerns or questions after the project kicks off, be proactive in thinking of ways to overcome these challenges.

One of the most tedious parts of every project is the edit phase. Make sure your client is clear on the number of rounds of edits they are able to receive. If there’s more, there may be an additional cost or the deadline may need to be adjusted.

Keep thy communication lines open

At this point, the project is underway and you and your client are already clear on the basic requirements. Rule of thumb here: over communicate. This doesn’t mean being available 24/7, but it does mean getting back to your client in a reasonable amount of time when he or she reaches out.

Set up a check-in timeline. Provide updates. Show comps. It’s okay to ask questions of they come up. This is a great way to ensure you’re providing work that is in-line with expectations.

That’s it! Think through all these steps and you’ll be on your way to success. Bookmark this page and look at it every time you start something new. That’s totally cool. It’s here for you.

Design Thoughts

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