At times, we may all find ourselves tasked with a design assignment that requires us to develop innovative and high-quality solutions within a limited timeframe. This case study provides an in-depth analysis of the strategies and techniques used to successfully produce great results under such conditions.
Adhering to customer expectations and meeting deadlines are essential components of customer success. As a designer, it is likely that you will encounter customers with pressing deadlines for their projects. These situations are opportunities to hone the skill of meeting deadlines and prepare for any potential complications that may arise.
As designers, we often find ourselves in two distinct situations when it comes to our projects. On the one hand, there is the dream scenario: a project that requires a user-centred design, with no strict deadlines, allowing us the time and resources to deliver the best possible outcome. However, in reality, the situation is often more complicated.
“I’m looking for an unconventional, inventive, and creative solution—good UX, incredibly attractive user interface… because I need it right now.”
In the event that we find ourselves with a timeline of only thirty days to design a logo and create key elements of the brand, such as a website, mobile user interfaces, and social media advertisements/graphics, we must take proactive steps to ensure that all tasks are completed in an efficient and timely manner. We must prioritise our tasks and allocate time accordingly to ensure that each project is completed to the highest standard. Furthermore, it is essential that we communicate with the client regularly to ensure that all deliverables are in line with their expectations.
After a brief panic episode, you understand that working intelligently is the only way to go.
Creating a well-thought-out plan in advance is an essential step for achieving productivity, accuracy and the highest quality of design. To accomplish any goal, it is necessary to put in a great deal of hard work and dedication. Establishing a timeline and dedicating ample time to each step of the process can help to ensure the best results.
There are always these agonising questions, no matter what:
- Is it worthwhile to undertake with such time constraints?
- Will a lack of time result in poor design quality?
- Would I be able to perform a better job if I had more time?
Without a doubt!
As designers, we must consider the benefits, drawbacks, and constraints associated with each project in order to devise creative solutions. We should use these limitations to our benefit, as they can often inspire us to think outside the box and come up with unique solutions.
Having a comprehensive understanding of the tasks that must be completed in order to ensure the successful completion of the project is essential. It is also important to delicately inform the client that the tight timeline may have a detrimental effect on the quality of the overall design. Nevertheless, the pressure of an impending deadline must not be used as a justification for not striving for excellence; instead, it should be used as a source of motivation to create the highest quality output. As supported by the findings of a Harvard Business School research on creative work conducted under time constraints:
Based on the research results, it is essential for managers to make sure that employees have adequate time dedicated to creative cognitive thinking, especially those whose roles require a significant level of creativity. It is highly improbable that employees will be able to generate creative ideas if they are not under any form of time pressure, whether it is self-imposed or externally imposed.
The research indicates that excessive pressure may not be conducive to creative work, yet a moderate level of pressure appears to be beneficial in generating higher quality designs.
Working as a freelancer with multiple projects on the go can be a challenge, but it is also a great opportunity to be organised and make the most of your limited time. It may seem like a daunting task to make remote working effective, but when you put together an effective plan, you have the recipe for success.
Days 1-2: First and foremost, plan!
The first step in order to achieve success is to divide the project into manageable sections and estimate the time needed to complete each stage. Goal setting is an important tool in motivating and achieving desired outcomes. Breaking down a large goal into easily achievable steps is recommended by experts in the field of goal setting and will give you a greater chance of success.
When it comes to designing a brand identity, it is beneficial to create multiple versions of the design so that the customer has a selection of options to choose from. In my experience, I find that presenting three variations of logo designs along with the primary components of branding, such as typography, colour schemes, imagery and icon sets, provides a solid foundation and allows the concept and visual elements to be developed further.
Create and adhere to work procedures.
By developing and implementing effective work practices, it is possible to streamline the workflow and delineate the responsibilities associated with each project. For example, when it comes to a typical design job, such as creating a logo or designing a user interface, I typically follow the following process:
Learn all you can about your client’s company:
- What is their primary activity and what is the heart of their business?
- Who is their intended audience, and what are their requirements?
- What are their objectives, and what issue does design need to solve?
- Who is your competition, and how can you outperform them?
One of the most easy and effective methods to acquire the aforementioned information is via a questionnaire or design brief.
Make a Mood Board
Creating a mood board is an essential part of any project, as it provides an opportunity to take a step back and consider the bigger picture. It can be used to help develop ideas, and is a great way to display all of the components that need to be incorporated into any designs. Fortunately, there are a number of free applications available which make building mood boards incredibly easy.
If you are looking for alternative ways to create a digital collage, Adobe Illustrator is a great option. With this software, you can build, add, and move components freely, allowing you to explore how colours, pictures, symbols, typography, and other elements can interact aesthetically and in narrative. You don’t need to be too concerned with the precise placement of the components; the main focus is to create a piece that conveys the desired look and message.
Day 3: Create a Design Concept
Once you have completed your mood board, the next step is to formulate an idea, which will be the foundation for all of your subsequent work. Developing a concept allows you to evaluate the feasibility of various design components. This concept can then be used as a prototype for further exploration.
A mood board can be an incredibly useful tool for ensuring that the aesthetic direction of a project aligns with the goals of the company and the target audience. It serves as the groundwork for the UX direction and is a favourite UX deliverable among top designers. As such, it is important to give the creation of a mood board the required attention.
It is essential to be aware of the importance of this stage, as having a strong concept is fundamental for the creation of an interesting story, even in the initial stages of the project. The main focus should be on the emotions and experiences that people have when interacting with visuals, rather than just the visuals themselves.
Simon Sinek, one of the industry’s most renowned marketing strategists and motivational speakers, delivered a superb TED presentation on the topic.
A mood board can be a great tool for developing a few key phrases and incorporating icon and picture styles into a concept. It is also essential to consider typography that is legible and suitable for both online and print media. This is a critical element of excellent design and is one of the main principles of universal design.
Day 4: Create Brand Visuals
If you do not start out with the correct strategy, you may find yourself expending a lot of time and effort on the brand-building process. It is advisable to wait until you have a viable concept and all of the visual guide files are finalised before creating logo iterations. This will ensure that you are taking the right steps and can approach any branding challenges in an efficient and timely manner.
It is essential to begin the logo design process by sketching out design concepts on paper. This approach is more efficient than immediately working digitally in a program such as Illustrator, Sketch, or another. By utilising this method, I was able to create three distinct logo designs that all complied with the aesthetic style identified for the brand. It took me a couple of days to complete this task.
It is possible that the logo design may require additional modifications and alterations; however, once the customer has finalised the logo, as well as the colours, font, icons, and photographic style, the core branding elements will be complete.
Days 7-15: Website Development
Brand development is a comprehensive process that includes the design of a website and other elements in addition to the logo. It may be beneficial to begin with the website, as this is an opportunity to create visual guidelines and observe how they interact with the goal and features of a mobile application. This will help to ensure a cohesive look across all platforms.
A sitemap is a comprehensive list of all the pages available on a website. This document can be used as a tool for web design planning, and it serves to display the pages of a website in a hierarchical order, making it easier for crawlers and visitors to navigate the website.
Having a sitemap prior to commencing a project can be highly advantageous, as it offers a comprehensive overview of all the components of a website. If you are presented with a task that requires a sitemap, it is crucial to collaborate with the customer to devise one.
This might imply asking your customer the following questions:
- How many pages does the website have?
- What are the most significant pages?
- Is there a subpage?
This will provide you with a clear image of the website’s structure as well as an understanding of the project’s scope.
First, Make a Copy
I recommend that clients provide all materials and information they wish to publish on the website as soon as possible. This is beneficial as it allows designers to create the user interface based on the copy rather than attempting to fit the copy into a predefined interface.
Using the copy-first approach can be a time-saver for both you and the developers. If you take the reverse path, you may encounter problems. While dummy text may have its uses, it can have a negative effect on a real project, especially if the design heavily relies on typography and is centred around content. There are no disadvantages to a copy-centric design and it only serves to produce excellent creative material.
Design of a Website
If you have adhered to all of the preceding steps, you should already have established general visual guidelines, a site map, and text content. At this point, you are ready to begin constructing the actual pages of the website.
Given the importance of the homepage as the first page consumers view when visiting a website, it is essential that the design of this page is given priority. According to the Pareto principle, 80% of the design direction for a website should be determined by the homepage’s context, typography, colours, repetitive components, etc. The remaining 20% should be designated to the other pages.
It is beneficial to begin the process by categorising and selecting relevant components for the homepage. By taking the time to include comprehensive content and text, it will help to arrange the entire page, allowing us to identify any deficiencies, as well as which elements should be added to maximise the impact and motivate visitors to purchase or utilise the product or service.
Incorporating large call to action sections into your marketing strategy can be a great way to emphasise your product or service and encourage customers to take action. These sections are an effective way to promote your product and motivate customers to make a purchase, sign up for a newsletter, join a membership, and more.
If the client’s technology, target audience, and type of company permit it, the incorporation of motion design, such as GIFs or animations, can provide a supplementary context to the website while also drawing attention to the call to action area. However, designers should exercise caution to avoid creating something that would require excessive time and resources to develop.
Days 15–25: Implement Universal Design
According to those who created the concept of universal design, it can be employed to evaluate existing designs, steer the design process, and enlighten designers and customers about the characteristics of more practical products and environments.
When working on a large-scale project, utilising the concept of Universal Design can be a very effective approach. This method involves creating a cohesive concept and visual direction that is applicable across all aspects of the project, such as branding, website, and mobile applications. This approach can be especially helpful when there are time constraints involved.
The repetition of features can be a major obstacle when considering technological requirements. Responsive websites and mobile platforms have their own distinct principles and regulations, and if not addressed correctly can pose a significant problem. Nevertheless, creating features that can be used on multiple platforms is essential for any project to be successful. In this particular instance, covering so many platforms/devices would have been impossible without a consistent design that outlines a clear trajectory for the expansion of the brand.
Working under tight deadlines and developing for multiple platforms can limit the use of the full capabilities of each platform. To ensure success in such situations, it may be beneficial to focus on creating a “bulletproof” solution, which is likely to be familiar to the user base.
For example, it can be beneficial to employ the same concept across multiple pages, but slightly alter the design depending on the device being used. This can be especially useful when it comes to presenting important information or prompting customers to make a purchase. For instance, the search bar may stay essentially the same despite the device being used.
The website has been designed, and you now have a better idea of the UX for the applications.
A user flowchart is one method for making the UX development process simpler and more obvious.
One of the most common methods for creating flowcharts is to create visual diagrams, with short labels and, when necessary, additional explanatory text. My preferred option is to use Sketch or Illustrator to build and manipulate the diagrams; however, any software that allows you to construct and modify the diagrams would be an acceptable alternative.
Will Little has provided an excellent explanation of this:
The engineer(s) and creative(s) must work together in close cooperation to identify the software tools that are most suitable for the intended user interfaces and the click/swipe actions, even for the small details such as the tabs, tooltips, lightboxes, and icons.
Make it High by Lowering it
Uncovering the primary purpose of the app will help decide the user experience. This could be helping an individual make a purchase or aiding them in utilising a product – the UX should reinforce this. Designing low-fidelity wireframes on paper and subsequently refining them in Sketch or Photoshop can significantly simplify the process.
Because the app is basic and simply required to follow the visual aspects from the website, low-fidelity wireframes were sufficient in this scenario.
One way to gain valuable insights into the effectiveness of the wireframes and user experience (UX) flow is to organise a short UX test. To ensure that the test results accurately reflect the potential user experience, it is important to select a test group that reflects the target consumers of the product. Following the examination, the results should provide important insights that can be used to move forward to the next phase of development, namely the creation of a user interface.
Following some minor user experience (UX) modifications, you have all the necessary components to create an intelligible and clearly structured user interface (UI) that can be adapted to the visual requirements of both iOS and Android platforms. As iOS has very specific design criteria that may prevent your app from being approved for the Apple App Store, it is essential to be familiar with those regulations and to closely supervise the design process during the development phase.
Adhering to established principles and conventions when constructing the user interface (UI) allows you to create a cohesive design that leverages the unique strengths of both the Apple iOS and Google Android platforms. This approach ensures that the user experience is optimised on both platforms.
Days 25-30: Create Ads That Match Your Branding
At this stage, it is essential to have created a logo, branding elements, a website, and mobile applications in less than 25 days. However, this is not the time to celebrate, as there is one more important step to complete: producing advertisements for both social media and print media. This is where the initial concept you developed comes into play. It is vitally important to ensure that the advertisements accurately reflect the idea and brand identity you have created.
By adhering to these guidelines when crafting advertisements and social media content, you can considerably enhance the quality, increase levels of engagement, and promote creativity within your visuals.
- Make use of vibrant and eye-catching hues.
- Displaying joyful and lively individuals improves the dynamic and sentiments associated with your images.
- People in motion, energy, and enthusiasm are always eye-catching and contribute to the overall sensations imparted.
Adhering to the guidelines provided will enable you to craft remarkable visuals for commercials. To maintain consistency in your designs and save time, incorporate the colour palette, font, and other visuals used on your website, branding, and apps if applicable.
Never Make a Deadline You Can’t Meet
Occasionally, everyone can make the mistake of underestimating the amount of time and effort that a project requires; as such, it is crucial to adequately plan each step of the project right at the beginning. Establishing objectives and making achievable, attainable goals that are divided into achievable portions are essential for ensuring that the job is completed to a high standard and on time.
“By neglecting to prepare, you are planning to fail,” said Benjamin Franklin.
It is essential to always plan ahead and to anticipate the possibility of underestimating the time needed to complete a task. Even though clients may have set deadlines, you must be able to decide if a project is feasible and worthwhile taking on. Nonetheless, this should not be an excuse for shying away from difficult tasks which can help you to develop your design and time management skills.