If you started reading this article hoping to find a universal solution to shape a creative process, one that fits every agency, studio or creative mind, think again. Projects and clients will always be different (and that’s a very good thing!), and so will creative people. Following the exact same process can result in very different outputs, but working to define specific stages to follow, helps organise yourself and your team, helps involve your client in the process and, as a consequence, maximises their chances of being happy with the end result.
A creative process must be specific but also very elastic: moments, people, budgets, setbacks, life can happen, and you have to be ready to tackle them. Defining the stages for such a process must go hand in hand with swift reactions to unforeseen problems and urgencies.
At Volta Studio, we have defined five basic steps for our creative process. We like to call it the Shaping process.
The Briefing The briefing is always awaited with a mix of curiosity and anticipation, so for Volta the creative process really kicks off here: when reading or hearing the brief for the first time, we bring all our enthusiasm, interest and thirst for knowledge. How will the brief help us ‘find the way’? Will it be clear or cluttered? Too loose or too tight? No matter what it states, part of the solution to the problem in hand is in our attitude going in. We are always positive, optimistic: it will make a difference further ahead.
The Strategy We try never to assume things and never stop studying. Researching, observing, questioning and being humble is, we find, fundamental to finding the where, the who and, most importantly, the why of every problem. A well-defined and thought-out strategy is guaranteed to bring us objective results in the end, be it a visual identity, a communication campaign or product design.
The Visual Design This is the time to pull up our sleeves. After a well-defined strategy, there’s no shortcuts to achieve the best visual solution: we test, try, rethink and try again. We try everything because everything is a possibility and anything can lead to something else. This is an especially gruelling and time consuming phase of the process, but definitely one of the most rewarding, as we can start to see ideas coming to life in the form of messages, shapes and colours.
The Presentation We believe that a well thought-out, tested and revised creative solution will result in a clean and impressive presentation. Clients and customers live in a heavily saturated world of images, brands, campaigns, ideas and products. They are smart, demanding and can spot gimmicks when they see them. So if our idea is ‘true’, it will make sense, it will get attention, it will ‘touch’ people in a more human and personal way.
The Production – Now is the time to get things going. We try to be thorough and meticulous and dedicate all the necessary time to perfect the execution of our ideas. This step is the sum of all the hard work and thinking we have put forward in the previous phases of the creative process.
A rigorous, well-defined creative process really is a fundamental tool for better, more effective and creative projects.
It will help you and your team to be more organised, meticulous and experienced (we learn in so many ways, and one is repetition). It will also help your clients better understand and respect creative businesses, which many see as chaotic, ‘freestyle’ and impulsive.
But a process will always need to be adapted to your own reality (your team, your clients, your culture and yourself) and be flexible enough to make your best, most interesting and intelligent work come to life, no matter the setbacks.