Why Context Should Drive Your Graphic Design Strategy

Ever wondered why some designs fall flat while others excite you?

Ever wondered why some designs fall flat while others excite you? After talking to our Creative Director, Aaron Castiglione, we learned the answer. In a nutshell, good creative is led by a defined graphic design strategy.

Effective design requires context and aesthetics to work together, which results in resonating and evocative content for its intended audience. Think about it– If you have context without aesthetics, your design will be boring. If you have aesthetics without context, it’s just a pretty face.

Read on to learn how to make sure all your designs have purpose and kick strategic ass.

Define Context

Context in design takes on multiple meanings.

For example, context can be in regards to environment, such as whether or not your design will be featured on a billboard or printed on a t-shirt. Context can also encompass perception and messaging, such as how different colors contribute to the tone of the design. Context could also refer to audience– are grandmothers your target audience, or are young professional women?

Before you start creating, you need to identify the context that’s important to your design.

Remember, not all designs will have the same elements of context. It’s important to revisit this first step whenever you’re creating a new design.

Start Researching

When starting any design project, you should research your product/client’s differentiators, how your audience behaves, and why the creative deliverable is really needed.

Answering these questions will allow you to turn your design project into more than just a deliverable– it will be an answer to a problem.

Consider the following questions while you research:

  • What makes your product/client unique?
  • What are the core values/standards of the brand?
  • What problem will your creative deliverable solve?
  • How have your client’s competitors solved for this same problem?
  • What does your target audience value?
  • How does your target audience perceive your product/client?

Develop Graphic Design Strategy

The next step is to synthesize your research into a cohesive design strategy.

As Aaron explains, “It all comes back to strategy. Strategy is like the North Star that guides you for everything that you are trying to do. It helps you to look beyond personal biases and create something meaningful for the client.”

When turning your research into a fleshed out graphic design strategy, remember to do the following:

  • Identify trends
  • Look for gaps or needs of the consumers
  • Identify similarities between the brand and the interest of the consumer
  • Assess what the competition is doing

Make sure all of your design aspects are intentional and fit within the strategy.

Write a Creative Brief

A creative brief is a written summary of research and the main goal of the project. This step is often completed with a team member who works closely with the client or knows the product best.

The creative brief should outline main objectives such as the messaging and the creative approach. It is also a great spot to recap the most important consumer insights from your research.

Lastly, the brief should map out the requirements, such as the environment of the content and where the design will live. A thorough creative brief is key to ensuring that the creative team has a clear understanding of what it is they are trying to accomplish.

Start Your Design

At this point, you’re finally ready to start designing! Let your creative brief guide you as you start sketching and brainstorming.

While no idea is a bad idea, only ideas that measure up to your graphic design strategy should be pursued.

During the design process, avoid these common pitfalls:

  • Getting too caught up in the creative brief – the brief should provide a framework, but should not stifle your creativity!
  • Fear of failure – don’t let your mistakes discourage you from trying new ideas. If you miss the mark the first time, it may point you in the direction of a new and better idea.
  • Copying others – while it’s important to have a strong assessment of the competition, make sure your work doesn’t directly mimic it.
  • Not taking time for feedback – always make sure you’re headed in the right direction. Foster collaboration within your team to make sure everyone is on the same page.

Go Forth and Design Strategically

You may think that conducting research, developing a strategic plan, and writing a brief would cramp your creative style.

But from Aaron’s experience, defining a purpose before you start designing is the best way to feel confident in your work and feel confident in presenting your work to the client.

If you need a creative idea or want to collaborate with some graphic design strategy lovers, drop us a line. We’d love to get creative with you.