Points North

What to Research Before Starting a Creative Project

on Apr 16, 2022 in Business

In the wake of spring, new things are on the horizon. This is a great time to dream. And dreams often lead to new creative projects for yourself or with your team. At Points North, before we design, we research. You can apply that same mentality to your spring-infused creative adventure. Researching first helps you to create from a place that is true to yourself and your brand. It also sets you up to work with your goals in mind. And in this space, you’re still acknowledging where you can stand out through design, innovative products and services, and positioning. Let’s dive in.

Ideation and inspiration

Let’s say you already have a project in mind. Maybe you’re designing a new product or seasonal promotion. Maybe you’re putting together a nice gratitude mailer to send to your clients and customers. The practice of finding inspiration for your project can come in different forms. Everyone’s process is unique.

I usually start by researching artists, images, and color palettes. And I’m seeking visuals that feel in sync with the project I’m looking to bring to the world.

These are my go-to places for inspiration:

  1. Pinterest – This is the great space of visual searching. You can literally type in “brochure design inspiration” and get just that. As a bonus, you can easily create your own private inspiration boards with the pins you’ve collected. It is, in its purest form, a mood or vision board for your project.
  2. Dribbble – This is the website where a lot of creatives hang. You’ll find all kinds of designers (including maybe someone you can hire for your project). What I love about Dribbble is that you can easily search brand designs, color palettes, webpage layouts, and more. And similar to Pinterest, you can create your own private collections of things that inspire you.
  3. Take a hike – Okay, this is not a website. This requires you to leave your computer, your home, or your office, and go outside. Leisure activities are an excellent source of creative inspiration. Take a step away from your routine and instead find yourself in a park or strolling the neighborhood. Sometimes just introducing yourself to a new space can help you spark your own creative ideas. I like to get out and visit museums, catch up on pop culture, or dive into a printed magazine.
  4. Take a breath – If you find yourself hitting the wall when it comes to ideas and inspiration, take a break and dive into a self-care routine or spend time with friends. Sometimes a mental pause can be the one thing that lets your ideas flow freely. And I’ll never say no to a self-care moment.

Surveying your industry

Understanding your industry from a creative perspective is key. It’s a great opportunity to look at key players in your industry at different levels. I like to use an international, national, and regional process here. Likewise, it’s a good way to see what’s going well, where things might look redundant, and where you can stand out. Often, there are color palettes that are consistent with specific industries because of the color theory behind them.

The proof is in the color

Color theory is the collection of rules and guidelines which designers use to communicate with users through appealing color schemes in visual interfaces. To pick the best colors every time, designers use a color wheel and refer to extensive collected knowledge about human optical ability, psychology, culture and more.

Colors within a logo and a brand may make a brand’s industry affiliation easily identifiable. It also keeps them competitive. Sometimes color can work to a disadvantage, by causing a brand to blend into a heavily saturated industry. When it comes to color, you should be aware of the colors that dominate your industry. There’s a reason why blue is often associated with healthcare, and green is associated with financial services. Use this knowledge to help guide you, but remain true to the color palettes, typography, and icons (just to name a few) that feel most in line with your project.

Logistics, planning and resources

Depending on the project you are working on you may require different tools, partners, or resources to make your project a success. Having a clear vision of what resources, you might for a specific project help to decrease the chance of delays, streamline the creative process and enlist the support of creative partners early on. I like to map out what I need by looking at the goals of my project first. Then, I decide on what I am able to do (and want to do). I also look at what resources are needed to get things done (software, tools, applications, tangible resources). Lastly, I think about what creative partners I may need to seek out in order to complete the project. Here are some additional resources for diving deeper:

Set a clear plan of where you want your project to finish

What does the end product look like? What does success look like? Knowing where you want to be will help you set clear expectations for yourself and any creative partners you choose to work with. When the vision is clear, the project is easier to plan. Additionally, potential gaps can be identified and addressed before they appear. Having a vision for your project is essential. So is being able to communicate that vision to others. Your creative partners need to be able to interpret your vision and help you breathe life into the project.

Make sure you have all the resources.

Making sure you have all the resources you need is vital. Researching the accessibility and cost of those resources is also part of the planning process. It is a good idea to keep a running list of what you need. If you want to take it a step further, you can break it down by the project phases, which can be helpful when allocating your budget. Understanding your project by phases and time helps you to be realistic about the timing of completion and the final deliverable. One of the common mistakes I’ve noticed in talking with potential clients, is that many of them haven’t fully thought about budget and time. Without having some idea of these two items, it’s difficult to ensure your success.

Personal project management basics

As you begin to map out your project from start to finish, you’re probably wondering where to start. I’ve got you covered. Project management on a foundational level can include:

  • Breaking it down into phases (as many as needed) and including 4-6 core tasks (that may include subtasks) per phase to move the project into the next phase.
  • You can write a simple project plan, design a chart or use an application online to help you break down your project, assign tasks to team members and communicate with partners.
  • Ultimately, finding a system and method that works best is going to be dependent on the type of project, the individuals involved and the goal of the project.
  • The solution may come in the form of a few different resources’ products or tools. The most important thing is having a good understanding of the product, resource or tool and being able to pivot if something isn’t working.

Research for the win

In my opinion, research is where creativity breeds and finds a home. But, being curious, understanding how things work and staying committed to telling a good story can feel overwhelming at times. I have found, in my practice and through observation, that the projects with the teams that have done the research thrive. They have clear visions, a solid leadership team, and the passion to protect their story and their brand. This guarantees a win in the long run. There is a unique magic that lives in collaboration with research that holds space for innovation. Let your research guide you, and I can guarantee you will find yourself satisfied with the results long after your project is complete.

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