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  • Writer's pictureMark Zusmanovich

How To Start From Blank?


“The difference between a junior designer and a senior designer is: Do you have a repeatable process? Do you have a way of framing the work that you do that allows you to come into different situations and make them successful each time, despite how different they may be.”


A lot of creatives ask this question about, how to start from a blank document and dive into this creative process to get a well-designed product that you feel whole with, whatever this product might be. We are all human and we all had our times, in which we were staring at the monitor and nothing came up.

In time, I’ve discovered that there’s this same, simple process for every product, we would like to design, whether it’s a website, an app or a promotional campaign. There are a few steps every designer and creative should take before he begins to make his work easier.


Topic Research


In my opinion, we as creative people should be familiar with the specific sector, we are designing for, whether it’s agriculture, medicine or an advocate.

I’m not saying that every time I design a law firm website, I’m getting a law degree, but I have to make some basic research on this specific expertise, trying to understand this world I’m designing for, as much as I can, even if I’ve never been a lawyer or an attorney.

I have to be familiar with the specific language they use, their favourite colours and maybe even their hobbies, in order to have a better understanding of what will make them feel at “home”.


When I had to design an architecture company website, I’ve searched for architecture on Wikipedia first, to have a general view of where and why did architecture emerge and what kind of different architectural styles are out there?

My next step was to google the architecture website and I got an endless number of examples for architecture websites of all kinds of styles. This helped me to see the colour palettes, the compositions and the typography mostly used. This way I had a pretty clear guideline to get started.


I’m trying to do my best to become the target audience myself. There’s an old saying about the fact that if one wants to sell some product to another person, he should be using this product himself if he wants to successfully sell this product. I know for a fact that if I want to make a great converting campaign, I have to feel what my target audience feels and to know what they know. This way (possibly the only way) I could know, what will drive them and get the most effective actions out of them.

It might sound obvious, but if I’m asked to create a “high-class” real estate ad about some big private houses, and I know nothing about high-class houses, it would be probably very hard for me to produce the right moving concept for my target audience, because there’s a very good chance, I know nothing about this specific target audience. It’s not about getting that house whether I can or can not afford it. It’s about getting to know the people who are interested in private houses and what moves them.


Consuming


My ways to become the target audience itself, are actually pretty simple. First I start with consuming the product or service, if possible.

If it’s a spa massage boutique that needs to be rebranded, I go and take a massage session myself.

This way I really “feel” and get to know the business. I start to follow the biggest massage clinics and try to understand their services. I try to find the difference and what makes my client so unique and special.

I join Spa Facebook groups if I can, and sign up for Spa newsletters. Follow their email sequence and offers. This way, I get to know their competitor’s strategy and style. I search for “Spa” on every social network like Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube and Twitter to get inspired by different spa visuals and content to help me produce my own.


Avatar


Think about your best customer or your clients’ perfect customer. What does he do? Where does he hang out? What is their gender? Maybe even, what is their salary?

Good avatar definitions can make our work much easier. I usually try to name avatars to make them feel more realistic and I could really imagine this person and his needs and desires.

What will make him buy a specific product?

Search for friends and family or have anything to do with a spa or massage and try to figure out where they hang out? what information they consume and what social networks do they prefer?


If you have all of these answered, or at least most of it, you can get a pretty clear picture of a person named “Hannah”, who has three kids and a very demanding job. She loves her job and she loves her family, but from time to time she likes to take a break from the routine and take a minute for herself in this amazing spa boutique. Her husband is a hard-working man who works 9-to-5 driving every day in the car for at least an hour and we should know this because maybe would like to target the husband as our target audience and try to make him buy her a massage session as a gift.

See, there are no rules and everything is possible. Creativity is the key, but this avatar definition can really help us get creative with our products, whether to websites, branding or just a simple ad.


There are millions of different ways of designing and infinite numbers of ads’ styles in Google and obviously, you can’t just copy someone’s else’s ad but this little research I do gives me a pretty good picture of what is common, what traditions people have and what is the general look and feel of the specific occupational field or holiday. In some cases, it would be a great idea to join some Facebook groups about the specific field, just to see what they talk about, how they talk and what drives them the most.


With that in mind, before I even open a design software, I research the field, take ideas, become the audience and always try to give it my own interpretation that can allow me to stand out from all the other competitors.


Our challenge as creatives and designers is to combine the style of the specific campaign whether it’s a holiday like Christmas or Halloween, mix it with the style of the brand and put inside some extra mark of our own to make it stand out.


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