Do you know what the creative process is? If you’re a marketer, our bets are on ‘Maybe’, or just an outright ‘No’.
No matter what camp you fall into, we’re here to tell you that understanding the creative process is one of the most valuable and important things that you can do for your marketing design projects.
The creative process takes that incredible idea that you have and puts it on an organized path, helping it evolve until it’s a tangible and actionable reality. A good creative process gets you ahead of the trends, as well, because many marketers don’t fully understand the stages of the creative development process, so they can be too rigid in how they approach their creative projects.
That rigidity is often the thing that anchors you into that pool of competition, not letting you stand out, pigeonholing you instead of giving you that aha moment that brings your brilliant idea to the next level. In this blog, we’re going to dive into exactly what the creative process is and why flexibility could be the primary thing that sets you apart from the neighbors in your space.
What Is the Creative Process for Marketers?
The stages of the process can be broken down into three primary legs:
- Research and analysis
These are the bare bones of the creative process for marketers. Let’s take a closer look at each one.
The Creative Process: Research and Analysis
This is the preparation stage of the process, where you can put your analytical mind to good use. You are information-gathering here, not brainstorming or ideating.
For example, let’s say that you are working on a web design project, revamping your old retail website for a new target market. In this stage, you would conduct competitive research, finding gaps in their web design that you could capitalize on.
You would also conduct market research as well. What is your GenZ target audience searching for the most? What color palette would they respond best to?
Marketing Persona Research
An important note here is if you haven’t already done so, take time to develop at least one core target audience and flesh it out into a Persona. If you’re working with a sales team, sales and marketing alignment should be a major goal for you in this first phase. As such, ask your sales team if they have an Ideal Client Profile (ICP) you can use to better inform your Personas and overall research!
The Creative Process: Ideation
This is the fun part of the creative process. This is where you take all of that research and hand it to your creative director and let the brainstorming officially begin. Nothing is right or wrong at this stage. The key is to embrace out-of-the-box thinking and consider all possibilities. Let your creative personality shine and embrace those ideas.
The one wrong thing to do at this stage is batting an out-of-the-box idea out of the playing field. We’ll tell you why in the next section.
Design Sprints, Agile, Note & Vote
Looking for efficient ways to brainstorm? There are several modalities to look into, including design sprints (we’ve got a great article coming up on that!), the Agile system with daily standups, or a simple Note & Vote system. Curious?
Note & Vote for Brainstorming
- Have all stakeholders get together for a Zoom call or an in-person meeting.
- Give everyone sticky notes and a pen.
- Ask one key question to everyone, such as “Who, in your opinion is our single best customer currently?” or “What is our target audience hoping to become? What kind of person do they want to be?” or “What makes us different from our competitors?”
- Give everyone 45 seconds to write down as many answers as they can think of. One answer per sticky note.
- Put all the notes on a wall or window.
- Give everyone 2 minutes to mark their favorite notes.
- Tally the answers and you’ll have viable, consensus-powered answers to all your questions.
The Creative Process: Concepts and Versions
After the ideation phase, your creative team will gather all of those cool ideas into their brain baskets and get to work turning them into awesome concepts and versions.
This is the part where you get to sit back while the team works out any kinks and blends all of the best ideas into one, amazing eureka moment. This is where your creative team will bring that idea to life.
Of course, there are the rounds of feedback and testing out the final version (the final stage), but these are the bones of a great creative process. The best part is that it streamlines all of those ideas and thoughts and funnels them into an actionable process that can be easily followed.
What’s the difference?
A concept can be thought of as a parent idea, while a version is a child underneath a concept. In design parlance, it’s typical for a web designer to create three completely unique concepts for a website’s design, and to then further iterate underneath each concept with additional versions. These versions could include things like color differences or font changes, but the concepts are each drastically different from each other.
The Benefits of Flexibility
Marketing Managers and Marketing Directors have a reputation for being married to old ideas. Whether we want to or not, it just comes with the territory. The thing is that when you pigeonhole your marketing team’s graphic designers, you’ll stifle their creativity. Think of it as a form of creative micromanagement. No one creates great, new ideas when they’re being micromanaged.
Letting your team run with their ideas and infuse cool design elements while staying within the bounds of your brand identity, is the thing that can make your brand stand out from the competition. Remember, trendsetters don’t box themselves in. They become trendsetters by thinking out of the box.
Giving your team the freedom to explore new ideas for that clever marketing campaign opens the door for more creativity and innovation, and you’ll get a lot more from your creative team.
In the end, the final result may not be what you expected when embarking on the journey, but it’s probably twenty times better than you expected. Additionally, in the post-2020 era, it has become crucial to be able to pivot quickly. You can get ahead and stay ahead by embracing the need to pivot, change, evolve, and iterate. Push initiatives to market faster and assume you’ll be iterating after launch.
You might be wondering, “How can I be more flexible? I have boundaries that I need to work inside of, too.”
How to be Flexible in the Creative Process
Flexibility doesn’t mean that you have to let go of the reins and not establish rules. Rules are important. Establishing your goals from the very beginning and setting expectations will cut out any unnecessary surprises.
Your creative director understands the creative process better than anyone else. Give them the responsibility to set that timeline and adjust it accordingly. They understand what it takes to deliver a great digital marketing campaign that will fit perfectly within your overall marketing strategy.
Be sure to encourage new ideas from the creative services team. Push them to play with new colors and the usage of white space. Have them experiment with different aesthetics and typefaces. Give them the freedom to play and embrace those ideas even if they’re a little out of left field.
This includes giving your team the freedom to experiment by stepping out of the box a little bit. Tell them about your must-haves, define the stakes, provide the context they need (Personas! Research!) and let them run with it.
Give constructive feedback and be kind about it. You’re as much a model of the creative process as they are.
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Collaborating With a Creative Team
Get that leg up on your competition by embracing the fun side of collaboration. Don’t be afraid to explore new ideas because you never know what might make you the next big thing.
Whether you’re designing a cool social media campaign, or diving into a tradeshow design project, your creative director and creative services team understand what each stage involves. This means that no matter how much freedom you give them, they will stay within your timeline and budget.
Let’s create something awesome, together.
P.S. If you’re reading this thinking, this sounds great and all, but I don’t have a creative team. We had to lay them all off last year! It’s just me and Canva over here, trying to make it work. Well. We’ve got good news for you.
You may have noticed that you’re reading a blog on a design company’s website. But did you know that we offer a two-week trial of our services? You could sign up today, spend nothing up front, and be connected with a compatible, expert Creative Director right away. You’ll have a kickoff call to talk through a first project, then you can get two weeks of actual work done before deciding if you want to sign up for one of our monthly plans. Curious? Sign up in the nav menu at the top of the screen.
We’re ready when you are.