Map out your step-by-step design process

Designers- are you stumbling through your design process? Have you mapped out your process on paper (or onscreen), or have you never bothered to because you don't have time?

Here's the danger with having a process in your mind and not writing it down:

You forget things.

That email signature that's part of your design package? You totally forget it until the client points out that you haven't done it yet.

That logo that only includes two revision rounds? You complete four revision rounds without realizing because you don't tick them off as you go through them.

That training session you're meant to offer clients at the end of your project? You're left feeling stupidly unprofessional because your client had to remind you of it.

All these things happen when you don't map your process out and use it to guide all of your projects.

I know because these things used to happen to me.

In my first year as a graphic designer, I winged my design process. I relied on my memory to recall the stages that were next, but that always resulted in me forgetting certain parts of the process.

Then I tried mapping my design process out. I designed a beautiful PDF containing my process and I saved it to a folder on my computer, feeling proud and satisfied that my design projects would run quicker and more smoothly now I had a PDF process I could follow for each project.

The only problem?


I hate to say it, but I didn't even bother opening my PDF after I'd made it. It just sat gathering dust on my computer until it got deleted by accident.

Let me put another scenario to you.

Maybe you don't even fully know what should be in your design packages.

Maybe you're a beginner and you're unsure if you should be including two revision rounds or three?

Or if you should offer email support at the end of your projects or not?

Today's article is going to help you see the exact steps you should be including in your design process, and how to map it out somewhere you won't forget it. (I dive into the design process even deeper in Organize & Automate!)

Download The Free Design Process Cheatsheet

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Map out your brand & web design process

My exact design process is in the free cheatsheet above. Download it if you think you'd like to see an example before you create your own!

Here's a breakdown of the sections you should include in your design process. 

Related post: 10 things designers need to streamline


These are the tasks that need to be done before you start designing. These tasks are usually for your client to complete and include things like handing over the text & photos for their website, or completing the design questionnaire you gave them. 

Ask yourself- what do you need from the client before you can start designing? What do you need to do to prepare for a successful project? Would it be helpful to hop on Skype and discuss the client's completed questionnaire before you begin designing?

The key to having a successful project is making sure you and your client are both fully prepared. Click to tweet!

Mapping out the pre-work will make sure you are armed with all the files and information you need to begin.

Designers who don't really know what they need before starting the project usually end up chasing their clients for files or delaying the project because they don't have everything they need. 


In this part of the process, I want you to map out every little task you go through. 

Ask yourself- how many initial logo concepts are you going to send your client? How many revision rounds are included? How many logo variations will you create? How do you usually start the branding process, and how do you end it?

Write down everything you usually include in your branding process, then go through it and see if there's anything you left out, or anything that could be added to improve your process. 

It's especially important to map this part of your process out because there are usually a lot of revision rounds here. When you've documented how many revision rounds you include etc, it's easier to keep track of how many you complete as you go through your projects. 

Website Design

Ask yourself- how many revisions should I include? Should I create a mockup of the website first in Illustrator/Photoshop, or should I just design on the live website? Will I add the client's copy to the website or not? Am I going to be responsible for spellchecking their website or not? How will my client be able to view the website? How will I transfer the website over to my client? 

If you can, get as detailed as you can when mapping out your design process. 

Related post: How to set up and stick to weekly batch days


This is the final stage of your design process. At this point, you need to decide if you are going to wait for their final payment to go through before giving them their final files (I definitely recommend it.)

Are you going to offer them tech support for a specified period of time? Are you going to give them access to a client area on your website? Are you going to offer them a one-on-one training session? How are you going to send them their final files?

Give this part of your process real thought. If you end your process quickly and unprofessionally, it can tarnish the experience for your client. You want to make sure your client feels happy and excited about working with you right through to the very end of your process.

Where should you map out your design process?

I like to map my process out in my project management tool, Asana, so I can follow my process again and again with each new project and tick off tasks as my client and I complete them. 

I show you how to map out your design process in my course, Organize & Automate!

Download The Free Design Process Cheatsheet

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Nesha Woolery

I build beautiful brands & websites for passionate entrepreneurs!