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Targeted Design Directions to Help Guide the Graphic Design Process

By: Sheri L. Koetting
Posted: February 21, 2014, from the March 2014 issue of GCI Magazine.

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A well-defined creative brief with targeted design directions provides a solid framework to operate within, rather than having an “anything goes” approach. From a creative perspective, this does not stifle creativity; it helps to focus and channel it by breaking a complex assignment into smaller problems to solve.

Targets Large and Small

Targeted design directions can take a number of forms and are highly dependent on the specific assignment and its complexity.

Sometimes a well-defined assignment may only have one direction to explore. For example, a smaller-scale packaging assignment may narrow down the exploration to only three to five attributes. In this situation, a designer could produce multiple variations within one target. The success of each variation can be now measured against the creative brief, as opposed to people’s arbitrary likes or dislikes. This helps uphold objectivity throughout the process, keeping everyone’s personal preferences in check.

A larger-scale, more complex packaging assignment may have up to three targeted design directions identified from the outset. (Generally, MSLK recommends a maximum of three targeted design directions.) Each direction should emphasize different attributes, dialing up one key area of exploration. In the case of existing brands, these directions typically include a range of exploration from an evolutionary approach to a more revolutionary one.

A Saner Approach to the Creative Process

With a process that favors a more targeted approach, the design phase can be focused. In turn, the decision-makers will be better prepared to review the resulting creative. Naturally, people will have a visceral reaction to the solutions (such as, “I love it!” or “I am not sure about that shade of blue...”), but at least everyone has a clear sense of the goals to be achieved from the outset.

While there are many factors that go into a successful design, MSLK has found a smart process from the outset helps reduce uncertainty and anxiety. Using targeted design directions before any design is created leads to a more collaborative process, helping to manage expectations and ensure better creative.

Sheri L. Koetting is the co-founder and chief strategist of MSLK, a marketing and design agency based in New York. MSLK specializes in helping beauty brands find their voice in today’s crowded marketplace through 360° brand positioning—from overall brand strategy to brand identity, packaging, retail experience, websites and social media campaigns.;