13 September 2010


The Design Process: Do it your way


I’ve always longed to find a design process that just works, but I’ve never really found one.

There is much talk of the design process on the web, how one should start with brainstorming, then sketch some rough ideas before moving onto more solid wireframes and so on. I’ve never really followed these conventions. I used to tell people I did but I was lying. I felt stupid admitting the truth, which was – I didn’t really have a design process… at least not in a textbook kind of way and not one I ever repeated on a regular basis.

The truth is

There is no such thing as a textbook design process. Different projects require different approaches and different designers have different approaches. So, don’t ever think you’re doing it wrong or that you should really be following the rules that somebody else set out. If it works for you, then that’s fine.

The moral of the story

Design processes are interesting and we can learn a lot from each other by sharing them, but it’s really the outcome that matters. So, when it comes to finding a design process that works, I do it my way and you should do it yours.


  1. Sean Nieuwoudt

    13 September 2010 | 3:37 pm

    I have to fully agree with you on this.

    I’ve found that each project tends to mould your creative process in a different direction a little bit each time.


  2. TheFella

    13 September 2010 | 3:40 pm

    Well said!

  3. Robert Banh

    13 September 2010 | 3:45 pm

    Well said. Well said.

  4. BPM

    13 September 2010 | 4:06 pm

    I’ve been struggling to find a design process that works for me.
    Each project I do requires a different approach.

  5. WinGer

    13 September 2010 | 4:07 pm

    I’m an amateur in Web Design and I love to read.
    At the beginning I read more and more articles about designing processes: first pencil+paper, second PS o FW, thrid etc…
    And finally I’ve come to the same conclusion as you, depends on the project.
    I’ve made websides where I first had to draw some icons and logos, others that could be done just with HTML+CSS and started directly with Coda.
    My final advise with this theme is to stick to whatever you fill more comfortable.

    PS: Looking forward to read more post about your thoughts, works and designing processes :)

  6. James

    13 September 2010 | 4:18 pm

    The outcome is definitely most important.

    I would add, though, that beyond different projects, and different designers being better suited to one approach over another – that there are two other elements worth considering.

    First, interaction with the rest of the project team (if it’s more than just you). In order for everybody to work together effectively towards a common, desired outcome, individuals need to be able to adapt their own processes and compromise when needed. Learn from others and be willing to teach. Be considerate.

    Second, managing expectations and working with the client. The success or failure of the outcome (for better or worse) is often determined by how the client receives the work. They have expectations and work processes all their own, and it pays (literally) to take that into account. Communicate your plans and manage your client’s expectations throughout the project, and the outcome is more likely to be received well by them.

    Be considerate of other people’s preferences and find effective ways to adapt and work together, just as you expect them to do the same for you.

  7. Ryan

    13 September 2010 | 5:03 pm


  8. Ryan Carson

    13 September 2010 | 6:01 pm

    Amen brother :)

  9. Johannes Leuchovius

    13 September 2010 | 7:48 pm

    well said, I’ve had kind of similar thoughts lately. I’ve always used my own process but lately I’ve read a lot of design process articles and felt that nobody elses process fits for me. And as you guys already said, every project has his own process.

  10. Eugene

    13 September 2010 | 10:05 pm

    The only time I come back to any sort of real process is when I am stuck or without any real inspiration for the piece I am working on. Otherwise it I just use whatever tool works best for solving the current problem.

  11. Ziv Meltzer

    14 September 2010 | 10:17 am

    Just like @Eugene – am only trying “traditional” processes when I’m stuck.

  12. Christopher Pinches

    15 September 2010 | 10:04 am

    Some good ponts. Also If a concept isn’t working come away from it and take a completely different route. Step away and give your subconscious mind a chance to solve the problem. The subconscious mind is a key thing to understand for creative’s…essentially knowing when to step away.

  13. Christopher Pinches

    15 September 2010 | 10:06 am

    One more point! Creativity demands abundance, so make it your objective to take lots of different routes without too much critical thought. The best artists are prolific…be similarly prolific…don’t think too hard; instead just do it!

  14. Patrick Branigan

    15 September 2010 | 6:14 pm

    Couldn’t agree more ;)

  15. Mike Kus

    17 September 2010 | 8:28 pm

    Thanks for your comments guys. Great to hear your thoughts on the subject.

  16. Greg Laws

    21 September 2010 | 10:51 pm

    I definitely agree with you Mike. Designing is a process, just like cooking is. But there’s no recipe in design. Every time it’s a little bit different.

    That said, when I’m working on a new design I’m most conflicted between thinking about content first, or coming up with a visual theme first. I know there are no right answers, but do you have any thoughts on how you typically approach this?

  17. John Barnes

    22 September 2010 | 2:35 pm

    Though I can see where you are coming from, I personally have found adopting a process to be beneficial.

    Obviously it can change slightly depending on project, it generally follows the – objectives – wireframe – design – build using HTML/Javascript pattern.

    I just find this works for me, and since I adopted it my work has been more effective.

    I think the benefits it has brought is to give me more focus and direction, I know where to start, what to do next etc etc.

    Also by going through these steps I reduce the amount of changes required later on in the process, when changes are more difficult to make. Its easier to change the wireframe, than the HTML/CSS.

    Just some thoughts anyway.


  18. Bruno Bergher

    30 September 2010 | 10:05 pm

    I completely understand where you are coming from, and wouldn’t disagree that ‘no process’ is a process that works.

    But I think some kind of common understanding of how a project should proceed comes into play when multiple people are involved.

    Hard rules, written on a policy book and locked behind a glass door are not the way to go, for sure, but when you need to have 5 people collaborating on the same project and moving forward with minimal friction, you’ll end up with some ground rules.

    I’d be curious to know how collaboration works for you in a daily basis? Are you usually involved with other designers in your projects? How about engineers — do you design everything and then hand them something to be implemented or do you iterate along with the implementors, figuring out details as you go?


    - Bruno

  19. Byron Rex

    14 October 2010 | 6:46 pm

    Design = Art.
    Art = defy process.


  20. badmash

    23 October 2010 | 1:57 pm

    I just signed up to your blogs rss feed. Will you post more on this subject?

  21. Josephine Jost-Crous

    06 March 2013 | 2:43 pm

    Seems I’m a bit (a few years) late for the party but I love this piece of advice (or anti-advice), couldn’t agree more

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    05 April 2013 | 12:50 pm

    [...] I stumbled upon these wise words by Mike Kus a little late but everyone who works in design should read this [...]

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