When I began designing stuff a few years ago, my first step would be to sit down at my computer, browse the web, and look for ideas. I would go to Designspiration or Behance and search "poster", "layout", "menu design", "vintage", etc. Then I would open Illustrator or Photoshop, and start by recreating a sample from the internet, and change enough stuff to erase the chance that someone would know it was copied from someone else. This was not ideal, because I really wasn't designing anything at all. Well I was making my own illustrations, logos, photos, etc. but the majority of the important part of the design - the grid system, layout ideas, and organizational structure (the hard stuff) - was coming from someone else.
So I decided to take a step back. I looked at my process and decided that I needed to just change the order of it, and add one more thing: sketching.
Now before I do anything I use my notebook and a pencil and think through the problem first. I write down a set of questions and answer each of them:
- What are we building? Why?
- What are the requirements for a successful design?
- What messages do we want to convey to the viewer / customer?
- What specific things will we need to create and complete?
The questions aren't the same for every project fyi, you just use your brain and ask yourself a bunch of stuff about the project at hand.
And then you sketch.
I realized that not only am I not good at drawing, the reason I'm not good at drawing is because I really don't know any of the theory about how to draw. So I watched some tutorials on product design sketching and that really helped a lot.
I found that the most important thing about sketching is to know how to draw perspective. Two-point perspective to be more precise. It really makes your drawings better and more realistic looking.
I'm still just beginning to learn, but the goal is to be as good at drawing as an industrial designer is. So I've been practicing product design sketching the most.
One of the great parts about sketching out your ideas when working on a project is so that you can show them to your client during the initial meetings. It lends credibility to your skills, and makes your client realize, "wow, this designer really is a good designer", I find that clients are always very impressed by it and lights a big smile on their face as they look through them.
After I sketch out all my ideas then I go look online for ideas, and I actually find that I don't really need the online inspiration as much as I used to. So yeah, sketching is now the most important part of my process.