The Discovery Process helps unveil expectations, considerations, and needs that a client may not know they should have when working with a Graphic Design and Website Development Agency to form a tailored Brand Strategy. Following a Brand Audit, the Discovery Process is one of the first steps in establishing a client/agency partnership and defining the objectives of the relationship and uncovering potential opportunities to improve strategy. It provides the basis for project milestones and instills confidence that a graphic design agency truly understands the client’s needs, brand identity, and goals.
What is a Discovery Process?
For graphic designers and their clients, Discovery is an information-gathering process that allows both parties to achieve harmony on desired outcomes. While it is the agency’s responsibility to develop and initiate Discovery, it is also an opportunity for each party to get to know each other and build trust, confidence, and credibility. Simply put, agencies do not have all the information they need to execute an effective creative process and deliver the highest quality visuals when they first encounter a client. Similarly, a client may not immediately have all the information and perspectives that can help an agency form the most impactful materials.
A practical and productive working relationship involves processes of familiarization, namely, the Discovery Process. It typically takes the form of a streamlined questioning method targeting descriptions of the client’s stakeholders and the client’s wants and needs. The questions, realistically, begin at the moment an agency begins courting a client. The agency’s first steps should involve determining the fit of both parties, which is informed by possible capacity limits gleaned from initial questions.
Moving forward, Discovery is not limited to a rigid questionnaire, and to be clear, it should not take on a stiff character. Design agencies should feel empowered to take the reins and make Discovery fun and creative while acquiring the information necessary to complete a project that meets the client’s standards.
Discovery is one of many crucial steps in the overall design process. One of its essential purposes is to assist the agency’s team in gaining a better client profile. It is typically an ongoing process that can (and often does) continue through a project’s completion. Discovery can be broken down into smaller steps, but it depends on what is gleaned from the start of the process. The method may involve follow-up interviews or focus groups and, most importantly, research by the design agency. It is vital to remember that Discovery should start before delivering conceptual images of the design.
How is a Discovery Process different from a Brand Audit?
It is very important not to confuse a Discovery Process with a Brand Audit. Though the two are connected, they are entirely different processes. A Brand Audit is a meeting between agency and client to determine how the client perceives itself (audience, style guide, etc). A Discovery Process, on the other hand, goes much more in-depth. It is about researching to discover a brand’s true identity to most effectively execute the creative process. For example, a previous client in the restaurant industry wanted to attract families to their establishment. Through the Discovery Process, we found that they were overwhelmingly attracting hipsters. With this discovery, we helped the establishment form a better marketing strategy that led to increased traffic and boosted revenue.
What does a Discovery Process look like?
Though the Discovery Process occurs early in a client/agency relationship, it is never the first step. Several other things must be established first for the process to be truly effective. At Creative Repute, we start by collecting your existing assets such as your logo if you have one, style guide if you have one, and past marketing materials. This gives us a surface-level overview of your brand identity and strategy, informing us as we work together to refine project milestones.
As we dive deeper into the Discovery Process, we will perform research and review data that will inform us even more about critical aspects of your brand’s strategy, such as your target audience and if it bridges with your current audience from looking at Analytics and Insights. Another consideration that a Design Agency takes is to run colors through tests to see if they stimulate feelings or emotions in observers that will help clients achieve the right impact. Creative Repute also considers accessibility and how a wide range of people might interact with the materials being produced. This will form the basis of your Style Guide (if you don’t already have one) with color codes, fonts, and other style attributes.
Once we enter into the design stage, we also enter into a feedback stage to ensure that you are happy with the direction of our work. This includes running projects through a series of quality tests, such as reviewing how a website looks on all major browsers, computers, and devices. After final approval, all designs are exported into formats that will be useful for your organization moving forward.
What does a Discovery Process include?
A Discovery Process will look slightly different for each client, but it always revolves around the same principles: researching the problem space(s) in a client’s branding strategy, framing the problem(s) to be solved, and gathering enough evidence to determine an effective direction. Discoveries do not involve testing hypotheses or solutions. Rather, they are about achieving clarity to focus on the right things and avoid wasting time on perceived problems that are either of no actual consequence or will do nothing to improve a strategy.
A Discovery Process may include:
– Developing Milestones
– User Personas
– Market Research
– Surveys (both online & in-person)
– Focus Groups
– Mood Boards
– Website Analytics
– Social media Insights
– Heat Mapping
– A/B testing
– Reviewing the news
– Hashtag and keyphrase research
– Mind Mapping
– Flow Charts
– Challenging Assumptions
– User Experience and User Interface
– Accessibility Tests
– Compatibility Tests
What are the benefits of a Discovery Process?
A good Design Agency, such as Creative Repute, LLC knows that the Discovery Process is important for making intentional creative decisions based on the insights and information gathered. The more in-depth this process is, the less room there is for error, and the faster the project will be completed. Therefore, the Discovery Process is an opportunity to save time and establish greater trust and credibility with the prospect.
The best graphic design agencies represent themselves as competent and outgoing, and the Discovery Process is an opportunity to emphasize those characteristics. Agencies should be excited to flex their team’s skill-set during Discovery. Discovery is also an opportunity to know what Agency team members to assign to the client project. Workers become sentient beings as they introduce themselves while describing their passions. On the same hand, organizations delve into their creative reservoirs to demonstrate the breadth of their values. Seemingly disparate fields bridge possible gaps by developing an understanding of their differences and similarities.
What makes a good Discovery Process?
A good Discovery Process enables an agency to name specifics about their client’s profiles and expectations like the back of their hand. It enables the team to make informed decisions during the process with a deep understanding of the client’s potential gathered from Discovery and its subsequent research.
A good Discovery Process ensures that all participating team members get the information they need to execute their creative processes effectively, from writing brand values to designing a style guide and developing a website. At the same time, the client is assured of the proficiency of the agency that they hired. The agency should be able to anticipate and annotate when and what type of follow-up may need to take place for the duration of Discovery.
The research, or the actions taken in response to the information gathered from the initial Brand Audit and the start of the Discovery Process, is both broad and narrow. It is broad in terms of understanding the landscape that the client’s work exists within. The agency needs to understand the client’s market and the client’s standing amongst their peers.
The research appears narrow because it is tailored and helps determine the client and its stakeholders’ respective profiles. These ideas are informed by the client’s interpretation of themselves and their actual market footprint to better comprehend how the agency’s deliverables might impact these dynamics.
If the client is new to their field, similar research is required to understand how, where, and when a client should enter the market. This means that agencies must be able to interpret market data, to some extent, and make calculated decisions on behalf of the client.
In summary, a Discovery Process is a necessary golden opportunity for a graphic design agency to demonstrate its expertise. While gathering relevant information to guide the design process, Discovery encourages agencies to exercise both their creativity and intellectual prowess by imaginatively engaging stakeholders and acquiring essential data to inform the designs. A good graphic design agency needs people with skills in interpreting data, conducting broad and narrow research, various types of editing, and most importantly, confident thinking.
Questions? Get in touch with our team. We’re happy to help.
– Written in collaboration by Nilé Livingston and Cori Shoemaker. Edited by Hagar Elsa.