The Design phase is where your concepts and ideas start taking tangible shape. It’s the point where your team starts creating the visual elements, animations, 3D models, videos and audio that will make up the final experience. It's also a phase during which your creative team can experiment on the concept direction, iterate with the technical team, and finally land on the best representation of the original vision.
This is a much shorter chapter as the producer is less of a driving force in this phase, you’ll need to make sure everyone on your team has everything they need and can deliver on time for client reviews and technical integration.
There can be a loss of information between the Discovery and the Design phase if new team members come onto the project, make sure to record a briefing video walking through the requirements and approved concept, and make all of the necessary elements accessible to the team.
This recording will also be useful for vendors or specialists joining the project later, avoiding you having to repeatedly book multiple people on new briefing calls when they could be spending that time elsewhere.
Once the teams have been briefed I like to start building a list of assets that we need to produce, with the individuals or vendors responsible, to get an overview and begin reverse-engineering a more detailed timeline for the phase with its own dependencies. This timeline is collaborative helps reduce anxiety
Designing creative assets is not a one-size-fits-all process, each platform has its own set of considerations.
Is the audience primarily on mobile? Mobile designs need to be straightforward and highly intuitive, given the smaller screen size. Or is this a desktop-only experience? Desktop designs can be a little more complex, allowing for more detailed visuals and complex interactions.
Other principles apply for mixed-reality platforms or social media, consider the restrictions and context in the design process.
Sometimes hundreds of smaller elements need to come together to build up a project, having guidelines to ensure consistency is not only helpful, its essential. Make sure the Art Director has set those guidelines in an accessible format for everyone to have: typography, photography or 3D moodboards, colors, imagery, iconography, and animations.
Continue to regularly engage the client during the phase for feedback and approval. This iterative process of review and refinement ensures that the final design aligns with the client's expectations and vision. Be prepared for multiple rounds of revisions as you fine-tune the design assets.
I suggest continuously adding to the production journal, and presenting new slides on the same document at each review. If a question (or challenge) on previous iterations is asked you’ll have access to those assets (or designs) immediately.
I also recommend using the same approach in Figma to keep things organised, have the team start a new page in the project file for each iteration to keep track of older designs and be able to reference back to them when needed.
Preparing for the Development Phase
Once you have approval on all creative assets and designs, it's time to start planning the Development phase.
Start by double checking that all the design assets are finalized, approved, and prepared for handoff to the development team. This means having the team export assets in the right formats:
- designs need to include multiple breakpoints for different devices
- style guides and manuals
- for 3D files you’ll need to double check that they have been optimised by the designer for integration in the WebGL scene
- documenting animation principles and sequences (for 3D or 2D elements)
- finalizing audio files
These assets should be available in a clear folder structure for new developers to understand intuitively.
Sometimes you’re on a short timeline, or probably most of the time. Maybe the project is so ambitious that you’ll need the technical team prototyping alongside the creative team from the very beginning. In these scenarios, the creation of creative assets and development work often happen simultaneously.
Either way the approach and organisation for the creative team is more or less the same however the feedback cycles from the technical team will be much faster. You’ll need to run both phases in tandem - fortunately you’re often not alone when this happens.
The one thing to keep in mind when this happens is to plan buffer time between the expected delivery date of a creative asset and the planed integration by a developer - otherwise you’ll have some stalled developers on the team.