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Nailing it the first time: how to dramatically improve your design drafts

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Accepting a first draft can save you a great deal of time and energy when you are working to a deadline or have other designs that you should be working on.

Bbut to accept a draft and develop the perfect graphics first time you must first ensure that you are taking into consideration these essential tips so that you can improve your draft and create an impeccable design, the very first time.

Step 1 – The Design Brief

To create a perfect draft of your design you must first obtain the perfect brief – this isn’t a difficult thing to do once you have asked the correct questions and acquired the crucial information.

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The best design briefs are made by those who are experienced in their field and have encountered clients or customers who know nothing of graphic design.

It is your client’s ignorance of graphic design that often inspires you to produce this exceptional brief, as with it your customers will pose little trouble. The best design briefs include the following questions and prompts:

  • The proposed title of the product/item
  • Objective of the project
  • Target audience
  • The format of the item
  • Where to seek inspiration/What the client has in mind
  • Resources that the designer will be provided with
  • What not to include in the design

Once you have created the brief it’s essential that you have your client complete the form; explain to them that changes can be made to brief at any time and that the brief is the equivalent of the notes that you will be working from.

For more Millo reading on design briefs, read this.

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Step 2 – Impress the client and the audience

One mistake that a lot of us make is focusing solely on the target audience whereas graphic design is about more than impressing the target audience.

If you are making a living out of freelance graphic design it’s essential that your designs not only impress those that it is supposed to impress, but also the client or customer that is paying you for your design.

Impressing the audience and your client can be a tricky business and is something that the majority of those who try will get wrong.

In order to get this right you must get to know your client; once you’ve been through the formalities of the introduction and the brief have a less formal chat with them – once you understand their personality you will better understand how to influence and impress them.

Step 3 – Utilizing Psychology

The best way for you to produce a draft that you will be able to use without having to edit or make major alterations is by understanding the psychology behind certain symbols, colors and type that you may be using.

If you consider the connotations behind every aspect of your design and modify your design accordingly you are more likely to end up with a perfect design that is ready to use straight away.

Some other aspects that you should take into account is what the symbols, colors etc will mean to other age groups; depending upon the client you may decide upon something conventional such as a fish to represent Christianity and faith, but to those with a deeper knowledge of symbolism the fish will represent fertility and the womb.

Mistakes such as this are often the difference between an effective and remarkable logo, and a potential disaster.

What else?

There are many other reasons as to why you should accept your first draft and simply go with what you have already produced; there are also a number of other ways in which you can teach yourself to improve your technique and create a better first draft.

However, the one thing to remember is that either way you must be confident with your design and happy to show it to your customer; if you’re uncomfortable or have doubts about the design your client will subconsciously pick up on these and will also view your work negatively.

What other tricks and tips do you have for nailing it the first time? Comments are here.

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About Paul Kiliminster

Paul Kilminster has been a part of the digital industry and media for quite some time and currently works with Print and Digital Associates. When Paul isn’t working away with pencil in hand he can be found experimenting with designs and the various forms of digital media.

Leave a Comment



  1. A book I’ve found useful when researching the psychology of symbols is “Decoding Design” by Maggie MacNab.

  2. I do feel that using psychology is definitely a great skill to have when dealing with clients. I learned from experience having a poorly written design brief how important having a solid one can be.

  3. Agreed, I find that having a good reason behind my design decisions helps to justify them if a client ever questions certain aspects of the design. Basing our decisions on reason and psychology is a lot more powerful than, “just because.” It also lends credence to the fact that design is just as much science as art.

  4. Making the first draft look like a final draft is something to keep in mind, just go all out and make the client actually see it on a screen instead of just imagining it so the better it looks the better it will go. Figure out what techniques make that particular project shine, take as much info in about their inspiration and figure out what they like best about each inspirational piece.

  5. Personally, I believe if some one deeply understands the point behind the design then he won’t be required to draw things again and again. The point number 3 is also very important, and very few people uses it in real market.

  6. Totally agree about the brief, getting all the information you need from the outset makes a huge difference. If the client provides a very prescriptive list of requirements, then you might have some alternative thoughts worth discussing, so don’t be afraid to challenge the brief where appropriate.


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