The D3 – Design Direction Document

It used to be that I would sit with clients and go over different design ideas with them. I would create designs, then tweak them, sometimes even redo them. The design phase of the project took almost 50% of the entire time for the project, and would burn through more than 50% of the enthusiasm for a new project.

I always told the client to tell me what they wanted for the design, and therein lies the problem. I wasn’t the one that needed to know what they wanted their design to look like.

They were.

Somehow, somewhere, “I’ll know when I see it” became an acceptable response from clients. Oh, you know who I’m talking about. Obviously, the fallacy in that is that there is only one correct answer, regardless of the dozens or even hundreds of design ideas you might have. Even if you try to limit your client to three or four design iterations, there’s always “one more thing” to add. Wouldn’t it be better to do away with the guesswork?

Enter The Design Direction Document

We developers love to give our clients homework. It gives us a sense of authority. It puts the ball in their court. We ask clients to research information, collect photos and graphics, finish content, decide on form fields, outline SEO terms, and so on. We don’t want to drag out waiting for the last few bits of information to finally complete the project. As artists, we like to see what materials we have to be inspired by and to create with. So, to the list of homework that clients are assigned, you will now present them with a D3 (call it whatever you like, of course). Fill out this document, you explain, so you’ll have a clear understanding of what they’re looking for. Of course, you know the truth, which is that it will ultimately help them articulate what it is they want. Cunning, eh?

So what is it the clients need to explain to you?

Purpose – What is the purpose of the project in the first place? What led the client to decide to initiate the project? Is there a relevant back story?
People – Do they have a clear picture of who is going to be the audience seeing the results of this project? Do design elements have to be taken into account (multi-lingual, high contrast, large type, ethnicity) because of the audience?
Points – What elements must be included in the project? This could be selling points, a site architecture, or any other piece of information that needs to be conveyed.
Goal – What do you want your audience to do with the information they’ve obtained from your project?
Requirements – What design elements must appear in the project? This includes the logo, tagline, addresses (real and online), colors and so on.
Timeline – What are the real and desired deadlines for the project?

Sounds simple enough, right? Really, it is. The information your clients provide to you can prevent hours of iterative work having to shoehorn in the tagline, or the social media buttons. It will help you with your production schedule by managing deadlines. And most importantly, you didn’t have to do any of the preliminary work yourself.

Incorporate this document into your next project and let me know if using the D3 made it easier and quicker for you to get through the design phase.

I haven’t done an infographic in a while, so for those of you who love my (with much appreciation to of course) infographics, here’s one for the D3. And as a special bonus, I made up a sample D3 for you to download and use.

[button font_size=”20″ color=”#222278″ text_color=”#ffffff” icon=”” url=”/go/d3″ width=”” target=”_self”]Get My D3[/button]


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