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October 25, 2022
December 14, 2023

The Ultimate Guide to the Graphic Design Workflow - Artwork Flow

Mrignayni Pandey

The Ultimate Guide to the Graphic Design Workflow - Artwork Flow

October 25, 2022
December 14, 2023
Mrignayni Pandey


It’s not uncommon for different designers to adopt different graphic design processes. However, when it comes to working on multiple projects, it’s good to follow a step-by-step workflow to streamline the design process without compromising on the results and client satisfaction. 

This is where a graphic design workflow comes in. It’s a checklist or a graphic design standard operating procedure (SOP) of sorts that outlines all the creative design process steps

In this article, we’ll detail why a graphic design workflow is important and how you can create one for your organization. 

Let’s start with the benefits of a creative workflow process.

Why you should create a graphic design workflow

A solid graphic design workflow helps you manage the project better and ensures that your final deliverable exceeds the client’s expectations. Here’s how:

  • It keeps you organized:  An established creative design process enables you to estimate task duration accurately. You’ll also have a clear picture of how to start the project and the next steps ahead. 
  • It boosts efficiency:  With a solid graphic design process in place, you don’t have to think about the next steps each time you work on a new project. This streamlines your creative  workflow process and improves productivity.
  • It helps you see the bigger picture: A design workflow process fills in all the information gaps and gives your team clarity on their tasks which ultimately helps them deliver a satisfactory output. 

6 steps that make up an efficient graphic design workflow

Here are the steps your graphic design process must consist of to enable your team to deliver quality design consistently to clients. 

1. Review the brief with your team

The design brief contains all the essential information your team will need to start the project. Ideally, it shouldn’t be more than two pages and must include the following details:

  • Background information: Tells your team who the client is, their product,  the niche they’re selling to, their target audience, and the point of contact. 
  • Project goals: Dives deep into what the client aims to accomplish through the project. For instance, your clients may give you a rebranding project to improve their brand awareness. 
  • Competitor information: This will help you understand how to make your client stand apart and be seen by their customers. 
  • Brand guidelines: Helps your team understand the look and style your client is going for. This will dictate the font style and brand color scheme and decide how other important brand elements like logos should be designed. 
  • Due date: Guides you in your decisions around resource management and budgeting. 

Image source: Envato Elements

2. Go all in on research

The brief gives you a lot of valuable information to start with, but you’ll have to engage in research to understand the needs of your client’s target audience and figure out how your design will help them stand out. 

Here’s a list of questions your research should be able to answer: 

  • What type of designs does their target audience respond well to?
  • How does the competition use design to set themselves apart?
  • What graphic design choices has the client made in the past?

Once you’ve answered these questions, you can even set up a meeting with the client to ask more questions and share your ideas to better understand what they’re looking for. 

3. Brainstorm ideas with your team

Now that you’ve got a clearly defined problem at hand, you need to brainstorm ideas to solve them. Here are some tips for conducting a productive brainstorming session:

  • Choose someone to be the facilitator for the session and guide the team back on the right path if they go off on a tangent. 
  • Take some time to discuss the problem statement, so everyone understands it. Then, write it down on a whiteboard. This simple step greatly improves the quality of creative ideas you get from a session. 
  • Set a time limit for your team to brainstorm ideas. Depending on the complexity of the problem, anywhere between 15 and 60 minutes is a good place to start. 
  • Record all the ideas on sticky notes and display them on the whiteboard. Focus on the quantity and refrain from evaluating or judging ideas at this point.
  • Get a different group to assess all the ideas or hold a healthy discussion internally to hone in on the best ideas to move forward. 

4. Create a mood board 

A mood board, also called an inspiration board, is a collage of images, material samples, colors, and typography that portrays the “look” of a project.

Image source: Tubik Blog

It helps you refine the ideas you acquired in the previous step by swapping out different elements and collaborating with your team. Plus, it helps communicate your ideas to the client and get feedback from them. 

Here’s how you can get started with creating a mood board:

  • Choose the format: Your mood board can be digital or physical depending on the project requirement, your client’s location, and the amount of time you spend online or offline.

    For example, if textures are an important part of your product, you’d go for a physical mood board. If you do a lot of your research online, you’ll be better off with a digital mood board. 
  • Collect the mood board elements: Look at vintage illustrations, artworks, nature photography, etc., to search for elements you’ll add to the board.
  • Present your board: Put your mood board together and present it to your client or team members. 

5. Make a rough sketch of your ideas and get feedback

Mood boarding and brainstorming should give you enough ideas to get started. Now, you’ve got to convert those ideas into rough designs to arrive at one you can start digitizing. 

You can use a digital medium like an iPad  or simply use a pen and paper to create a rough sketch of the ideas you brainstormed. 

After the rough sketch is complete, get internal feedback to improve a few aspects of the design and submit them to the client for external feedback. 

External feedback is important for two reasons: 

  • It leads to fewer revisions in the future. 
  • If the changes are outside the scope of what was given in the brief or take more time to incorporate, you can communicate with the client and make adjustments beforehand to meet their expectations. 

6. Start working on the project

Now comes the hard part — working on the designs and shipping the end product to the clients. 

In this stage, using a dedicated project management tool will help you optimize your workflow, submit the project on time, and minimize the number of edits. However, it's essential to consider a specialized workflow system like Artwork Flow.

Yes, we know  the handbook of project management for graphic designers includes generalized tools like Asana, Trello, or Basecamp, or worse, emails and texts. 

But that has to change because it’s difficult to maintain accountability and easy for feedback or important project details to be lost in a bunch of emails and text. 

Artwork Flow is a dedicated artwork management tool and workflow automation software that streamlines your communication, adds clarity to your projects, and makes gathering feedback a breeze. 

Here are some features and tools that’ll help you:

  • Workflows: Create a workflow from existing templates or build one from scratch using a highly visual workflow builder that lets you create complex workflows at scale. You can assign these tasks to specific team members to inject accountability and distribute workload evenly. 
  • Checklists: Enable your team members to do a solid quality check before submitting the task to your review team, so there are fewer edits and delays. 
  • Proofing tools: Help your review team catch errors they might otherwise miss. 
  • Digital Asset Management (DAM): Store all artwork-related files in a single place, track all the changes made to your artwork, and restore any artwork version as needed. Think of it as Google Docs but for your artwork. 
  • Annotation: Gather feedback from internal and external stakeholders in a single place so designers can work on them without missing any feedback. 

After you’ve collected  incorporated  all the feedback, do an internal check to see if you’ve incorporated the feedback and if your final product embodies your client’s expectations before delivering it. 

Wrapping up 

A solid design workflow process helps you deliver projects that exceed your client’s expectations. 

The steps mentioned above should help you create a process that works for your team and improves productivity. 

If you want to go further in multiplying this productivity and collaborating better with internal and external stakeholders, use a creative collaboration software like Artwork Flow. 

It helps you track progress, proofreads the artwork for you, and shows feedback from all stakeholders in a single place. This eliminates any confusion and minimizes project delays. 

If you’d like to learn more about how Artwork Flow can help your team, sign up for a free demo today.

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