The process of creation: Manystuff blog asked designers to explain what they have in mind about that. This is the cover of the collected results as pdf file.

About The Designing Process

What drives graphic designers all through the process of creation: blurry images or a straight approach to the finished product? We might wonder about. I wanted to find out more – and started an online survey via my Manystuff blog, asking two things: When you work, do you think in terms of forms or in terms of a creation process? Do you have a clear vision of your final image or does it come only from an upstream creation process?
And not one, but many designers kindly answered with their drawings and other works: folks like Geoff McFetridge, Pleix, Geneviève Gauckler, Karlssonwilker, We Work For Them.

What did they send back then? No worries, I put everything in a handy pdf file for you to flip through, naming it About The Process. For PingMag I will now describe the making of.

Written by Charlotte Cheetham

As part of “About The Process” survey, every designer’s name was drawn on a mesh by Pierre Vannie. This is the one for Sam Baldwin.
Meditate on the what and meditate more on the how, everything depends on this last one. The what stays in the domain of the sense, but the how becomes idea.
Rudolf Steiner (philosopher and anthroposoph, 1861-1925)

“I barely have a vision of the final image, which is good, otherwise it would be boring,” says Geneviève Gauckler. This is a collage of her research material.


Although today many books propose images, those which ask precise questions about the creation process are few. ABOUT THE PROCESS wanted to see how creation is happening and aimed to be an instantaneous picture of the contemporary graphic creation process. If it succeeds in that, I would like to regard it more as an outline of the working methods and thought processes of designers today.

“All I create is just reflection of me and my feelings…,” says Stanislas Chepurnov.

The initial starter

I was speaking with two of my graphic artist friends about the way they work and how they tackle a project – and naturally both of them saw their process from a completely different angle. They could stand as examples for two certain approaches: Pierre Vanni first of all liked to highlight the challenges and choices of the project before giving them form, whereas Damien Vignaux prefered to work from graphic thought processes and experimentations.

Simon Dixon & Aporva Baxi put it simple: “We tend to be eclectic on our approach.”

Damien Vignaux shows not his work, but the making of. He claims to use both approaches, the form and the upstream creation process.

Why not take it further?

That got me curious and I was asking myself: if and how do they respond to an order? I believed this question might be interesting both for graphic artists and artistic managers. Because some people say that web designers are the new rock stars. But do they work differently than they would do for print design – and if so, how do they work? Do they think in terms of forms or in terms of a creation process? Do they have a clear vision of the final image or does it come only from an upstream creation process? That is why I questioned 37 graphic designers. Some are more, some are lesser known. But even if their initial approaches are not the same, they all agree on one point: their search for coherence between the initial project (the order) and the final result, their work which makes sense in the end.

Pierre Vanni made it short and said – not much.

Analyzing the survey

If I take a look at About The Process, I can draw some conclusions out of it: the greater majority of the participators begins with no precise idea of their result, and usually doesn’t bother to visualize the final image. For example, French uber designer Geneviève Gauckler writes: “I barely have a clear vision of the final image, which is good, otherwise it would be boring”. And Craig Ward mentions: “I very rarely have an idea how a project is going to turn out, and for me that’s half the fun.”

Entertain yourself!

Amazement and making the work exciting are recurrent leitmotivs in many of the designers’ approaches: “Surprise yourself!” says Philip Morris. Indeed, self motivation is the key…

“Surprise yourself!” says Morris Philip, right at the making of one of his graphics.

And what about the tools?

But how do artists actually realize what they imagine or envision in their minds? As you know, the possibilities are many and vary from colour pencils to the computer. But regardless of the tools, seeing a project through to completion is a succession of experimentations, attempts, refusals or refinements. It is an experimental approach, for sure: …discover the best solution to it through experimentations, says Sam Baldwin. And Denny Backhaus from Zucker und Pfeffer explains: “Almost everything I did came from experimenting, from the creation process, trying things, looking at it, trying something else…” No doubt, the pleasure of working lies in surprise, research and experience.

Pete Hughes from Workswatch explains: “I create work based around a structured form and process too.”

Tackling the challenge: a team work

But not only pleasure lies in the process – also problems for sure. Like a student faced with a math problem, the graphic designer is to find the best response to the problem that has been set out in the order. One method comes from Sam Baldwin, stating: I see a finished piece as a resolution to a problem. For those who work as a group, the problem solving goes through a collective thought process, the comparison of ideas, discussion and joint work. For Madame Paris, “the creation process is an addition… a concept created by two minds at the same time… A four handed concept.” Indeed, as the creative process is so often the work of a whole team, it can be quite challenging: “more interesting still is giving other people – photographer, stylist – space to reinterpret the original idea. Then I can take it somewhere unexpected – and expand the limits of the original vision, explains Johan Prag.

Stefanie Barth & Julie Hirschfeld from Stiletto say: “We start visualizing that idea by playing with contrasting visual elements.”

However, others like to work on their own, using images as input, thus taking in a constant flow of shapes, colours and ideas for their creative process. This is what Florence Tétier tries to explain when she says that she likes to immerse herself in the pictorial universe which is the most evocative to [her].

That was nicely put from Florence! And thanks, Charlotte, for your overview. See the whole of her pdf About The Process here.

  • Guyway

    some of the images are very nice.

  • aw3qc

    very nice article.
    i loved manystuff.

  • Charlotte

    ….only one mistake: every graphic designer’s name have been made by Pierre Vanni (so Sam Baldwin’s name have not been made by himself but by Pierre Vanni)


  • Greg J. Smith

    That Pierre Vanni piece is beautiful!

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  • Pingback: » Design as a process

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  • Page Simon

    The link to the pdf doesn’t work. Yours to the page where the “download HERE” work. THAT download doesn’t. I teach design (print only) and would love to read the pdf and to recommen it to my students. Would you e-mail me if it gets fixed?

  • Page Simon

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  • calmiva

    ….only one mistake: every graphic designer’s name have been made by Pierre Vanni (so Sam Baldwin’s name have not been made by himself but by Pierre Vanni

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