How does a design project work?

These and 6 other frequently asked questions (FAQ) are of great interest to our customers and clients.

1. -> What are the design costs?
2. -> Design rights – who owns the design?
3. -> What risks does the designer bear?
4. -> How can the quality of the design performance be measured?
5. -> For whom does a design agency work?
6. How does a design project work?
7. -> How do I start a design project?


This is the second part in a series of articles to help you with some often confusing design situations. In this part, we will answer some important design-related questions in hopes of alleviating common issues that come up between designers and their clients.

No one design job is like another. Indeed, every design project is unique, nevertheless there still tend to be some similarities. We usually work in stages or phases, and traditionally there are 3 phases:

1) Analysis and Ideation

2) Design Development

3) Realization

These three phases are clearly distinguished and contain distinct milestones. In the analysis and ideation phase, the general design directions are determined with several directions (usually three) presented at the end of the phase. A selection must be made in order to ensure that the intense, detail-oriented design development process comes at a reasonable cost. Upon successful completion of the design development phase, the results are put into actual practice and are realized, e.g. through mechanical design direction, mass production or a final drawing for a packaging layout.

Time frames and dates
Each phase requires a set time frame, and is coordinated with fixed dates in the project plan. It should always be taken into consideration that the review and decision-making processes between the different phases also have specific durations; the more decision makers involved, the more extensive these intervening stages can be. If at all possible, we schedule each stage as “sporty”, which is another way of saying we like to exert pressure to get things done as quickly as possible. Spending too much time on the design work can be less effective than applying pressure to meet a deadline.

Cooperation in the project
The design team must share their progress on a regular basis, both with the project managers and the customer, who should be granted transparent access. The intensive monitoring of the project from the customer side is highly appreciated and contributes significantly to the quality of results, in part because the design team needs a solid customer contact and a direct path to the decision-makers. Even if the management is not always involved as deeply as it was during the Steve Jobs era at Apple, design remains a challenge and responsibility for management.

Either way, do not hesitate to ask us. It all begins with the first contact – and it’s best to do it sooner rather than later!

 Written by Markus Wild

Additional links:

Information on administering your design business

Reimbursement contract guidelines

This article in German

How do I start a design project?

How can we measure the quality of design performance?
One More Angle of 360 Degree Design
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An ambitious designer with invaluable thoughts and creativities.

Originally written by Miriam Dabrowa, 30. April 2013. Last updated 15. September 2019


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