The Importance of Discovery During Design
When I work with a client for a brand identity design, my favorite part of the process is the discovery phase.
I love the definition and synonyms for discover: find (something or someone) unexpectedly or in the course of a search; root out, dig up, uncover.
That word “unexpectedly” is so beautiful. And I think it is integral to the discovery process. It leaves room for the magic to unearth what the design needs to be. During the discovery phase there is not a particular answer that is being discovered. Rather something that has yet to be unearthed.
The initial discovery phase enables me and my client to be the first to find this amazing nugget of information that eventually leads to design inspiration, color, logo design, and maybe something else we didn’t know we’d dig up. The discovery phase recognizes and enables the potential for new life in a brand identity.
Why is discovery so important?
Clients hire me to design a specific “deliverable”, such as a logo or website. What they don’t usually realize is how much more than that they will get. And it all starts in the discovery phase.
The discovery process has many layers to it. On the base layer it is a series of questions that I ask clients so I can better understand them. Questions such as: Why did you start your business? Do you have a specific process working with your clients? What benefit can you provide to your clients that they can’t obtain elsewhere? All of the questions dive into topics such as business history, offerings, what sets them apart, audience, how they want to be perceived, and their business goals, many of which they have never taken the time to think deeply about.
My client base is creative professionals who work in spheres such as writing, photography, and public relations. They have creative minds and they do a lot of thinking and strategizing for other people, but not for themselves. These creative professionals need and benefit from the discovery process the most! Creative clients need space to think and dream about their business. I help facilitate this process and become their sounding board.
What happens is something quite extraordinary: when creatives go through a process of discovery, it ends up being a process of self-discovery. They end up learning much, much more about who they are as a creative professional. This is the part of discovery the clients don’t know they need, and it ends up being remarkable to them.
“It’s important to take the time to delve into the ‘why’ of your business as well as the ‘what.’ This really does make a difference in what you are able to pull out in terms of mood, style, and color. The best logos are those that convey the ‘why’ graphically, and of course the owner will identify more closely and be more satisfied with the result.”
Why is discovery so important?
Here’s are a couple of clients who had the experience of discovering more than they anticipated.
Amy Sussman is a portrait photographer based in NYC whose been in business for almost 10 years. This is her first time investing in a logo design and website. When asked if she learned anything new about her business during our discovery sessions, she found what she called “clarity and distinction.”
“I have been in business for awhile but have never really taken the time to look at what I do that may differ from others and what I can offer potential clients that others can’t. By being able to write down and answer your questions, I got a better sense of what I do, what I can provide to clients, how my business is perceived, and what direction I am looking to move toward. It gave me a sense of clarity, direction and confidence.”
Karen Guth is a business consultant who came to me for logo design and brand identity, which included helping her find her business name. “For me, the discovery phase was very important. I didn’t know at the outset what I wanted to invoke with my name or logo, and this was as much a self-discovery process for me as it was a naming process.”
She was able to learn new things about how she wants to portray her business to the world: “All the questions really led me to examine and articulate how I wanted to be in business. This then became how I wanted to present myself.”
Karen found the discovery phase to be integral to the whole design process. “It’s important to take the time to delve into the ‘why’ of your business as well as the ‘what.’ This really does make a difference in what you are able to pull out in terms of mood, style, and color. The best logos are those that convey the ‘why’ graphically, and of course the owner will identify more closely and be more satisfied with the result.”
Dig for the answers, and be open for the unexpected
I think of the discovery phase as digging up the awesome. Finding the delights and strengths a client has, that were there all along, that they didn’t know how to articulate. Investing in the time and energy for discovery lays an important foundation to designing a reinvisioned way to show one’s business to the world.
I love being able to shine a light in the things my clients weren’t able to see, but were always there.