It took me awhile to realize that the design process is just as important as the final product. When I was first starting out I wanted to rush the process and race to the final design as fast as I possibly could. I have come to appreciate the journey that each design takes and realized that the following steps below help to make a successful design.
Concept is the foundation of any successful design -' it's like design DNA. Before I touch the computer or even start sketching, I figure out what I am trying to say conceptually. The concept provides the direction for the entire project. Without a solid concept its almost impossible to create a lasting design.
One of the most underrated steps to design is getting to know your client. Figure out who they are as a company, where they think their brand is now and where they want it to be. Graphic design is art for hire -' it isn't personal, so don't let your ego get in the way of creating something that meets the clients needs. Take notes when you meet with them and research the project to make sure you are reaching the correct audience. Do your best to reflect the brand and not just your personality.
A successful design is a simple one. Get rid of as much ornamentation "bells and whistles" as you can. Simplify any obvious aspects to leave what is essential to the core of the design. Simplicity is surprisingly difficult to achieve. Consider how the design will reproduce and make sure there is flexibility in size. Does it hold up small on a business card as well as it does on a billboard?
The ultimate goal is to produce a timeless design. You don't want it to look dated within a few months or even years. Everyone wants their work to look 'current', but what is popular right now may not be tomorrow. Stealing clear of trends helps ensure that your work will stand the test of time.