• Mark Hannafin

Part 2 - Research and Investigation.

Welcome to part two of the Designer’s Process. You can find part one “The Discovery Session” by following the link below.

The Discovery Session.


In this Blog series, I will be bringing you through my process and what you should expect when working with a Graphic designer. The process is primarily the same for logo design, website design, identity design, content creation and more. This Blog Series aims to help you identify a professional designer and their process. So if you’re thinking about working with a designer and don’t know what to expect this should give you an insight into the process. Remember that a professional designer, will not only make your business look the part but will also help solve some problems on the way.


The keystone of any design project. Now before you think we designers just hop on Pinterest and look for pretty pictures (we do but that’s beside the point), let me reassure you that serious designers will go in-depth on this phase and research comes in many different forms.

Competitor Research.

This is where I start my search. Before I can help you stand out from the crowd in your industry, I need to know what’s out there already. This helps me understand the kind of colours, textures, tone of voice, images, fonts, symbols, and even where they market themselves, what social media platforms they use and if I can find out who their target audience is. This kind of research can be invaluable to you as a client, presented in a document and given to you by the designer. It can help you as a business understand your competitors. That is great and all, but as a designer, my job is not to help you compete, it's to help you create, to be different, to stand out.

Keyword Research

Design research is also known as keyword research is where we jump on Pinterest, Behance, Dribble and many more creative sites and, yes, look at pretty pictures, to a point. We take what we discussed in the discovery and research images, logos, posters, websites, app’s and more to find designs that align with the description of your business. Often when discussing things with clients, designers are given words like, professional, simple, modern, young, to name a few basic terms clients ALWAYS use. It is our job to take these words and bring them to life visually; to create a so-called visual language for your business.

This is a huge part of the design journey and should be shared with you, the client. For this, I create a Dropbox folder for myself and my client to put things in. I share all the research with the company so they can see exactly what I am looking at.

Research Presentation

At this point, you may not have heard from your designer in about two weeks but you have a folder of images and don’t know where to start. Don’t worry - your designer will bring it all together in a presentation. And yes, if you’re wondering if research really takes two weeks, let me tell you it can last longer! The more time given at the stage, the better the end product will be.

In the presentation, I will break the research down into 4 or 5 different areas. First, competitor research, where your designer will discuss what they found and the trends running through the industry. Then Keyword research, which can be broken down into three areas of Hot, Medium and Mild. In the example below, I break down the keywords given to me by the client and present them accordingly. We discuss the findings and what the client dislikes and likes, thus giving the designer a better understanding of the direction to go in when designing.


What is a Stylescape? It is a combination of research that includes Colour, Font, Texture and Images, to create a persona, or a style that the business may look like and how this applies to their ideal client. A Stylescape brings together what the business is, why it does what it does, who it is targeting and represents it visually, using colours textures and fonts that align with the keywords.

At this point, the client will be able to see more clearly just how their business may look and feel to their audience, and discuss what kind of direction they wish to move in. As we look at the three examples below, you will see the difference in the three styles. This helps the designer and client guage best which direction works aka. Hot, Medium or Mild. Sometimes clients will like aspects from one Stylescape, let us say “hot” and other parts form, say “Medium” at which point the designer may need to refine the Stylescape to incorporate elements from each to create a Stylescape that best represents the direction the company wants to go in.

Please remember if you do get presented with a Stylescape, that this is not your brand identity but is a combination of research and will give better direction to the designer and something both the client and designer can refer back to when the real designing begins.

Only when the Client is happy with what the designer has come up with, will any kind of designing actually start. The process may appear OTT (Over The Top) when it comes to just getting a logo. However, often when you are just getting a logo you will also need basics of a brand identity to use on your website, social media business cards, flyers, invitations, posters, etc. A designer will best help you do this, and remember also, your logo is not your brand it is only used to distinguish you as a business.

To conclude, Research and Investigation are most important in finding out what other businesses in the same industry are doing to communicate to their audience and attract their ideal clients. All this research may be invaluable to you as the client and help to aid you in your business development. This research is also vital to the design process as in developing your brand identity and logo that is different and unique. As we live in a time where people are bombarded with advertising and different offers almost every minute of the day it is more important than ever to stand out. This is the advantage of working with a professional designer.

This is the second in a series of blogs and posts on what to expect when working with a professional graphic designer. Please keep an eye out on my page for more. You can follow me on:

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Thanks for reading.