Five Steps To Approach Design

I adore comments I get on my layouts. Unfortunately, the only graphic skills of mine that are present for my viewers to see are my layouts and I’d hope that you all would do nothing but want to see more besides my layout designs. That’s why I’m going to be opening a portfolio soon so I can showcase other things I like to make.

Truth be told, I’m not at all the best coder in the world. I love coding but I’d pick designing a graphic in a heartbeat before being asked to code. The image on the left was my first attempt creating my new layout for March before I decided to go with the one I’m using now. I just wanted to inform all of you what I go through and how I achieve the designs that I do.

Obviously, my first attempt I was unhappy with, and as I discuss the steps I take creating designs, you’ll eventually see why I ended up going with this red NYC theme over that teal/green one on the top left. If you’ve ever wondered how I approach my designs then you should check out my post on web design.


Inspiration for my designs is vital, but unlike most people, I don’t go looking for it. I feel that if I’m going to design something, forcing an idea to come will show in the final product. Realizing this, I let my ideas come to me. This usually is a good thing for me and my work because that way I won’t be exactly mimicking my inspiration, but instead, I’ll be adding a flare of my creativity with an idea that hit me. The whole point of being inspired is not to duplicate what you’ve seen, but to take the concept and run with it implementing your own skills and creativity.

Typically, my inspiration comes from my mood. My mood plays a major role in my designing because how I feel usually coincide with what objects and concepts appeal to me. If I’m down or sad, dark designs and colors stand out to me more and I become drawn to everything that could possibly represent the depressing feeling. The color black for instance or a dark gray usually represent someone being sad, unhappy or even death. When your mood takes control, it’s typically when the theme of your design will start to develop.


For me, even though the theme of the design is such an early step, it’s still one of the most vital steps in my opinion. Pre-planning for almost anything tends to bring good results. I’m the first to say that I don’t always plan my designs out…sometimes I just go with whatever I feel. Still, I’ve come to the conclusion that when I visualize my final product beforehand, it makes the designing part twice as easy.

It’s important that you come up with a theme for your design because once completed, you would want those who see your design to be able to grasp what you were trying to achieve, thus making the point of your layout evident. The last thing you’d want is a design with no execution and/or consideration as to how people will perceive the design in the end. Take what has inspired you and mold it into a theme that can be described in just a few words. If you have to think about the theme too much, chances are it isn’t a good one. In fact, if you can define the theme of your design and even word, that would be even better. Easy ways to base layout designs on themes can come from the seasons or adjectives such as: fun, vibrant and minimalistic. Once you come up with a theme you can now pick your color scheme.


The color scheme may seem like the easy part, when in reality it’s not. The color scheme is the factor that could potentially make or break your design. Execution can be phenomenal, but if the right colors weren’t chosen then the entire design can become crud. It’s important that you pick colors that match the theme of your design and are well balanced. If you wish to understand balance more in depth, I’ll point you to my Webitect’s article on the use of balance in web-design.

Make sure that you don’t use excessive bright colors, considering that computer screens already make colors stand out more due to one’s color and contrast setting. Bright greens and yellows just aren’t for the web world unless paired with something to balance it out. A great site for color ideas is Color Lovers which is a site I use almost all the time when I need color scheme ideas. Using your favorite colors is a great way to start out, and then pairing colors that go with that particular color can make choosing your color scheme a whole lot easier.


When I’ve finally been inspired, chosen my theme and color scheme, I then create or browse for resources that could potentially make my design work easier or will ultimately enhance my design. Some people are skeptical about using resources because in the end you feel like you’ve cheated or people will shame you. Get rid of that notion. Resources are meant for people to use and if you use them in a proper way then there is no reason to be ashamed to use resources. Creating your own is also well and sharing them later is even better.

Use the right brushes, textures, patterns and presets that can help with your design. Make sure you don’t use a resource and do little to it and try to call it yours. If you do that, it defeats the purpose of you being a “designer” if you do nothing but edit something that’s already been done.


Finally comes the fun part, the actual design! After steps 1-4 have been carefully completed, I open up my program in getting to work. I take in all of the concepts I’ve grasped onto from my inspiration and get to work. I never try to rush to get my design done because it’d be obvious that I would decide to publish my work. Whenever you feel you don’t feel like working on it anymore (not quite, but take a break), DO IT! If you don’t you put yourself at risk at being lazy which will also be apparent in your design. When you honestly need a break just do it and come back to your design later.

Maybe when you’re designing you get to a point when you can do something that you saw in your “vision.” At this point, search the net for tutorials on how to achieve that specific idea. When all fails, come up with an alternate idea and then go about executing it. Even when that’s done and you still can’t complete your design, just save it try something new. Never throw it away because you never know what you will learn later; you just may have to work on that specific effect at a later time


I usually go through about 2-4 variations of a design before I finally get what I want, hence the example I showed you in the beginning of this post. I realized that the design wasn’t me, that the colors weren’t exactly matching up with my mood and overall I had no theme. I then drew up this steps so that I can come up with something that covered all areas. The only challenging part of this theme was the coding of the top area, but with a look back to PREVIOUS work I was able to complete the layout exactly as I saw it in my head. I told you never to throw away anything! It really can be useful at one point or another.

Where does your inspiration usually come from?
Do you have a plan before you design or do you just go for it?
How many variations do you have before you have your final product?