How to Concept Like a Pro

A marketing concept is defined as a clear idea around which an ad or campaign can be created. However, the word ‘concept’ has lost its meaning. It is much larger than just a design layout, a catchy headline, or a message that doesn’t relate to the consumer or employee benefit. Below you will find guidelines, mostly for design creatives, brought to you by a designer. Now, every project will be different, (*gasp*) but the list below can help fellow creatives begin working toward a strong concept.

Okay. So, you have landed a project! Hell yeah! Your boss asks in President Bartlet fashion, “What’s next?”

  1. Research

I have the gigantic benefit of Relish’s Account Service team, which does most of the research for projects at Relish. Without that team, my designs might look appealing but lack connection to what the client actually needs.

For example, if we are rebranding for a hospital in Wisconsin, the design team could crank out several great looking options. However, the account team’s research is the reason we know the client’s competitors and their logos, colors the client wants to stay away from because of college rivalry in the area (yes that is a thing), the history of the company, and overall what appeals to them. Look at every client and find out what makes each one different. Be intentional.

2. Inspiration

This is my favorite part – searching on Behance, Designspiration, Creative Market, and sometimes even Pinterest to find out what is out there. Don’t look at other designs or campaigns with envy. Instead, learn what they have done, find out what is appealing to you and draw inspiration from the people and designers around you. Here at Relish Marketing, when we find inspiring work, we print it out and hang it up on the wall.

Relish concepting

3. Sketching

I have always been bad at this. I always want to find inspiration and then go straight to my computer and pull up Illustrator. I think, “Oh I got it! It’s in my head.” Wrong. There is a huge difference between sketching on a computer and putting pen to paper. Technology is incredibly advanced, and as designers, we have a lot of capabilities, but there is still an advantage to sketching with no boundaries, using a pen and paper.

Kraton logo concepts

4. More Sketching

You have 10 concepts? Cool. Make 90 more. Go outside. Sketch. Go to a quiet room. Sketch. Go to the bar and have a beer and sketch. You will draw inspiration from your environment even if you don’t realize it. I find that when I sketch before a project, I can develop my ideas so that the process goes more seamlessly later on.

Core Dance logo concepts

5. Concepting on the Computer

Okay. You can go to your computer now. You have 100 ideas sketched. You deserve it. You will find it is easier to put your ideas in the computer when you have a sketch in front of you.

K-C L&D Icons concepts

6. Polish it up!

Tweaking ideas is the most challenging part of the concepting process for me. When I create a logo, icons, or layout, I already think that it looks good. I wouldn’t have sent it to my Creative Director or the client if I didn’t think so. However, there is always room for improvement and change. Remember, unlike you, the client is going to be looking at your design almost every day – it is only right that they be satisfied.

And there you have it. Of course, every designer is different, but following a process like this one turns a concept into an end product that is intentional, attractive, and effective.