Why research is the key to eliminating creative block and producing great work.


Over the last few weeks I have been getting loads of questions about my work such as solving creative block, brainstorming tips and picking a final design. So, over the next few articles I will be sharing with you everything; How I do my research, client questions, how I brainstorm, my techniques for eliminating creative block, refining my designs and picking my one final concept that I will present to the client.

This step by step process will be broken down as part of my Design Masterclass (launching later in the year) which will take you from novice designer to fully fledged professional, making a living from you design work. If you would like to be notified when it launches as well as get access to exclusive bonus content, please sign up here.

'How can I get myself out of a creative dead end?’

One of the most common issues I see people struggling with is being able to come up with a a variety of good designs (without getting bored) and then knowing which one to pick.

The solution to all of these issues lies in the research phase of any project.

My Creative Process

  1. Research
  2. Brainstorming  
  3. Creation  
  4. Elimination
  5. Refining  

This week I will be breaking down The Research Phase. The research phase of the creative process is often overlooked, as we all want to rush straight into the fun brainstorming and designing bit, but it is so valuable.

The reason why it is so important is that your research will help shape your final solution and will be where you will come back to if you are struggling for inspiration.

Right at the beginning of the project is where you get to dig deep with your client, to find out what their goals are and what struggles they are having in their business.


Client Goals vs Client Struggles

Although there is often an overlap in these two areas, sometimes what the client wants might not be what they need. If you simply give the client what they want,  but it turns out that it didn’t help their business, it could reflect badly on you.

However, if after much discussion you understand them and their business and are able to give them what they want, but also what they will need for their business, then you set yourself apart from others in your industry as more than just a designer.

It’s this care and attention to detail that will set you apart from other designers.


What client problems are you trying to solve?

Let them tell you. You have to be a little like a therapist or lawyer. Keep asking why? Be genuinely curious, as this will be at the core everything you do. Your job is to solve their problems, not just create something that looks good.


What are their goals?

  • What will your solution do for their business?
  • Will it allow them to attract more customers?
  • Will it Re-position them in their market?

By being able to solve their problems and help them achieve their goals, you will become invaluable and when people really appreciate your services and the value you can provide, they will pay a lot more for it.

This puts you in an exclusive and more lucrative pay bracket that other designers.


Industry Knowledge

You will need to be aware of the industry that they are in and their position within it. Are they high end and premium or low end and budget? Who are their rivals? How can you make them stand out or position them in a way that will achieve their goals? 


Market opportunities

Think as if they are a business looking for investment. In a business plan they would have to 1) Outline the opportunity within their industry, 2) Why they can take advantage of it and 3) How they will do it.

By having this type of approach, you will be asking the client to think hard about where they are, where they want to go and how you can get them there.


Example Case Study: Trystan Nolan Training

When Personal Trainer Trystan Nolan came to me he wanted a new logo. He felt a new logo would help his business because as he said "with a professional logo more people would take him seriously".

This was a good idea as his logo could do with some improvement, but I felt that a new logo was simply not enough to transform his business. His website looked like he had done it himself (which he had) and he had no other forms of self promotion apart from a few cheap business cards. 

I recommend that if he was to be taken seriously, then he needed a complete rebrand. A new logo on it's own wouldn’t work. Although he came to me wanting a logo, after much discussion and research he agreed to a complete rebrand, which included new logo, website, new business cards, stickers and clothing.

Since then he has been able to transform his business because of the perception of his services in his industry. He was always excellent at his job and has a huge client retention rate, so that wasn’t an issue, but now is attracting more clients and is able to charge more money as he is seen as more professional than before.

As I spent time in the beginning researching him and his industry, I was able to achieve his goal (a new logo) as well as help his business (a new rebrand). I have since had more work from him personally and from people he has recommended my services to.

Here is his testimonial:

"Having used a website I set up myself for Trystan Nolan Training (TNT) some 4 years ago, I knew I now needed a new image and website to reflect the type of quality service I was now delivering.

I was recommended to use Thad by a friend who had used him for their hotel rebranding.  After initially contacting Thad I was a little surprised by the questions he asked me to complete in his first email and the detail of the answers he expected....things like 'What does success look like for this project?', 'What is the single most difficult thing in your business right now?' and 'Where do you see your business 1/3/10 years from now?'  However, much like I ask clients wanting to train with me what motivates them, what their goals are and what it is they want to achieve in the short and long term, I understood that in order for Thad to design a rebranding that would totally portray where I wanted TNT to go, he first needed to really understand what my vision for the business involved..

After a few emails back and forth, Thad began working on the new logo's, website and general 'look' for TNT.  Our first meeting with him was amazing - we left totally buzzing with ideas and excitement of things to come.  Thad had been able to encapsulate the vision I had for TNT perfectly, coming up with a logo, colour palette and website design that not only reflected what I needed to offer clients now, but also provided longevity and scope for me to expand the business into new arenas in the future.

Thad has helped with more than just the rebranding, he's also helped me to think about, expand on and realise some of the ideas I had to grow the business beyond what it had been.  Thad's knowledge of not only design but business delivery has meant that I got so much more than just a logo and a re-designed website.

Thad also put together a Social Media campaign package for TNT and helped advise me on key aspects of increasing a following and client base.  Although the website has now launched, I have continued support from Thad and will no doubt be working with him on upcoming projects as Trystan Nolan Training expands in the future.

If you want a designer that will look beyond what your business delivers now and provide you with design longevity in rebranding and website design to allow your business to grow in the future, Thad is definitely for you."

Trystan Nolan

As I said in the beginning, this is just the first part of my 5 stage creative process and although I haven’t shared any specific tips and techniques yet (but I will be soon), I want to stress the importance of taking the time to get your client research right.

You will continually come back to the information you gather in the beginning. It will be the source of new creative approaches and will enable you to overcome creative block. It really is a case of you will reap what you sow.

As part of my Design Masterclass I will be including the exact questions that I use to dig deep to find out as much as possible from my clients. If you would like to be notified when it comes out please sign up here.

Thad Cox3 Comments