Creative Exploration—Moodboards and Concepting

How do we begin creative concepting for each client?

The creative exploration step in our process is where we translate the strategy that we developed previously (see Brand Strategy & Brand Story) and, with equal parts smarts, skill and talent, turn it into absolute design magic. 

It starts with strategic design thinking.

We begin by having the whole team meet together to review strategy, brand definition and target consumer to both refresh and expand our thinking. After generous discussion, we start to brainstorm different conceptual directions that might best hit our brand’s target—these are the beginnings of our concept buckets. 

[example concept bucket / moodboard]

Each concept bucket turns the dials on different brand attributes and plays to various aspects of the target consumer’s preferences—think of it like your brand’s soundsystem, with us adjusting the treble, bass, and volume to perfectly communicate the brand. Our goal in defining these buckets is to finetune the visual strategy to help our brand stand out against the competition and connect with the target consumer, as defined in our audit & immersion. We are trying to bring the brand story to life in a way that will create an emotional connection with the target consumer, and optimize findability.

Our visual buckets begin as physical collages on large scale boards, loose sketches, and as digital moodboards on screen. Eventually, as we combine, dissect, and refine these buckets so that they culminate into the moodboards that you see in the creative presentations before each concept. These initial design boards stay out in the open in the studio, allowing for healthy discussion, thought specificity and fodder for additional ideas or improvements. Sketching is an important part of this process, as it allows us to quickly share ideas and explore early hypotheses.

The Design Exploration

After nailing our final creative directions, our designers split off and create preliminary concepts guided by our initial conversations. Magic starts happening—we often explore custom drawing, paintings, cut-paper, digital design, hand lettering and font exploration. We’re not afraid to get our hands dirty to create kick-ass design and take joy in the mess of the process. After all, this is about finding what best fits a given strategy – sometimes that’s something crafted by hand or by using technical tools.

Throughout the process we hold work-in-progress meetings to internally review work and critique as a group—everyone on the team is involved and has a voice. Internal reviews start with a quick review of the strategy and concepts are balanced against a list of evaluative criteria: objectivity is always the goal.

We break down visual value and recognition, trends, strategy, competition, and foster healthy discussions and ideas to push concepts forward. If a concept isn’t working out quite right, or doesn’t meet the standards per our design strategy, it gets put on hold to be referenced later. This is a natural part of the process where we whittle down our buckets (directions), and it’s through this process of distillation that we develop our best ideas.

After several rounds of internal review and refinement, we decide on our best concepts, tighten up our renderings and shelf shots. For packaging assignments, we review and eventually show final design concepts in context, on-shelf to help see if it successfully stands out among the competition and visually works in a given set or planogram. For  branding assignments, we’ll build pro forma items (business cards, website mockups, media, incidentals, etc.) to help contextualize and better see how the brand extends across applications.  Afterward, we review it all one more time to make sure all the details work together delivering on the brand definition and strategy just as planned. It’s a considered process wherein we try to solve for issues ahead of time so that you can focus on growing. 

An early concept shelf shot—so we can consider the target within the shelfspace and against competition

[an example of an earlier lil’gourmets concept moving to a shelf shot]

When the Creative Exploration Process ends clients select a concept or two and we move on to the Design Refinements phase – where we refine and expand upon the chosen concept with their feedback. To read more about the Seedhouse process, check out these blogs: Brand Strategy & Brand Story, How to Get the Most Out of Your Package Design, and Naming – Our Philosophy and Process.

Have a project ready to start? Contact us. 

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