The Air-approved guide to the creative process
We often imagine creativity as the quality through which brilliant ideas spring seemingly spontaneously from the minds of geniuses — not as something born out of a structured exercise. For this reason, the creative process can be daunting to approach. How do you concretize something that is seemingly so subjective and intangible?
The reality is that the creative process does not need to be so abstract. It can be broken down into definite stages, and you do not need to be born with any superior creative talents to harness it.
This guide is meant to help demystify the creative process and help you establish one at your organization, so that you can start all your creative projects on a clear path and produce content that packs a punch.
What is the creative process?
At Air, we believe that the creative process begins with an idea and ends with the implementation of an asset that tells a visual story.
When working on any creative project, the process involves three key stakeholders. These three roles often have different titles depending on the organization.
Client - The person who has the need and use for a visual asset.
Example: Marketer, Executive, Salesperson
Operator - The person who works with the client to understand their creative goals and translates those needs to the creative.
Example: Production Coordinator, Producer, Product Manager
Creative - The person who designs and produces the visual asset.
Example: Graphic Designer, Photographer, Videographer
While these roles can either be separate or merge into one another, these stakeholders work together to guide a creative asset all the way from idea generation to final implementation.
How to establish a creative process
To establish a creative process within your organization, it is helpful to understand the different stages that give it structure. The process can be divided into five stages, each of which involves the participation of one or more of the stakeholders described above:
Ideation is the first stage of the creative process and is primarily driven by the client. It arises from the client’s desire to tell a visual story, and consists of figuring out what that story is, how best to shape it, and how different aspects of the idea fit together. The steps in the ideation stage include brainstorming an original idea, framing the idea based on budget and other metrics, and finding people to work on it to bring it to the next stage.
The second stage of planning is highly collaborative and built around conversations between the three stakeholders. It is an elaboration of the first stage. The client, operator, and creative work together to refine the initial idea, position expectations within a creative brief, and make a request to the creative team to begin producing the asset.
After the ideation and planning stages, the third stage is production — actually designing and creating the visual asset. Creatives such as graphic designers, photographers, videographers, or artists go off of what was decided during planning and give the creative idea a material form.
The feedback stage is often the longest and tends to go through several loops. It begins with assessing the first version of the asset, giving feedback, reviewing the next version, giving more feedback, and so on. The feedback loop ends when the client is satisfied with the final asset and is ready to move on to the last stage.
The creative process ends with deployment, which means putting the creative assets into use in the market. However, implementing the final asset isn’t the last step of the process, because the deployment stage is also a loop. Once the asset is published or archived, it is analyzed to see how well it is performing. Based on the data, the asset can be tweaked and its performance reassessed.
Based on the individual project and needs of the client, these five stages of the creative process may look different for you. You may find yourself spending a long time in one stage of this process, going in a different order, or skipping a stage altogether. At the end of the deployment stage, based on how your final asset performs, you may even find that you have ideas for new assets, and decide to begin the process all over again.
The bottom line is that the creative process is not a straight line, but rather a circle, and results in an infinite loop of ideation, implementation, and problem-solving.
Tools that can help you manage your creative process
To help you hone and execute a creative process best suited to your needs, there are a variety of tools you can use in each of the different stages.
Ideation - Pinterest and Google Slides are great tools to help you brainstorm ideas, create mood boards, and compare different aesthetics. Slack, Trello, or Asana can assist in the assigning of responsibilities in the decision step.
Planning - Google Drive, Slack, and Asana can be used for communicating ideas and collaborating on creative briefs before requests are put in to begin the production stage.
Production - Design and editing tools such as Adobe Photoshop, After Effects, and Canva are top resources for creatives in the production process.
Feedback - Frame.io, Google Drive, Dropbox, and Slack can be used to share versions of the asset and receive suggestions.
Deployment - Tweaks to the asset can be made through tools like Canva and Celtra, and assets can be preserved through options such as Bynder and Brandfolder.
Air’s role in your creative process
Feedback and deployment are two of the most complex and crucial stages to ensuring the success of an asset. Air makes them simple. With an easy-to-navigate visual workspace and seamless collaboration tools, Air takes the pain out of the feedback and deployment loops. We recognize that the creative process doesn’t end with the “creating” part; it also includes maintaining your assets, sharing them with your team, and streamlining them across channels.
Rather than having different versions of assets and pieces of feedback scattered across Google Drive, Dropbox, and other places, with Air all of your content can live in one centralized location. This enables conversations between stakeholders, asset approvals, and keeping track of versions to become smoother than ever.
In an era where selling ideas visually is becoming increasingly essential for most companies, it is important to establish a cohesive creative process within your teams. Doing so effectively is hard work. We hope that with this five-step guide, you feel more confident about designing your own creative process — one that works best for you and helps you unlock your team’s maximum creative potential.
Whether your process begins with a lightbulb moment for a new asset idea or comes to fruition through extensive collaboration, Air is the ultimate tool for you. As the first workspace designed by creative people for creative people, Air is the place where you can optimize your workflow, streamline creative thinking, and make the creative process happen.