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The custom design process

Updated: May 22

The Custom Design Process

“I want a custom design but don’t know where to start!”

First of all, that’s amazing that you’ve decided to work with a designer to create a custom design. By choosing custom you are:

  •  Elevating your product and/or brand with unique artwork that will set you apart from the rest of the crowd

  •  Providing the artist or designer an exciting project where they can really flex their creative skills, and earn a living creating work they love!

  •  Have more control over the look and feel of your product and/or brand by carefully curating artwork that merchandises seamlessly with the rest of your collection

  •  Placing importance on quality, as custom designs will generally be more expensive than buying pre-made stock images ‘off the shelf’

  •  Lastly, custom design work is exclusive, which means the final product will not only be tailored perfectly to your business needs and aesthetic - but you won’t run into the chance of finding the exact same design elsewhere!

So, how does it all work?

Essentially, custom artwork or print design will be commissioned by the client. The artist or designer will create the design to a list of specifications.

To determine these specifications, a client may be asked the following questions:

  •  What type of artwork do you need? (Is it a repeat pattern or placement print design?)

  •  What colours, moods, themes and motifs do you want to see in the design?

  •  Which season are you hoping to design for? (In the fashion industry, the main seasons are Spring/Summer, Autumn/Winter, Prefall, and Resort)

  •  What are your timelines like?

  •  Have you chosen a supplier or manufacturer to work with yet?

  •  What are the required dimensions of the artwork?

  •  How will the artwork be printed?

While these questions may seem daunting at first - don’t worry! You are not alone. Working with a good artist or designer should be a collaborative process so trust is really important. We’re here to help support your vision and to bring your ideas to life.

After a bit of research and a one-on-one meeting, the artist or designer will start to get a good idea of the client’s needs. A project proposal is then drafted for the client to approve. Once budget, project scope, and payment terms have been agreed upon, a contract is signed and then the magic can start! 

The creative design process, step by step:

Before we jump into the 4 phases of the design process, I wanted to clarify that this not only applies to textile print or fabric design. It pretty much applies to any creative design work, such as illustration, graphic design, brand identity design, website design or even video or animation work! So if you’ve never worked with a creative designer before, here is a great run-down that you can refer to in the future:


Phase 1 - Research

This is such a crucial step. This includes not only visual research, but also competitor research, client research, customer research, and trend research.

Research can be performed by gathering a lot of reference images, creating mood boards, establishing a colour story, and making notes on how to stay on-trend when creating a design.

Top tip #1: You want to hire someone who specializes in a particular niche! Not only will they be well informed and educated in their particular market, but it will save everyone a lot of time by avoiding constant change requests and revisions. At the end of the day, you want to pay for someone who is the right fit. Someone who ‘gets it' straight away and is easy to work with. Not only will the end product be exactly what you need, but the project will take less time to execute than if you hired someone less experienced (and probably cheaper), and who is likely to require constant hand-holding and guidance.


Phase 2 - Concepts and ideas

After the research phase, the artist or designer will start to generate ideas based on the above. These include thumbnail sketches, drawing up motifs, designing rough layouts, and experimenting with different types of rendering styles.

These initial concepts are presented to the client for feedback and pre-approval. I usually provide two options for the client to choose from. This is a very important time to check in with the client to make sure that the project is heading in the right direction.

Top tip #2: Remember that the artwork is not finished yet! Because this is the concept stage, any art that is presented for review is just that, concepts. Trust the process and allow some time for the design to be developed.

Top tip #3: Be super specific and direct when articulating your thoughts. I always include up to two change requests in any given project. However, additional rounds of changes will be charged at an hourly rate, so be mindful about providing clear feedback if you feel a design isn’t 100% there yet! It’s not uncommon for creative projects to steer out of course due to a lack of communication. And yes, this goes both ways. Sometimes I find it easier to have a constructive 10-minute conversation than having to email each other back and forth.

Custom Design Process

Phase 3 - Design and development

Once pre-approval has been received, the artist or designer will continue to work on the final artwork following any comments that have been given during the first round of feedback. The artwork is prepared at full scale, at the correct resolution, with specific colours applied (if it needs to follow a particular colour story). When the artwork is finished, it is again presented to the client but this time, for final approval.


Phase 4 - File prep and delivery

Once final tweaks have been made and the artwork is approved, the job is ready for the final phase! Production-ready files will be prepared in a clean and organised manner before being delivered to the client.

Top tip #4: It is not uncommon for artists or designers to request full payment before delivering the completed artwork files. This is standard practice. Trust me, there have been too many horror stories of hardworking designers sending finished artwork to a client before payment. Guess what? They sometimes don’t get paid or they do get paid, but only several months or a year later. Please, don’t be that person. Be one of the good clients. Remember that you are not only paying for the time it took for the artwork to be created but for the license to use the design.


A final note about file delivery

The work I create is sold under an exclusive license only, which means the client will receive all the working files as well as the final print files to use and commercialize however they wish. This is where the true value comes in.

Once you have ownership of the working file you can profit further from it! For example, let’s say I create a custom design for you for Summer one year. Sales go through the roof and it does really well. Guess what? You officially own that artwork now, which means you have the option to reuse it by changing some of the colours to reprint for another season! This saves you time and money as you don’t have to license another design and more often than not, repeat prints and styles can sell again and again depending on the customer base.

So… what are your thoughts? Do you have any questions about custom designs?

Feel free to email me anytime if you want to know more - or if you feel you’re ready to have a custom design made exclusively for you:




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