The 11 Steps To A Great Creative Process

Our Creative Process is what gets things built. It’s what we count on when things get hard (and yes, things get hard at every company).

The Process makes everything better.

When things break down it’s usually because we have abandoned our process. The Process is the source of all integrity.

What we’ve done here is broken down our creative process and adapted it to any creative project that we can think of. Even though we’re a video company, our process can be adapted to just about any creative effort.

Some parts of the process seem formal/boring, but we know from experience that projects with a process outperform projects without. Sometimes “just doing it” is faster, and sometimes it even works, but more often than not it doesn’t work, and it doesn’t lead to good results.

Step One: Discovery & Intake

The first step is listening. We learn about what the goals of the client (internal or external) are. We look at the competition, we look at what others are doing. We also collect & organize assets from the client.

Discovery is learning about the client’s goals and opportunities.

Intake is getting what we need to do our job.

The questions here will be things like:

  • What is your vision for this project?
  • Where are the logo files?
  • Are there any “must airs” in this project?
  • Are there “third rail” ideas or clichés that we can’t use?
  • What are competitors doing and how are the competitors marketing?

The Goal of discovery & Intake is to get the things you need to do and research your job.

Time Commitment: 1-2 hours, plus some research which varies.

Step 2: Write A (Simple) Creative Brief

If you can’t agree on the goal of the project, it’s nearly impossible to deliver a great video.

So the creative brief is where we lock in some goals for the project. Sometimes the goals will have numbers, sometimes not.

“To create a video that allows people to get the point of our product in 90 seconds,” is one.

“To create a video that moves opt ins from 1.4% to 6%,” is another.

“To create a video that provokes curiosity about our book project.”

We’ve made a video-specific article that details this process, but the keys are:

  • Who the audience is.
  • What they are supposed to know, do or feel.
  • What they need to remember.
  • Any must-airs (i.e Intel Inside) by third parties.

Time Commitment: This will take 60-90 minutes.

Step 3: Gather References

Nearly every work of art and beauty started with references. Star Wars famously used Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey to inform everything that they made together. Austin Kleon’s book Steal Like An Artist references this process. More to the point, the title of the book steals from Picasso.

So you want to find work that evokes the emotions we want.

Having 3-4 pieces of prior art and what you liked about them will save time.

You’ll spend 60-90 minutes here if everything is working correctly.

Step 4: Create A Script

Notice that the script is a foundation of the video. But before we do that we have work to do. RedBull and Starbucks both sell caffeinated drinks that provide energy. But they market their offering in different ways to different markets.

Not every project is a video, so this may be a “framework,” a goal, a takeaway. In an infographic, you’d “do your research.”

We’ve written about this process here.

Time Commitment: Up to 12 hours.  Generally a good script takes between 3-5 hours per draft, and we generally see 2-3 drafts per script.

Step 5: Create an Outline

In video, we call this a shot-list.

A blog post or e-book may have some text.

This is where the script marries the visuals. In a PPC campaign, you may have a bunch of initial ads that you write for further use.

The outline part will be where all of the elements begin to come together, and you can start seeing what’s happening before you over invest in a bad direction.

Time Commitment: Varies by project, but takes about a 1-3 days.

Step 6: Create Some initial Design Work

We call this the “style frames” in our business. We want to create a look at our first visuals at this point and go from hypothetical to reality.

We use style frames to share what’s happening here, but in other design projects your mileage may vary.

Step 7: Cast Your Project

In a video we have a lot of moving parts:

  • Voice Artist
  • Script Writer
  • Creative Director
  • Producer
  • Lead Designer
  • Client Side Producer

Sometimes these roles are the same, sometimes they are different. We need to know exactly who they are so that we can get confirmation from the right folks.

When there is a team leader, we want to have someone who collects consensus and advocates for some work.

Step 8: Create Some Scenes

In video, we call this a motion test, which is generally 10 or so seconds of original, first quality work. In other creative work it would be important bullet points, important concepts to use.

We also may try to take on the riskiest parts of what we’re doing first.

We want to anchor a video project around a few scenes because THOSE scenes are what has the best chance to be memorable.

Step 9: Create an Advance Copy

We don’t believe in first drafts. A client should never have to see one. Because it’s work that they shouldn’t have to do.

We call the initial version of any work an “Advance Copy.” Because, from our perspective, it’s the first version of good work that the client gets to see. And it should be delivered first.

Because we do a lot of upfront work before we begin.

After this, we add any polish, or details that are needed to take something from A to A+.

Step 10: Quality Control

Ideally we’ll do quality control at the end of every step we have, and then again to finalize the project.

Details will be minded here, and we’ll make sure that something looks good so that it’s consistent and professional. This is something that no client should ever be expected to do.

Step 11: Release & Launch

The last step is overlooked. But distribution and buy-in are an important part of any process.

We’d never know about E.T. if Universal didn’t have a group of people that printed film and posters and got that into theaters.

If a video falls in the forest it doesn’t make any sound, does it?

Without a pre-planned, plug and play distribution strategy any project will always fail. Consider exactly how to make this happen.

I have seen great videos we’ve made die on the vine because there was no plan in place to release them. A most unnecessary failure.

Have Faith: It Gets Easier

Adopting a process always feels like a “it gets worse before it gets better” moment. That’s true in most cases. The way you “naturally” do things will often produce better initial results than working a process. Baseball players that rebuild their swings see a decrease in power and average until it gets better. Then it gets better.

However, once you work a process, and create a streamlined system you’ll find that everything moves along a lot faster, the work is better and the troubles go away.

This allows you to treat your clients better, the way that they are supposed to be treated.