A recent quote from designer and author, Craig Oldham summed up a lot of my thinking about the design process: “Design, to me, is an intellectual discipline not a visual one.”

When working with design teams, I’ve always tried to get them to sell the idea to me before I even see it. “Describe it in a sentence or two” I would say, and that would usually be a test of whether or not it’s going to extend beyond just the visual aspect of the concept.

It’s hard for many designers and creatives to think beyond the visual. After all, it’s usually the final output, and often the beginning inspiration. They might think it’s the perfect time to play off that great bit of inspiration they’ve had, the exhibition they saw at the weekend, that interesting type treatment they found on Pinterest. In practice, this is rarely the case.

If design and brand are primarily about communication, we need to retain that core in everything we do. Sure, having your attention grabbed by a great piece of design supports the idea of communication, but so does being whacked round the head by a ‘golf sale’ sign. They’re both effective, but don’t usually extend beyond the immediate.

Thinking about design intellectually and writing about it makes the design process considerably easier. Without it, decisions are made arbitrarily and subjectively. It enables each choice about color, type or layout to have thoughts that lead them. Much like a good brief, good rationale and thinking (words) will create better outputs (pictures).