How to Create a Good Design

Type'n away on my laptopFor the past few weeks, quite a bit of my time here at the Headquarters Graphic Art’s Department has been spent on designing all sorts of publications. Following are some simple steps on how to take a design project from start to finish.

1. Determine the theme, mood and/or purpose. A birthday card design will usually look a whole lot different than something like the book cover we were designing last week, “Resolving Seven Deadly Stresses.”

2. Draw thumbnails. This is the most creative part! On a piece of paper, just scratch out ideas for where text and pictures should be and how they fit together. It usually takes me at least a dozen thumbnails to get something that looks good enough to go forward with.

A picture we ended up using on the "Greater Works" booklet 3. Think of applicable pictures and decide on a color scheme. Things will naturally come to mind as you think about your theme. For a booklet titled “Anointed for Greater Works”, I began working with more olive green colors and bright or “skyish” pictures.

4. Open up Photoshop and combine your thoughts and thumbnails. For me, this is the most enjoyable step. For the “Equipping Dads Seminar” brochure, I playing around a long time with the title before I got something I really liked. With color and effects, your thumbnails can change quite a bit.

5. Check to make sure you are applying the basic rules of design. As I was struggling to get one project to look right, someone walked in and suggested I use heavier alignment. Minutes afterward, I had a surprisingly transformed design ready to go.

6. Add special effects. Once you have a layout you like, it’s important to spiffy up the text, add borders, color correct pictures and take care of all the details to make your layout a finished project.

7. Have others critique your work. This can happen at any point in the designing process, but it’s amazing how someone else can point out things that you would never have thouYou don't have to be inside to write up your thumbnails!ght of. One night, our department worked together till past 12:00 designing, critiquing, and redesigning comps for an important, time-sensitive publication. It was actually pretty fun!

So, next time you cringe at the thought of needing to design something, remember that it becomes much simpler, as well as more enjoyable, when you break it down into seven simple, achievable steps. “For God is not the author of confusion…” (I Corinthians 14:40)


  1. Donald March 13, 2008 at 5:10 pm #

    Thanks James. That kind of an overview is something that can be applied to many other projects. It sounds like the Lord is rewarding you as you seek Him for His creativity–and wisdom: the bigger picture under which other things break down and become simpler and manageable.

  2. Michael March 14, 2008 at 2:17 pm #

    So, James, you turned out to be an artist too – and using a form of art that is extremely useful and productive! As I thought about what you wrote, I realized that there are acutally very few differences between the steps you gave for graphic art and the steps that should be taken in fine art such as a detailed painting. Step 4 would be the actual artwork part (applying the medium to the surface). Because of the inflexibility of hand painting, step 5 would have to come before step 4, and step 7 would usually have to be taken throughout the whole precess of step 4. Actually, it might work jsut as well that way for graphic arts too – what do you think?
    It sure is good to see you enjoying your work! Keep it up.

  3. nks March 15, 2008 at 3:31 am #


    This message is for you if you are a Book Cover Designer. I am about to start a blog site where you can submit your designs. other designers will see your work and review it on site. This will give you an opportunity to explore new ideas in designing.

    To submit your cover design, please email it at [email protected] in .Jpg format. I will let you know the blog site address as soon as it start functioning. You will also get email if your design get approved to be displayed on site.

    Thank you.

  4. John-Clay Burnett March 15, 2008 at 3:50 pm #

    That was a great post! I also enjoy graphic design work. Could you post some of your work sometime?

    Keep it up!

  5. Jonathan March 18, 2008 at 6:07 am #

    What a great report James. It must take a while thinking up all of those but I can really tell you are enjoying it. May the Lord richly bless you with lots of ideas!

  6. Joshua Wilkes March 18, 2008 at 4:31 pm #

    I appreciate the well thought out steps of action James and look forward to hearing/seeing the fruits of your labor.

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