...because we all need to start somewhere

A collection of the first steps taken by designers, artists, musicians, and other generally creative people, when beginning a new project.
Founder of 8 Faces magazine, Co-Founder of Viewport Industries
My first move is always to move as far away from the project in one way or another. I'll look at what other people are doing, not just those in the same field; I'll look to print design for inspiration if it's a web project; and I'll start by thinking things through while on a walk through some fields. Returning to a project after some sort of distance always makes me feel more inspired.
San Fransisco based letterer, illustrator, and designer.
I think the first step, one that I often ignore, is to breathe. Sometimes I find myself so tightly wound at my computer that I send "trigger finger emails" and make decisions without really pausing and allowing myself to take my time making them. It can be hard to force yourself to slow down, even for something as simple as email, but if you can start off a project on the right foot via email, it makes a giant difference in how the project progresses. Making coffee also helps enormously.
Operator of Ligature Loop & Stem. Communication Designer at Facebook.
My first task before I grab a sketchbook, sharpen a pencil, launch Photoshop or Illustrator, let alone create anything -- is to ask why. Often repeatedly, until the problem to be solved can be clearly and succinctly articulated. It's not until that simple but essential information has been understood and agreed upon that it's even worth exploring "what" and "how".
Tiffany Wardle (Typegirl)
Typegirl
My first step is to step away. Or maybe that is my second step. First I get the project. But then I have to go through a sort of absorption phase. Stepping away allows that. I'll usually get the project and then go back to work on another whilst the other one is stewing around in my head.
Blogger and designer who runs Pitch Design Union
The first step that I take is simply to pick up a pen or marker and put it to paper. Whether or not it's to sketch, free associate, make a to do list, brainstorm, the act of focusing on just that small thing is what gets me over the initial anxious hump when I'm starting a project. It's so basic, it's hard to believe it really has an impact, but I can't seem to actually make any progress until I do this.
Owner of Kneadle, a design firm based in Fullerton, California
Typically, my first step is dumping my thoughts into a notebook—via lists, doodles, diagrams and sketches; ideas are less ambiguous and overwhelming on paper than they are running around in my head. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and paralyzed by the details of a new project. Stay calm and get things done.
Designer at Kneadle, a design firm based in Fullerton, California
I begin by listing every word associated with the project that comes to mind. By doing this I can explore what I already know and generate research questions for what I do not. By beginning this way I can start to research with a more focused direction to answer my questions about the project.
Designer at Kneadle, a design firm based in Fullerton, California
I begin with Google. I Google anything and everything to gather ideas. Websites, images, colors and articles. Creating lists also helps organize my thoughts and puts the project into focus.
Designer at Kneadle, a design firm based in Fullerton, California
I begin with pencil and paper. There is something magical about putting pencil to paper, to play! To play with lines, shapes, words, ideas... endless fun!
Designer, typographer, writer, illustrator, and speaker.
Where I begin is with sitting and thinking. Maybe a cigarette, maybe looking out the window, maybe a cup of coffee. Just sitting and thinking. Then I sleep.
Senior Interaction Designer at NPR, Musician and composer.
After initially taking in the details for a new project, whether design or music, and clearing my head with a long walk, the first real step I take is to listen. When settling into the work, a wave of mental chatter and inspiration comes flowing back: team members' voices, brainstorming ideas, passages from books, songs, etc. Being an active listener allows me to recognize patterns and connections, and in turn allows my process to become more deeply considered and thoughtfully executed.
Type Designer and owner of Delve Fonts.
After the estimate is approved, the agreement signed, the P.O. is in hand, and I have danced the happy dance—when it is time to roll up my sleeves and start working—yeah, I get intimidated. Then, I just get over it by changing my frame of mind: I think, “Hey, here’s this fun problem to be solved and I’m getting paid to do it.” To get a real handle on it, I proceed to break it down into the smaller steps that need to be done, and in the order they must be completed. By that time, I’m totally jazzed to get started and my mind is racing with ideas. Now, stopping is a whole other problem…
Senior partner and Founder of P22 Type Foundry. Executive Director of Western New York Book Arts Collaborative.
With any creative project, there is a spark of an idea that gets it in motion. The best possibility of a realization of the idea is to act on it and just start it. Call it a proof of concept, but just doing it to a point that it is underway will make it much more likely to happen. If an idea is over thought...it will die. There is always an excuse not to do any given thing. The second idea killer is bouncing it off other people before it is ready. Many people think that you explaining your idea to them is asking them to “make it better”. Design by committee is possibly worse than not doing it at all. Charge ahead. Do it. If it sucks, someone will still like it. Standard are pretty low in this world. If it is great. There you did it! Feels good.
Designer at Nukket and creator of this awesome graphic.
Dedicate time to planning your design because even when it sounds obvious, as soon as designers are commissioned to develop a project, some immediately start working at the computer waiting for something to “pop out” without even think where the design is going or what they really want it to be.
Designer at Hyperakt and creator of many great projects.
My first compulsion is to grab a notebook, pen, and run away from the computer. It is not always likely that can happen, but personally I need that disconnect to clear my mind, aligning 100% of my attention towards the new project. Then I crank the sweet jams and get into the fun zone!
Want to share your first step?
Why not go ahead and contact me to submit your advice.