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Process Notes

Kate Schmidgall September 22, 2020 | 2 MIN 22 SEC READ

As creatives, we are problem solvers. Whether the need is for fresh imagination or new design energy, increased in-house capacity or beating impossible timelines, our first question is always the same: What is the problem we’re solving for?

While problems vary in complexity and skills required, our process has never failed to clear a path to solution. For that reason, when I’m asked if there’s any work we’d turn down my answer is yes: Anything that promotes hate or contributes to harm, and any scenario where we’d be asked to shortcut or circumvent process.

For those interested to get a sense of what you’re in for when you work with BitterSweet, or for those in the creative services industry who might be interested in comparing notes, I will briefly describe our pattern.

As I alluded to earlier, we begin with listening. Every piece of collateral or designed something is meant to serve someone for some mission critical reason, and that is the crux of our work-to draw out that real need and contextualize our approach and ideas within it. Before any metaphorical canvas is primed or brushes prepped, we suspend our first thoughts to listen for notes on team dynamics, timeline pressures, prior missteps, audience needs, stylistic instincts, and unnamed hopes or expectations. The more of this grey matter we can define at project start, the higher the likelihood our solutions will solve more problems than the TOR might’ve listed.

Based on this initial stakeholder engagement and listening, we sketch, wireframe, research, sample, and generally visualize our brainstorming and creative instincts for buy-in in a slow step sort of way. This helps us know whether we heard and interpreted accurately prior to investing significant time in refined options. With early input, we move into true concepting-crafting options and (usually) offering a variety of stylistic approaches in order to know whether you and we mean the same thing by ‘modern, bold, and bright,’ for example.

That baseline input is the gut check we need in order to move into full production. By this point we know generally the direction we’re headed, the goals we’re hitting, the timeline we’re keeping, and what it’s going to take to win (exceed expectations). This is my favorite part, when we’re all rowing in unison.

Whether the end product is film, a printed report, a microsite or full website, a content strategy, or brand overhaul, this production phase is a matter of iterative reviews and adjustments until the final deliverable comes into focus and we send it off. This we’ve done hundreds (thousands?) of times over the past 11 years, learning something new every single time. And then we listen again.

By Kate Schmidgall ,Bittersweet Creative Founder, Director