How do you come up with your designs? We asked Tom that exact question for you

I’ve been working as a designer for nearly 5 years now, in a variety of environments and clients ranging from large mobile companies to historic motoring organisations. Despite the variety, all client led projects largely conform to the same routine; you’re presented with information and examples describing the visual problem you have to solve.

Self directed projects can be more challenging, as there’s not necessarily a prescribed brief from a client. During these tasks I’m coming up with the solution to a problem that I have control over; I could even decide to change the deliverables mid-way through if I wanted, but this isn’t good practice when working with clients!

With Wildside, Matt and I had a few brief chats about ideas for designs and things we wanted to see represented, then I was left to my own devices. I find it best to immerse myself as much as I can in the project I’m working on, and with Wildside that’s been easy because I’m passionate about everything we’re about; the outdoors, wildlife, adventure, sport etc. were common themes I was ‘vibing’ off. By immersing myself, it means I’m not just thinking about a project when I’m sat with my laptop or drawing sketches, I’m thinking about it when I’m walking through a supermarket, or cycling around the countryside.


If it’s a topic I know
very little about I’ll do some online research to see what competitors are doing, how designers are designing for the industry, and look at any related subjects. I find websites like designinspiration and dribble useful, but I don’t like to spend hours just scrolling through information. I try and pick out a few pieces I like and ask myself, why are they ‘good’? How are they relevant? And how can they inform my design decisions for this project?

Generally my work doesn’t follow a flow of research > sketch > refine > final piece. I dip in and out of sketching ideas, researching and refining as I go. Usually I’ll draw initial ideas in my sketchbook to get the ball rolling, then take them into Adobe Illustrator to refine. Sometimes I might even skip the sketchbook completely and go straight to working digitally; it just depends on how I feel I can best get what’s in my head onto paper/digital artboard.

Once I have a few ideas that I’m happy to share, I’ll usually ask for feedback from the client, or ask friends what they think. There’s usually things I haven’t spotted from being too close to the project, so getting a different perspective is an important step. If I have the luxury of time, I find taking some time away from the project helps to give me a fresh perspective. After taking comments onboard I’ll look to adjust the designs and (hopefully!) come up with the final piece.