Short answer: It varies. Pretty widely.
A close friend asked me to share how I generate ideas for new projects, and I thought it’d be worthwhile to repeat my answer here. Below are few examples.
I don’t do print design that often. Not often at all, in fact (outside of my letterpress posters). When I do, I generally prefer to get an understanding of how many pages there will be if more than one, and the general flow of the content.
Above is the page layout for a 24-page booklet documenting my process for the Brooklyn Bridge poster. The booklet was sent to print recently, and this is what one of the completed spreads looks like.
It’s pretty rare that I begin on paper. I don’t know, maybe I’ve been doing it for so long that the most efficient method for me still remains a head-first dive into Photoshop.
For example, on Perks.io I started with a greyscale comp:
For the overhaul of Authentic Jobs we’re currently working on, I started with a high-fidelity comp using components from the existing site:
The design has been iterated many times since and probably will look nothing like this when it’s completed.
I do a decent amount of video, much of it for fun and some of it for work. This is the “comping” I did for the Authentic Jobs ‘Eight’ campaign video:
Notice the two intros I was considering. We went with ‘B’. This was the completed video:
For the aforementioned Authentic Jobs ‘Eight’ campaign, there were many moving parts—microsite, video, t-shirts, sponsors, etc. Most of this planning began in my trusted Moleskine notebook:
The final campaign was executed fairly close to what you see sketched here.
And that’s a sampling of how I begin a project.