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A Simple Guide To Writing Project Descriptions

by Jessica Deseo on 10/28/2020 | 5 Minute Read

You just wrapped up work on your latest packaging project. The colors pop, the renderings are rendered, the brand kit is stellar and the fonts are on point. There's just one thing left to do.

Write up a description of your project.

Yes, we can hear the audible groan you're letting out as you read this. And we feel you on this—you're a designer, not a writer. You didn't sign up to be the next Toni Morrison or William Faulkner. But, it's essential for any student or working designer to communicate the intention behind their work.

So, what makes for a good project description, one that inspires and describes the project to its core? How long should it be? Project descriptions are critical to any design that gets presented to the world. It can be a daunting task to capture every step in your artistic process if there isn’t a set structure in what you’re trying to convey.

As a partner at Dieline, I wear a lot of hats, but one of the most important things we do is review projects for publication. Of course, the visual can attract anyone, but the project description is one of the most vital portions of the submission. Look, I'm not immune to oohing and ahhing over a beautiful piece of packaging, but when someone thoughtfully examines their works and communicates their choices, it really ties a bow on the project. That’s because, for any design, you need to tell the story. And what does every memorable story have? A beginning, a middle, and an end.

Here are four essential steps that can help structure a project description—context, the challenge, a solution, and, finally, the results.

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Context

What is this project all about?

It’s almost like when you first meet someone. You start little by little. Maybe you ask, “Hi, where are you from?” At a wedding, it's “How do you know the couple?” 

It’s all about context. In a story, it would be the plot. You need to set the tone and let the audience know what a client tasked you to design. For myself and the editors at the Dieline, whenever we introduce a project to our readers, we have to be able to explain what they click. What were the project parameters? Was this a rebrand? Is this a forgotten product looking to get refreshed for a whole new audience? Tell us! 

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From Thirst Craft's work on Cornish Orchards.

As I said, a pretty picture can only go so far. Start with a bang! Let us know what we are about to see, as well as the overall objective of the design and its intention. 

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Challenge

What did your client want you to do?

This is the section where you dig into the audit of what you got hired to do. Maybe it was a brand with years of heritage that never rebranded in their storied history, or perhaps it's a company that was tired of creating packaging waste and wants to go 100% plastic-free.

Also, who are you designing for? What were the parameters you had to work within? This is where your hours and hours of research come into play. Tell us how you faced these challenges in the same way you would unfold a story. You're laying out the conflict so you can set the tone for the unveiling of a solution. 

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From Collins' work on Target's More Than Magic.

Solution

What was the creative solution? 

Now you get to really show off. Here's where you get to tell everyone just how inventive you are.

You want to tell the reader what the inspiration was behind your design solution. How did you develop it? Were there any insights gained when you dug into this topic? What was the “aha” moment in the creative process where the solution would solve the challenge? 

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You're detailing the steps taken in your strategy, breaking down the nuances and features of your work. In packaging and branding, it can be the logo, the typography, color-story, and even the photography style. Tell us how this solution resolved the challenges and why. A good example might be if the challenge was to create a 100% sustainable package, describing the materials and how you came across them, providing you with an effective solution to the challenge.

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From Pentagram's work on Lululemon's selfcare line.

Results

What are all the touch-points?

This is your grand unveiling, where you describe how the design solution looks in all of the principal touch-points. In packaging and branding, this can be the logo, the typography, and how it appears on-pack, in-store, on environmental signage, and digitally. The visuals—along with your sterling copy—help create the narrative for the results and present an opportunity to tie everything together. 

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From JKR's work on Dunkin'.

When these essential elements are in place in a project description, it becomes a showcase to the reader, presenting a smooth, developed story in a logical way that's also easy to follow along. Beautiful project visuals will help supplement that narrative. Just like a presentation, getting to the key elements is of the utmost importance, so there is no real specific word count you have to hit. But like an in-person presentation, you don’t want to sit through something too long and have your reader lose interest. 

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Of course, we want every designer to be featured on Dieline, and the best way for us to understand your project, and, most importantly, our readers, is to write a project description that keeps us intrigued, inspired, and enlightened. And if it can challenge our preconceived notions about some of our most deeply held beliefs, all the better.

Oh, and when you’re through? Triple check your grammar. Please.


* Special thanks to Bulletproof's Global Head of Brand Grace Dawson for her contributions and research for this article.

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