What My Design Process Is: A Then and Now Story

Updated: Aug 20, 2020

When I started designing many years ago it was without a computer, without internet. We did things "Old School" our biggest technology we had was a color copy machine. My process at the beginning was to hand draw all my sketches, allover prints. Artwork was either painted or appliquéd onto samples. First samples were done from sample piece goods used from what you bought from either the piece good salesman or the open market from the fabric district.


My first experience with a computer in the Industry was at my first company where I had talked my way into the design position ( you can read about this in my first blog post). They allowed three designers to go for a week's worth of training on an apple computer in Adobe Illustrator and photoshop. I showed such eagerness that I was picked as one of the employees allowed to go. Once we were trained we had a set up in a tiny windowless room with a computer, monitor and a scanner. We would still hand draw our sketches then scan them into the computer and color them up here then print out.

What was amazing was that for the first time we had the capabilities of saving our sketches and recoloring which made the process of revising a design much easier. We would print out individual computerized sketches and cut out and put on big presentation boards.This process remained the same for many years.


At the beginning of every season, we would get our inspiration from magazines, trend services, and word of mouth of what was "blowing out" for retailers. We would purchase most of our resources from a company called OPR. Some of the magazines that we looked at were, "Collezioni Bambini" ,"Close-Up: Kids: Girl & Boy". We depended on lots of mail order magazines as well. Some of the hard copy design services were: "Mudpie", "Mini Pie", "Promostyl". We would scour these books and copy and paste looks for mood boards and then recreate these looks for our lines.


Today, we do not have to use any of these hard copy services or magazines, everything is online at the touch of our fingertips. We view at a glance all the runway shows, all the high high end apparel sights such as "Melijoe", "Farfetch", "Childrens Salon" to name just a few. The online design services that are at everyones fingertips are Wgsn and Fashionsnoops. We can navigate to any store site and order apparel that we may want for styling, or fabric. Our design process has become in one way easier to grab resources, however because of how we design right in the computer, changing designs, or color ways have increased because if the ease of making these changes so quickly in the computer.


Years ago we would design a line, make first samples, produce units on our designs and sell to the buyers from this. Today Companies cannot afford to invest so much upfront. Today we design, have buyer input, they tell us what styles they like and place a "buy" and agree to a specific amount that we will then produce based on these numbers.


Today my design process is this. I start off with going to my online trend resources.

They will post what the new "trends" or "themes" are , I take a look at the color stories, and then I start scouring all the high end to mid tier online stores to see what the styles are. Everything is now done right in the computer, I do not hand sketch anything. I draw my bodies right in the computer using Illustrator, I will use Photoshop once in awhile. I sketch out the important styles, decide on what the seasonal trends that are important. While doing this my artist and I discuss colors and print stories that we may lay out for a collection or across categories. Once my designs are approved after some revisions (and believe me everyone wants to be the designer and has an opinion!)) I then work with my associate designer who will start creating technical packages for the Technical designers who then create the specs and patterns for these styes. I work with the product development team who will source certain fabrics I am looking for or order sample yardage so that we can make first samples. this is where my computer sketches come alive. I love when physical samples become the reality of my CADS (Computer Aided Designs).


Five years into my design career, the industry had a turning point of utilizing Technology. I was fortunate enough to be trained on the job and picked up the computer relatively easily. Designers who were a little older than me, or decided that they would continue to design the old way soon found out just a few short years later how irrelevant they became. Today 30 years into my career we are seeing another turning point in the industry. Technology has advanced in such a way that buyers are looking to see first samples not in their physical form but in their virtual form. 3-D modeling is now here. like many years ago, my current company will train 3 designers on a portion of this 3-D platform. Once again my eagerness has won out and I was one of the "chosen ones". By going "virtual" the companies can now cut out that "first fit" or photo sample. this saves, time, fabric, resources etc. the technology even accounts for the fabric being used for these styles. I am very excited to start this training at the end of the month. My process yet again will change.


Below is an example of design board, and how the designs were rendered into the 3-D program

Toddler girl design board

example of 3D design










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