You start your graphic design job with that blank bit of paper, how I hate that blank paper. I often find myself putting off that new job for FEAR of the paper. So how do you start? For me once the battle with the fear has been overcome its with a pen and paper.
I know many designers now start straight on the Mac, but for me its the the old fashioned layout pad. Not that I produce beautiful drawings by any mean, they more resemble doodles on a telephone pad. Often it is with words which lead to other words – and hopefully inspiration – a flick through a book or two and some magazines, maybe a browse through a photolibary or two and a look through a thesaurus, if I am feeling totally self indulgant (and budget permits) a mood board. Then I will start to concentrate on general layout/concept. I always find it far easier if a concept is involved rather than just straight layou. If its a brochure I always start with the cover and probably scribble out ten or so covers (ala telephone doodle style) before I grab a highlighter – finally narrow it down to 3 or 4 to start working up on the mac.
Once I know what I intend (notice the word intend) to do the next stage is not so scarey. Sometimes it all goes smoothly and the finished cover bares a lot of similarity to my scribble. Other times I labour over one idea, before finally admitting defeat that in fact the idea does not look as good at A4 as it did postage stamp scribble size.
The best thing is the happy accident, when by mistake you rotate or overlap something and it looks great – its like an idea for free.