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“Why build a web site?”
              “Do we need a brochure?”
“What is it for?”

These are the crucial questions which should be asked at the start of any design project. The answers help you decide if you should move forward and in what direction.

Even if you are certain that you do need a web site or printed collateral material, answering these questions carefully is time well spent. Asking the questions serves two purposes: it helps insure that valuable resources are used carefully; and it prods everyone involved to articulate what the site (or document) is supposed to do and whom it is intended to reach. The content, design, and interface of any project needs to be structured with these goals constantly in mind.

The process begins with identifying , or refining, the message that needs to be communicated. Most often, this is not just a phrase but an idea which needs to be expressed in both words and the design and organization of the piece. Next comes the design, which needs to be attractive but simple; it needs to support your message and meet the needs of your visitors or readers. Thirdly comes the medium - choosing how to present your message and what technologies to use. The choice is often not "web or print" but rather creating content that can be used and re-used in either medium. The distinctions are blurring, as print-ready files can now be reliably distributed on the web, and databases can dynamically customize literature printed on digital presses.

In the following sections, we'll describe our approach to each of these steps and describe how we approached the challenges offered by a number of illustrative projects.

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