Our Process: FOCAL9™

Creative by Clark uses a disciplined design & development process we call FOCAL9™.


Creative by Clark utilizes a 9-phase process methodology that we call FOCAL9™.  Derived from  Focal Object Problem Solving,  the technique synthesizes the seemingly non-matching characteristics of different objects into something new.  In creating something new, the backward process and analysis of how one arrives at the new object can be seen as a “FOCAL”  method.  FOCAL9™ is strategically creative.


Formulate Organize Create Align Launch

We employ the disciplined phases of the FOCAL9™ Process whether our client has asked us to complete a strategic marketing project or one that involves design.  In both cases, the foundation is the strategy and nine basic steps that ensure we approach the solution with the same vigor and standards.

A Focal Object Problem Example . . .

Think of focal objects as a memory cue.  If given the task to determine all the various ways to use a brick, assign some random “objects” (situations, concepts, etc.) and see if it is possible to find a use.

  • Given a “blender,” for example, consider all the ways one could use a brick with a blender (as a lid?).
  • Another concept for the brick example is to find patterns in the solutions and then break those patterns. Focal problem solving is a means to escape the usual rut —only considering that we use bricks to build things.  So, think of new ways to use bricks that don’t involve the standard construction usage.
  • Pattern-breaking, combined with focal object cues, can lead to divergent solutions. (i.e., pulverize the brick and use it as a pigment?).  Does that sound like creativity? It’s strategically creative.

Our Process = FOCAL9™

The nine process phases in FOCAL9™ are:

1. Define

The customer approaches Creative by Clark with their “definition” of the problem or project as an RFP, Design Brief, or basic query that might initiate a request for a Statement of Work.  Creative by Clark answers the client with a brief overview of the project as we interpret it based on best available information.  We regard the “define” phase as a client’s perception of the problem and need.

2. Discover

Creative by Clark gets to know the client and their business.  Depending upon the nature of the project, we delve into different levels of Discovery, including internal research, external research, and interviews.

3. Analyze/Report

We provide appropriate analysis and report based upon the defined problem or project to solve or produce along with our Discovery findings.  At this stage, we meet, in person (or virtually), to review with the client.  The depth of the review depends upon the complexity of the project.  We do not proceed to the next phase until we are certain we have addressed all issues and questions that surface as a result of our Discover phase.  Authorization to proceed is required.

4. Design/Create

Let the fun begin.  By now, we clearly understand our client’s marketing strategy and business.  We can begin the formal creative process to produce something tangible — a rough wireframe, site plan, and/or a design concept/composite.  If applicable for the project, when a design is an issue, we normally provide more than one rough concept. Sometimes the differences are subtle, but we engage our client in full discussion for response and observation. 

We seek approval and secure a sign-off.  However, if we cannot provide a satisfactory concept to the client through three iterations (each as described above), then we provide our client with an option to continue for a maximum of two more rounds.  If no favorable solution is realized, the project halts, and the client pays only for our efforts through the Discovery Phase (3).  The client retains the discovery materials as a key deliverable however does not get to keep or use any other design layouts or unapproved draft work.   Due to our thorough Discovery process, the client should not require a repeat of this process with subsequent consultants.  We certainly do not want this to occur, as we risk losing a competitive edge when any part of our methodology is revealed to a competitor. 

Any rejected or unused design concepts presented to any client remain the copyrighted property of Creative by Clark other than copyrighted or trademarked client components are used within a design, such as an existing logo. Original concepts are not client property until accepted and fully paid, at which time full copyright transfer occurs.  This is a standard operating procedure and policy supported by The Graphic Artists Guild.  Until a transfer of copyright does occur, all creative and technical developments are the property of Creative by Clark.

5. Develop/Test

With a sign-off in hand for the project of whatever nature, we proceed to develop and test, if applicable (i.e., websites or presentations).  We present a more developed, detailed version than in Phase 4, but it may require more work or client input before the final rendering/draft.  We receive an informal approval to proceed.

6. Review & Refine

We further refine from Phase 5.  Work from Phase 6 is presented to the client and is accepted or refused.  If accepted, the project is polished or refined to a final form. If refused, a total of three rounds and two optional rounds, as in Phase 4, exist to finalize.

7. Approve

We seek approval for the finished project.  If a website, it will still require one extra round of testing on the host server with a schedule for the final launch.  If collateral, it will still require press printing.  And so on.  Again, a sign-off is required at this point.

8. Deploy/Produce

Whatever steps are necessary to finalize the project – website launch, file generation, printing, etc.  Sign-off is required.

9. Finish & Support

At this point, there is little more to approve aside from the quality of performance for a website once launched or the quality of press documents from a printer.  We support any necessary tweaks.  Sign-off occurs, and the final invoice is paid.  We support according to the terms specified in our contract for the respective project.  On websites, we provide complimentary maintenance for thirty days following launch, and then it is expected to begin an annual maintenance care plan. We ask our clients to provide an evaluation, and we engender the spirit of continuous improvement and strive to build a long-term partnership.  


The key players are integrated into any iterative cycle, including the business (its plans and strategies), its customers, known governance issues, and appropriate technology. Throughout each phase, we iterate on the design —always considering the user and the fundamental impact our design decisions have within their environment.  FOCAL9™ renders discipline and stability.