I am a big proponent of collaboration in all forms. Collaborative projects are a huge creative outlet for me, as well as a great way of meeting new people and gaining new experiences. I have met some of my closest friends through all of the shoots and sites I've worked on. Through collaborations, I've been able to develop my reputation and have gained print and blog press.
At the start of any project, I run through the same process over and over again. I like to make sure whatever I throw myself into is not only worthwhile for myself, but for my collaborators and my audience as well.
Here's how I do it:
Develop the big idea
Whether it is a website or a shoot, I usually write down an "elevator pitch" for the project. An elevator pitch is a summary of the idea explained in a short, concise way. It should be short enough to be delivered in the length of time it takes to ride an elevator. It helps prevent me from being verbose, and thus obscuring my big idea. This is especially helpful when most pitches occur over email.
My elevator pitch is a project summary that always answers what the ultimate goal is, and who the audience is. For example, when I started Somewhere Splendid, I was still a wedding blogger, and I framed the new blog this way: Somewhere Splendid is a nesting blog that combines entertaining, cooking, and home decor. It draws inspiration from the innovation and style of the wedding blogosphere, while adapting it for a general audience that is not in the midst of wedding planning.
Scout the competition
Find out what else is out there. If it's a website, take note of what you think is really great about it and what can be improved. If it's a shoot, look for other features that are similar to the theme your envisioning. Brainstorm how to approach it in an innovative way, but don't be afraid to walk away from the original theme if you find the blogosphere is too saturated with it.
At this point, shift your research from what is out there to what you can bring to the table. Scour blogs and Pinterest for visual inspiration. Make a point to disconnect to come up with ideas from the non-digital world. Because Pinterest does not have a private board option, save everything to your desktop in a clearly labeled folder. It also helpful to save all image sources, as well as any non-visual ideas and notes, in Evernote or Springpad.
Produce a project deck
This is another part of my process that is derived from my advertising days. A deck is a multi-page presentation format that allows others to understand the meat of your proposal, without needing to be walked through it verbally. While I know some bloggers only provide a few images for look and feel, I prefer a more comprehensive approach that includes a lot of images and notes. This is great not only for my own reference, but for collaborators (and potentially even project sponsors) down the road.