How to write a design brief

How to write a design brief

How to write a design brief … well first, what is a Design Brief?

Why is a design brief of such great importance? Can’t the designer just work out what you want with an email or phone call? The answer is quite simple really. NO! No one knows your business better than you. You know what you like and what you don’t like. You know your company’s culture, your customers and your products and services. If you spend time outlining the goals and objectives of a project, you will provide the designer with the information they need to create a successful design that will achieve the desired results.

To help establish an understanding between the client and designer, a comprehensive brief is a crucial part of the design process. It essentially serves as a reference tool during the project. But do you know how to write a design brief? Here are some tips!

1 - Who you are

If you're working with your design or branding agency for the first time, let them understand who you  are – the brand, service or product. Start your brief with a short, but honest introduction to your company. Tell your designer about the products or services you provide and what your niche market is. Explain your company’s mission statement, vision or philosophy. Including a short company history is also advantageous. Assume the designer knows nothing about your industry, nor anything about your customers and competitors.

2 – Who you are talking to – define your target audience

Identify your primary, secondary and tertiary audiences. Be specific with any demographic figures as these are useful to a designer. Include age range, gender, household income, occupation, location and any useful keywords. Claiming that your target market is everyone is not effective or practical. Be tough with this detail as the more targeted your audience the better the results.

3 – Set Your Goal. What is it that you want to achieve?

Make sure your goals are clear and well outlined. Define your project and what you would like the outcomes to be. For instance, is your goal to increase the number of new customers by giving an overview of your product and service with a call to action? Or to improve repeat business by reminding your audience of your benefits and the value you bring. A great design can influence the success of a company but clear objectives must be set. Sitting down to write a design brief will help you set those targets.

4 – Establish a Budget

Even if you can only provide a rough estimate, a budget expectation will give the designer a good idea of the type of solution they will realistically be able to provide. Withholding this information for fear of being over-charged is a common misconception. If you start with honesty up front, you will most likely receive good service in return. There are multiple avenues a designer can use to fit your brief to your budget. Printing on a less expensive stock of paper, altering the size of the artwork or producing less collateral than originally planned are all ways which can save you money.

Think of it like building a house. Without a budget, your architect doesn't know if they need to tailor your home requirements to a one-bedroom cottage, or a 6 bedroom mansion. The same thing applies to most projects – budget determines outcomes, supported by an analysis of your goals.

5 – Be Specific

Clearly stipulate what needs to be designed. Is it a business card, a website or a 12-page brochure? But that information is not enough for a designer to work from, let alone quote on.

Here are some prompts for you to chat through with your design agency:

  • How many elements do you require?
  • What is the size of the artwork?
  • What colours do you want? Full colour, a Pantone colour or a special metallic ink?
  • What stock do you require? Recycled? Plastic? Metallic?
  • Will the artwork be printed on both sides?
  • How many do you need to be printed?
  • Does it have a special finish such as embossing or foiling?
  • Do you want your artwork die-cut or folded?
  • For a website, how many pages and what navigation will it have?
  • What special features will it have? Rotating banners/member logins/online shop etc?

These details can seriously affect your budget, so be aware of expecting caviar when you have a fish and chips budget.

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6. Set a Deadline

Advise your designer if there is a particular deadline, such as a special event. If you leave your project to the last minute, many designers will add a rush fee to their normal rate as they will have to put a hold on the other jobs already in the system. Always be prepared and give your designer a realistic time frame to produce quality work.

7. Decide who the decision-makers are

If your project involves the approval of various people, ensure they have had adequate input in the brief or have thoroughly reviewed it. Resolve all differences before supplying the brief to your designer, it will make the design process run more smoothly and not delay your project.

There is a saying: A camel is a horse designed by a committee! Remember that the more decision-makers in the process, the more likely that the project will not achieve all of its goals as there will be a continual compromise, which will likely impact on how long the project will take. Try reducing the number of decision-makers. If that's not possible, instruct them on how to give constructive input.

8 – Gather references

Collect any examples of visuals you like and include them in the brief. Use emotive words when describing the look and feel you desire. Take note of what you like about the colours, imagery or typography in the examples you present and explain what you like about them. A great way to collect examples of what you like is to create a Pinterest board and collect various images so that your designer can use your board as a reference throughout the design process. The more hints, tips and suggestions you give your designer, the more likely the designer will be able to produce something close to your aims. Expecting your designer to guess what you like rarely produces the best results.

If you have mean existing brand, then the best reference is the Brand Guidelines, along with a range of company materials to show their style.

Indicate what you feel is currently working for your company, what you like or alternatively what you don’t want to repeat.

9 – Review and Refine

Review and refine your brief before sending it out. This is the initial step of the project and the time spent on the brief will guide its future success. Keep in mind that this is simply a guide for the designer. They will not duplicate what you have done but will use the information to creatively come up with a solution you can be proud of.

Halo Media has a design brief template on hand for our clients who battle putting together a creative brief – so if you are one of our clients, give us a shout and we'll send you over a design briefing template!

10 tips for working with a graphic designer

1. Designers are professionals who have studied and must be treated as such.
2. Designers are not mind readers.
3. No design can save any business. Make sure you have a well thought out business model.
4. Understand the goal of your business, and the ideas you want to convey to your target market.
5. Understand your services and products, and be able to explain it clearly.
6. Do not expect a design service for bargain price or worse, for free!
7. Communicate with the designer — don’t dictate.
8. Don’t design for the designer — you hired them for their knowledge and talent.
9. Do not assume a designer knows your industry, clients or opposition.
10. Reasonable expectations and deadlines must be agreed up-front.