The Importance of a Design Brief

Posted 14 Jun 2010 - No Comments - leave yours now!

So, you’ve found a client, or they have discovered you. They need your services and you want to help them achieve their goals. Both the client and the designer need to work out and agree upon what each party expects from the other. The design brief is the foundation of a successful project.

I’m writing this post for both, real-world, clients and designers. I hope clients will take note of the sort of information they should be expected to provide and designers will note the correct sort of questions they should be asking.
You’ll never get the correct information if you are asking all the wrong questions!

A clear and thorough design brief (plus a similarly well thought out contract) will make the working situation between client and designer grounded and clear. By the end of the ‘administration’ process the designer should have enough information to get started and the client should be assured of exactly what will be happening over the next few weeks or months.
It’s all about defining the expected outcomes and results of your working relationship.

The Design Brief
The next step, once the client has expressed an interest in working with you, is a formal meeting, preferably face to face, where you will ask and discuss a series of questions that will aid you as a designer to draw up a design brief.
Some companies decide to produce a pdf questionnaire that can be handed to the client for completion at their leisure.
I personally prefer a face to face meeting as I can take away a lot more information from a real meeting than I get from a completed form.

The important thing to remember, is to gather/provide as much raw information as possible. The more information a designer has at their disposal should improve the chances that the final design will meet the clients needs.

Company Overview
No matter how big the company is, it should never be assumed that the designer will know intimate details of it’s inner workings.

What does the company do?

What are it’s day to day aims?

What are it’s long-term targets?

What is the company history?

What industry to they operate in?

Who are their competitors? (Past, present & future)

Where do they currently rank amongst their competitors?

Objectives
It’s important to get an idea of the clients expectations regarding your employment.
Do they believe a new logo alone will increase their business? If this is the case it’s better to find out if the client holds unrealistic expectations early on.

What does your client hope to achieve through hiring you? (Increased sales or awareness. Perhaps enhancing or creating their image)

How do they hope the materials you produce will affect their current standing?

Do they have a measurable way to determine success or failure?

What are they trying to say?

What makes them different to their competitors?

Target
It’s very important for a designer to know who they are trying to connect and communicate with. This will affect the approach and style of the entire project.

Who are your current customers? (Consider demographics like age, gender, income, attitude, lifestyle and tastes.)

Are you trying to expand your customer base?

If yes: What type of new customers are you trying to attract? (Use same demographics as above.)

Which target audience is most important if there are many?

Specifications
This is one of the most important parts of the design brief. You need to create an exact list of the graphic products the designer is expected to hand over at the end of the project.

What graphic products are required? (Logo, Stationery, catalogue, t-shirts etc.)

What artwork files are required? (vector .eps, pdf’s, print ready artwork)

Please provide final print specifications if needed (for example the business cards must be 85mm x 55mm, or size & style of t-shirts that must be sourced etc.)

What existing copy or images need to included in the designs?

If any: Who will be providing extra elements? (Photographers, copywriters, illustrators etc.)

Aesthetics
As a rule it should be left up to the designer to decide the best style and aesthetic to implement that will communicate the clients message most effectively. However it is important for the client to have some input into the direction of aesthetics.
Any samples given to the designer will also create a starting point for more in depth research.

Can the client provide all past and present graphic products they have used?

Can the client provide examples of their competitors graphic products past and present?

Are there any themes, styles or specific aesthetics that the client wishes to avoid completely?

If so: Please give reasons. (The designer may wish to assess if the clients misgivings are valid on a project to project basis.)

Budget
It’s important for the client to define their desired budget, this will determine how much time and resources a designer will be able to put into the project. In this way the designer will be able to tell at this early stage of the process if the job is worth doing.

I plan to write a future post on figuring out how much to charge, and how to work within a client defined budget.

Timescale
Both parties should agree on the overall duration of the project. This will depend on the answers to the questions above.
If there is a lot of work to be completed in a short space of time, this will also affect the overall cost, so it’s important to also consider the clients budget.

A completion date should be agreed, as well as a vague breakdown of future meeting dates when the designer will be able to show the client how the project is progressing. This will be dependent on each individual designers creative process.

General Enquiries
Sometimes it can be useful to draw up a list of seemingly random questions that might give you an insight into the clients business and how they work and think. Such as:

Describe your business in one sentence.

Describe your business in three words.

What makes your business unique.

If your business were a car/animal/sport/song what would it be?

If your business were a season which would it be? (Spring/Summer/Autumn/Winter)

Hopefully these questions will give you an overall impression of who your client is and what they expect from you.
The next stage will be to take the answers to these questions and write a clear and concise brief that explains the points covered. Once you have put this together get the client to read it, and if they agree with it’s contents, sign it. You must also sign it yourself.
This is the foundation that the rest of the project will be built upon.

Feel free to let me know what you think of the above article, have I missed anything important out? Are there other things you do yourself that could improve how I form a design brief?

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