There is nothing that will make a graphic designer happier than to receive a detailed and well thought out written design brief before starting a design job. One of the challenges you’ll face as a graphic design boss is to repeat what you understand about what your client wants to achieve. Then pass it onto your staff. A well written design brief (some call them a creative brief) will simplify and clarify your creative direction. There is no doubt that it will also improve the final creative outcome.
An effective design brief can also help you be more productive. If the brief is clear it will also shorten the time you spend on your clients concepts which means more time to spend on other paid design work. If your client is paying a fee for concept, then you will make more money! Brilliant!
Before I became my own boss, I worked at different design firms and I had been on the receiving end of good, bad and non-existent design briefs. I preferred working with account executives who really knew their stuff. The smart ones invited me along with them, either through laziness or because they wanted me to get the clearest idea of what the client wanted.
The first time I came across a design brief was when a colleague of mine showed me one that he was working on for a prospective advertising client. I spent the next ten minutes interrogating him on each question and why that question helped to find out how to solve the clients communication problem. I’ve used what I learnt in those ten minutes ever since.
Here are some of the questions you should ask your client to get an effective design brief:
- What is your clients company name? This could be a ‘duh’ moment. But as your business grows your designers back in the studio will know less and less about new clients you are bringing in. It’s important to give them the essentials.
- What does their business/organisation do? What is their core business. Is what you are designing a product or service that you are helping your client sell?
- What is their industry sector? Are they in healthcare and pharmaceuticals, airlines, beer wine and spirits, financial services, household and consumer products, government, food, industrial and manufacturing, retail, sports and entertainment, technology and communications, telecommunications and mobility, tourism and hospitality, restaurants, government, real estate and development and beverages.
- How long they have been in business? Are they new kids on the block or experienced players in their field. This could impact their brand positioning. Does your client want to be perceived as a trusted experienced brand, or a young upstart?
- Who is their primary target audience? Start with age, sex, income, occupation and location. Try to go beyond customer status and demographics—attempt to paint a relevant and evocative picture of their lifestyle or business. Does your client want appeal to an existing target audience or are your clients targeting a new target audience?
- What does their primary target audience currently think about your product/service? Have they communicated to the target audience before? How do they perceive you client?
- What do you want them to think after the communication? Does your client want their audience to change the way they think about them?
- What is your client want the consumer to do? If more than one, split into primary and secondary action—but note: you can only have one primary objective.
- How should the design speak to them? What is the tone of voice should the communication have? What is the brand character?
- Are there any mandatories design wise? Logo, typeface(s). Colours. Positioning statement. Is there an existing style guide?
- What is required? What do we need to deliver—brochure, leaflet, insert, etc. And to what level of finish? Very rough, colour finished, subheads, copy outline or full copy?
- When is the finished product needed? Timing and destination of delivery.
- What are the restrictions? Budget, colours, shapes, paper sizes.
- Is there any more background your client can give you? Can the client supply any more details about the job. Attach these. Do they have any samples of what their competitors are doing? Keep it brief.