Before working with a designer, a client should prepare for that relationship. Often, businesses will request a web site or a logo – a single piece of the puzzle – and neglect the greater concerns that drive the development of those graphic assets and how they will be deployed into the marketplace. A bigger picture is required for successful branding, and that picture is described in a written design brief.
The design (or creative) brief is used by prudent designers to get acquainted with their clients in order to deliver successful solutions. It requires a collaborative effort between both parties and defines project goals It ensures that appropriate issues are addressed and establishes reasonable criteria before the design process actually begins.
As part of my process, the design brief helps me understand my client, bring focus where it’s needed, and communicates to the client that I understand their wants and concerns. It also sets the stage for our working relationship.
The design brief process forces evaluation of a client’s readiness to begin a project and allows the designer to ascertain if the proposed project is worth taking on.
There are no standard briefs, but there are standard components to any brief, such as:
- Why does the company exist? What are its vision, mission and action statements?
- Who are the company’s current and desired customers, and how does the company benefit them?
- What is the company’s current position in the marketplace and where does it want to be in five years?
- What is the company’s competition and how is it different?
- How do existing customers perceive the company?
- What is the image the company wants to express?
- What does the company hope to achieve through the design(s)?
- How will the design be used – technologies and platforms?
- What are the budget, need date and specific deliverables?
By honestly answering these basic questions, the company will have broken ground for an effective design solution and provided the designer with something to build on and a direction to proceed. The more thorough and articluate the brief, the better the design solutions that result from it. A formal briefing process is crucial to the outcome and well worth the time the company takes in considering, evaluating and responding.
In addition to setting the stage for the designer-client relationship, the brief serves as a point of accountability for both the designer and the client, and is a catalyst for building trust as they work together. Above all, it is a hallmark of professionalism.
If you’re working with a designer who has not created a design brief, or if you’re the designer working without one, I recommend that you pause the design process and take a step backward in order to go forward. In other words, get these questions answered and create a written design brief so that you can move forward to a successful design solution.
Alvalyn Lundgren is a graphic designer, illustrator and owner of Alvalyn Creative, an independent design studio near Los Angeles, California. Contact her for your branding, graphic and web design needs. You can join her on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and receive her monthly newsletter.