How to brief a designer

As a designer I’ve experienced many different types of briefings; frantic text messages, phone calls “I think I need your help”, in person and some very weighty 20 page documents. No matter the method of briefing, as a business owner there are a few tricks which will help create a good brief for the designer, ensuring you’ll get a good return on your investment. 

A good designer will want to understand more than the outcome you’re asking to be created, email, leaflet, window display etc, they’ll want to discover the bigger purpose of the work. They will want to support you in finding the right solution for what you’re trying to achieve – it could be something you’ve not even thought about and could save you money.

Where to start

When you’ve found a designer you feel comfortable with and they understand your business there are many ways you can brief them, but there is a lot to be said for in person, it’s certainly the method I find most valuable and enjoyable. By meeting in person the designer will experience your passion, body language and get to understand your business pressure points – which will create the most effective designs. It creates great working relationships – fees are important but so is chemistry. 

Keep track 

It is very important to write things down (for both of you) if you meet in person, you can refer back and make sure all the details are covered, no chance of misunderstanding. Whether you supply a written brief to the designer or they write one for you based on conversations – it’s hugely important that it’s done. It may seem like you’re going to have to write war and peace and think of everything, this isn’t the case, it just needs to be relevant to what you want and succinct, you’ll be surprised where a designer can get an idea from, so it’s always good to add any ideas you may have had. Depending on the job you’re briefing it could be as simple as a few bullet points.

Brief templates

Most designers have brief templates which they’ll share with you, or you could ask them for what kind of information they’ll need so you are ready for their questions. Sometimes it can be useful to give the designer some background, it will help them come to the initial meeting with ideas or think about questions – nothing worse than being on the back foot in a meeting.

There are 3 key pieces of information you’ll need to think about when you start to talk to a designer; context, problem and deliverables. The best way to tackle this is to write them in the simplest form, like you’re telling a friend or family member.   

Context

This is background to the company, product, competitors (if you know them, a good designer will still seek to find more). If you have a long working relationship with the designer you wont need to go into the background of the company, but use this to update on the story so far, what developments there has been, new learnings you may have.

Problem

This is where you need to be honest and discuss what the business problem is, it can help the designer deliver more effective solutions. Has there been a drop in sales, a new product which you need to get out there, but when you’re thinking of this ask what it is you really want to achieve? This turns a design from looking nice to creating a real return on your business, be it raise in profile or increasing sales. 

Don’t be modest, reach for the stars, share your ambitions for what it is you’re trying to get across, it’s the only way it can come true. Be clear on what you’re trying to do, raise your profile, hit a new customer base, sell a new product or maybe re-invent an old one? Also don’t be afraid to share any thoughts you’ve had or work you’ve seen which you feel has been successful. 

Deliverables

If you are open to what the outcome could be and work in partnership with a designer, it will lead to the best work – it will become an insightful and strategic decision based on you and your customer needs, not just a passing trend in technology, print or even social media. 

It’s also a chance to share what support you’ll need and what you can deliver yourself, do you need help with copywriting or already have imagery you’d like to use for example. When you’ve chosen how you’re going to communicate your message, this is when timings will be decided. I always find it helpful to know when a business is wanting to share their new information as that can often help define what we create, an email for example can be a lot quicker to share with your customer than a piece of printed material.

Save money

Good briefing saves you money, it gives clear direction which means the designer will deliver great work quicker. As you gain a strong working relationship with a designer the briefing process will become more natural and shorter and in time they’ll come to you with ideas to market your products. 

I believe in partnerships and getting to know the business and the owner which is why I meet with my clients in person, I then draft the briefs and we agree to what we’re going to create together. 

Download the template I use for guidance, it will help spark the information you’ll need when briefing your designer, or take it with you as a prompt to make sure all the information is covered in your face to face meetings.