Diary

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.

Same, same but different. Is Instagram becoming all too familiar?

Is diversity still welcome on this social platform?

This might sound controversial, but after going to a few social media workshops to try and strengthen my online social presence, I left uninspired and a little disappointed. Throughout these workshops, and whilst reviewing Instagram’s Top 10 accounts, I found that all the 'best' images tend to look the same in terms of composition, tone and often content. They also seem to use the same style of props (although different physically, they still look very similar), the same layout and the same colourways.

So my question is: When you need to show flexibility and variety of experience, should your images look the same or should you be able to embrace being different? I’ve recently started following some new Instagram accounts and I’ve learnt a great deal about the marketplace, and what works and what doesn't. I’ve also gained a new insight into myself and my work. And I think that, in order to maximise my online social presence, I'm going to try to make every picture different from the next.

Not everything about the social media workshops was disappointing. What was great to learn is that it’s best to avoid using filters, as these can dilute your image content and hide how good you are as a photographer. Also, the importance of using hashtags, an area which is ever-changing and something I'm constantly trying to improve on. For example, you should always use hashtags in a comment, not just with your image upload. Make sure your hashtags cover more than just the content of your image – and don't forget your location.

The more I learn on Instagram, the more I'll share. Follow me on Instagram to see how I’m progressing with what I've learnt and if all my images have blended into one.

Fail to follow the rules. Rules are made to be broken. Don’t just bend them. Smash them. Blow them up. Destroy them.

I love that quote! I think I’ll start having this as my daily mantra: “Fail to follow the rules.”

There’s always so much promise in a new book. A chance to steal a few minutes of peace from a busy day and indulge in true escapism. My latest read came from my sister-in-law when she visited the UK. It’s an unusual gift to say the least, but it really got me thinking.

She really does know me so well!

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Failed it! reflects on everyday failures, big and small. What do they really mean? Are they all true failures or just mistakes on the path to greatness? Our family, friends and even peers might tell us that failure is character-building. But it’s all too easy to disregard these comments whilst our inner turmoil spirals out of control, agonizing over every scenario and eventuality until we can no longer see a solution to the problem.

"Whether planned or unplanned, mistakes force us to take a closer look – they catch our attention in a sea of bland excellence."

The book encourages you to look past a failure to find original ideas and creative success. It offers examples which, at first glance, might look like mistakes, but if you look differently you’ll spot greatness and even humour in these errors. The peacock skip (pictured below) is a classic example of a happy failure, something which we see daily but don’t pay much attention to. This is how we should see our failures. By taking a different approach, we can view them as opportunities – fabulous instead of fatal!

This book is a ‘must buy’ for anyone needing an inspirational lift. With motivating quotes from great personalities like Winston Churchill, you’re sure to read it from cover to cover.   

“Redesign your imagination”