Every great project or campaign should start with a great design brief. But this is not always the case. Over the years, we’ve seen some brilliant briefs and some not-so-brilliant briefs. Every project aims for success and by putting the right brief and processes in place at the start, it should ensure a successful outcome.
A vague brief full of irrelevant information will result in frustrated designers trying to work out what it is that a client wants and what their ultimate goal is. Being clear about your aims and objectives at the outset will result in a more effective use of your time as well as your designer.
So, what does a great brief look like? It’s actually really straightforward. And by putting in the time at the start to create a great brief, it will without doubt, save you time in the long run. A design brief is a top-level overview of the project, that can be used to help understand more about your business and your longer-term plans.
Here’s our top tips for writing a brief your design agency will love you for.
Before you start writing, break the document down into bite-sized chunks. It will make it far more manageable and digestible for the reader. The briefs we love getting always include the following;
Background information is invaluable to a designer. Like the starting point in any relationship, it’s important to tell your story. In this case, it’s the story of your brand. What makes your brand great? Writing with passion about your business or brand, will inspire a creative. Tell them about the challenges you face, the opportunities in your industry and who your customers are. If this is a brief going to several agencies, don’t assume they will know all about your business and your industry, they need to hear from you what your strategy is, what your brand essence is and what gives you a competitive edge in the marketplace.
It sounds ridiculous but it’s imperative you state what the objective of the design work is. Generally, when a design brief is created it’s because a business is trying to make an improvement – whether it’s attracting new customers or altering the behaviour of existing customers.
What are your goals? Again, it can be very simple – a brand refresh to help you stand out from your competitors for example. It gives a designer a focus to work on as well as being a key measurable in the success of a campaign. Remember to include what you are hoping to achieve with this campaign so that everyone is on the same page.
So, you’ve talked about the objectives of your project however, you need to share the challenges you face as a business. Think of the designer as the problem-solver in your team.
Share current industry information, statistics and trends. Include your key competitors. By identifying your competitors, an agency can then research them and gain an understanding of who they are.
What is the challenge that you’re facing? Why do you need a new website? Have you launched a new online product that isn’t converting into sales? Why not?
‘Why’ is a question that we ask a lot as designers. It is here that often a brief can become fluid. An agency should challenge you on your particular problem. By asking ‘why’ it keeps you focussed on the issue at hand as well as helping you to consider wider issues that may impact what you’re trying to achieve. Be open to suggestions and remember your brief isn’t set in stone.
Share as much customer data as you can. How does your customer behave? What is the demographic of your customers base? Who is your ideal customer? Ideally, you’ll have a customer persona that gives the designer a clear picture of who they are appealing to visually. Depending on the project, it may be worth running customer focus groups prior to issuing a design brief so that you have a clear idea of perception, what feedback your customers have and what they want.
If you have brand guidelines, include them with your brief. Sending an agency off to work on a project without giving them guidance on your brand is a waste of everyone’s time. That’s not to say they shouldn’t have flexibility when designing but if there are specific colours or fonts that must be used, tell them at the start. Additionally, if there’s a particular approach or idea that you have, tell them. By sharing an idea or a bit of design inspiration at the start, they can include or discount it in their design approach.
Very often we get requests for projects to be completed in a very short timescale. We’ll always try and work with our clients to get their project completed on time but it’s important that you’re realistic with timescales depending on the level of the project. If you’re looking for a full rebrand within 4 weeks, it’s unlikely to happen. A good agency will work with you to set timescale parameters so no one is left feeling frustrated or disappointed.
Different projects take different amounts of time. But if it’s a job worth doing, it’s worth doing properly. Dedicating the time and resource at the start will help manage expectations. Make sure that you share any date sensitive information – i.e. is there a particular event or launch that it needs to be ready for. If that’s shared at the start, a clear timetable can be implemented. But remember to be realistic about internal sign off too!
“We don’t really have a budget, but if you quote then we can tell you whether it’s too expensive or not” or “But if I give you a budget you’ll spend it all”…. Are just some of the statements we’ve heard over the years. Ultimately good design work costs money.
The cost is dependent on the scope of the project. It’s up to you to use your budget to maximum effect and decide what is a priority in your overall marketing strategy. Once you’ve decided what you can allocate to a particular project, share it with the agency. As well as giving them an idea of how to manage that budget to get the best out of your project, it also builds trust in your relationship.
If you’re working with a new agency, take the time to introduce key members of the team who will be working on the project and those that are responsible for sign off.
Ideally, you will send the brief in advance then follow up with a face to face meeting where any challenges or questions can be raised. It may be a time-consuming meeting, but it will help iron out any potential issues. More often than not, in these meetings, there are small nuggets of information shared that you may think are trivial but are invaluable to a designer.
A design brief is a vital communication tool between yourself and your agency. Taking the time to write a brief will focus your thoughts on what you want to achieve as well as making it easier for a designer to digest. A great brief is creative fuel which will result in great design.
If you have a design brief that you would like to discuss, then get in touch, we’d love to hear from you.
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