How to nail a graphic design brief

How to nail a graphic design brief-Woodruff and Co

Words by Jasmine Holmes - the design superwoman behind Jasmine Designs. With over a decade of experience in the creative industry, she has seen it all. From corporate to car wraps, murals to magazines, Jasmine has a wealth of experience that she is only too happy to share with anyone who will listen. Her Instagram is a mix of illustration, client work, sarcasm and puns, and she isn’t afraid to have a little fun with design and creativity. Check her out on Instagram or read more of her blogs here. 

As Red Adair once said “If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional, wait until you hire an amateur”. This is true in many fields, including design and creative. Many of the problems come from miscommunication, which be avoided with a clear, concise brief. 

So, what is a design brief? It’s a document that sets out the parameters of your creative project. Usually 1-2 pages long, it sets the objectives of the project and helps guide you (the client) and your designer towards a successful outcome.
When it comes to writing a brief, think of it like building a house, with a good foundation, clear direction and with your end goal in mind. A brief that is clear with its intention can make or break a design project (believe it or not, over 50% of the jobs I quote on come to me without a brief 🤯). This makes it really difficult for your designer and leaves much room for error. In these situations, I’ll often create a brief from the information available, and ask my client fill in the blanks.

Important questions you need to detail in your design brief: 

What are your objectives?

This is super important when briefing any service provider, and particularly important in a creative brief. Are you trying to connect with a particular demographic? Build awareness of an event or initiative? Sell a product or service? Being clear on who you’re talking to and what you want to say is crucial to a successful project. By communicating this to your designer, you’re setting the direction of your project, which will help ensure you’re both on the same page.

What finished product do you need?

Is it a brochure, flyer, digital ad? Be clear on your end result so you can work back and spot any potential hurdles. This is also an opportunity for the designer to value add to your project. For example, the illustrations you’re including in the advertisement or flyer could be used in socials or used in an email marketing campaign. This is about achieving the best result for you. If your project is large, consider breaking it down into stages to help manage the workload. A plan of attack is not only smart, but strategic.

What’s your deadline?

Is it self imposed, from a publication or something else? Always add in a day or two buffer to allow for the unexpected. Be respectful of the time you expect from your designer and don’t expect something that you would hate your own boss to expect of you e.g. rushing jobs, expecting them to work weekends or late nights without question. Most likely your designer is a small business, just like you. 

Do you have existing content?

Any existing imagery, copy, brand guidelines or other branded content should be provided to your designer as part of your brief. It’s completely fine if you don’t have this – just be upfront and ask for help where you need it. Your designer may have a copywriter contact, be able to provide you with stock image recommendations or collaborate with you on Pinterest.

Do you need printing, production or other external services?

More often than not, designers have printers that they utilise on a frequent basis, often with trade accounts and pre-existing relationships they can work with. This can be a great option - when a designer works with a printer on your behalf they can act as quality control and ensure the finished result is in line with the brief. 

What’s your budget?

This can be tricky, but the best option? Just be honest! Different designers will have their own pricing models, which can vary from hourly rates to project cost to something entirely different. Part of the briefing process is to have these conversations. As always, be respectful of your designer’s costs - as a creative it can be difficult to put a value on your time and skill.

At the end of the day, a good designer wants to create great work that delivers on your brief and fulfils your objectives. So set yourself (and your designer) up for success with clear communication from the very start. 


Photo by Mia Baker on Unsplash

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