A Marketer’s Guide To Writing An Effective Graphic Design Brief

writing design brief

The design brief is one of the most important documents in the Brand Manager’s toolkit.

How many times have you received a graphic proof that looks totally different than what you were expecting?

Working with a designer on a new website, catalog, logo or promotional flyer can quickly become a very unpleasant task without proper communication and unrealistic expectations. A well-written graphic design brief simplifies the process and helps you get the results you want.

Design Brief Components

The design brief I use in my day job follows the structure below:

Project goals. This is the starting point of every design project. Be as specific as possible in what you are trying to achieve and narrow you list of goals to the most important one(s). If you have multiple goals rank them by importance.

Company overview. Explain in a paragraph what your company is all about, including the history, values, products/services, and distribution. This will help the designer understand your business philosophy and create concepts that reflect it.

Target audience. It is important that you provide the designer with a clear definition of your target audience: who they are, where they work, where they live, age group, likes and dislikes, etc. If you target multiple segments make sure to include them all in the order of importance, or select the groups that are relevant to the project.

Brand positioning. This should be one of the most important paragraphs of your design brief. Here you will be answering a simple question: how are you different from your competitors? The uniqueness of your brand image is directly influenced by how good you are at identifying the differentiation elements and explaining how they make your brand unique.

Brand identity guidelines. Consistency is key to building a distinctive brand identity. My suggestion for marketers is to put together a “Brand manual”. This reference guide comes very handy when working with marketing agencies and independent contractors since they will able to learn about your brand from a single source.

Project exclusions. An effective design brief clearly defines responsibilities and identifies exclusions. A detailed outline of the development work to be performed, including who is responsible for providing the copy, images, translations, and product information, helps the designer put together an accurate estimate and eliminates unrealistic expectations.

Competitor information. Your materials should have a unique look that reflects your distinctive brand positioning. Provide the designer with your competitors’ catalogs, brochures and websites. Stay up-to-date on your competitors’ moves and work on creating your own distinctive identity.

Examples of (what you consider) relevant work. We all have our favorite brands that inspire us. I keep a list of favorite websites and other marketing materials that reflect the design principles I value: simplicity, smart creativity, clean look, and use of white space. Look outside your industry for great ideas you can incorporate in your marketing piece.

Deadline– Provide a realistic completion date for your project. I usually start by asking the designer for a realistic time estimate for completing the project and work around that date. A very tight deadline might limit creativity. No deadline might put you out of the job.

Should You Provide a Budget?

I prefer to create a list of “must have” and “nice to have” elements and ask for an estimate based on my requirements. The reason I prefer not to include the budget  is that some designers tend to say “yes” to every project, no matter the budget, and allocate creative time based on the amount of money available.

I hope the above list simplifies your project management work and help you get things done faster. Feel free to add to it so we can all learn how to better communicate with our creative partners.

Photo credit: isolationism on Flickr

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