Do you outsource design tasks and find that often the end result looks nothing like what you were expecting? This is a super common friction point between designers and their clients. If this happened to you, maybe you hired an unexperienced designer — or just one without the right skills. There’s also a good chance you didn’t communicate your expectations clearly enough.

Every successful design project starts with good communication between the client and the designer. No matter how good the designer is, they can’t read your mind and they don’t know your products, services, or audience as well as you do. Well, what all things does the designer need to know? And how do you communicate everything in the best possible way?

The answer to your question is: a design brief. This is a piece of documentation that you should hand to the designer in the very beginning of the project. It outlines the goals and expectations for the design deliverable — the outcome.

Sometimes the client and the designer work together to get the design brief just right. Basically this means, you draft a brief for the designer. And they return it with questions and comments.

If you produce a design brief that both parties feel good about, your project is up for a much smoother ride. Below you can find a listing of things that are good to have in an effective design brief.

Business information

Start the brief by listing important high level details on you business:

    • Company name
    • Contact person (if someone else than you) and best ways to contact
  • What does your business do
    • A brief explanation of what your business does

Project information

    • Goal of this project
        • What is your project about?
      • What are you trying to achieve, what is the ideal outcome?
    • Project plan
        • When is this project due?
      • How many revisions you’re expecting
        • Sometimes the designer dictates this based on the amount you’re paying them. General rule of thumb is: more revisions mean more expensive price tag.
    • What is the design deliverable (the outcome)
      • What are you expecting the designer to deliver for you?
        • Is it an ebook, a website, a flyer, a business card, etc.
        • This can be one item or multiple. List everything you are expecting to be designed during this project.
  • Scope of the design work (be as specific as possible)
      • Quantity of each item
        • E.g. How many pages on the ebook or website? How many different versions of the business card?
    • What is the content (text, images, etc.)
      • Be as specific as possible (how many words, how many images, etc.)
      • Spell out if the designer has any flexibility with the content or if you’re expecting them to use your content exactly as is.
        • Typically designers shouldn’t touch the content. But in some cases you may want to give some flexibility, if you want to make sure the content fits on x amount of pages, etc. Or if you know the designer also has editing experience and you trust them.
    • Are you expecting to see design exploration?
      • If you want the designer to show you 2-3 different versions to choose from, spell it clearly out here.
        • Sometimes the designer dictates this based on the amount you’re paying them. General rule of thumb is: more exploration means more expensive price tag.

Client expectations

  • What are your expectations? How do you want the designer to work?
      • Does the designer have free hands to do whatever they want? Or follow your direction tightly?
    • Are you expecting something creative and unexpected? Or rather follow traditional styles and thinking?
    • What are the non-negotiables?
      • If you already know that you have strict rules or limitations you want the designer to follow, spell them out clearly here.
        • E.g. Never use red color. Or only use the imagery you provide. Or your audience is old people and you don’t want any font below size 14 pts used. Anything that is non-negotiable for you.

Brand compliance

If you have a brand guidelines documentation separately, you can give them access to that. And you don’t need this section. However, if you don’t have your brand guidelines documented anywhere, then include a section for it here. You want to keep this section rather brief. You’re including it so the designer understands the look and feel you want to convey. And to make sure they are creating designs that comply with your brand.

    • Tagline or slogan if you have one
    • You audience
        • Description of your audience
      • Demographics
          • Age 
          • Gender
          • Geographical area
        • Needs and desires
    • What makes your business offering unique
      • What is the unique value your brand offers to your customers?
    • Brand personality
        • Keywords (3-4 keywords that describe the personality of your brand)
      • Description of the personality 
        • What are the defining characteristics of your brand?
  • Visual guidelines (You should have at least a one sheet document that includes the visual identity guidelines)
    • Logo
      • Primary logo
      • Additional logo lock ups or versions if you have any
    • Colors
    • Fonts
    • Design elements (icons, illustrations, graphics, etc.)
    • Photography style

Working with designers is not difficult as long as you have good lines of communication with them. With a solid design brief, you can get a good start for any design project. You know what they say: well planned if half done.

Have you had difficulties working with designers? Tell your story below in the comments.

Catch you soon,

Aino


P.S. If you haven’t already done so, come check out my free Facebook group DIY Brand Design & Strategy for Soulpreneurs where I teach soulpreneurs like you to build their own branding and create their own designs. 

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