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Tips

Writing the perfect brief

Gabe Grieve
Words by Gabe Grieve • August 1, 2017

A good brief is super important. Every time I’m working on a design project, I have the brief open on my desktop to constantly refer to as I work. Most designers work exactly the same way.

Writing briefs can be a bit of a chore, especially if you’ve never written one before and don’t know exactly what you need to include. Luckily, I’m here to give you a quick and simple guide on writing design briefs that will get you the result you want, and save your designers from ripping out their hair.

STEP ONE: DESCRIBE YOUR BRAND 

Your brand should influence all the design decisions you make. If the agency you’re working with is unfamiliar with your brand, you’re already on the wrong page. Ideally, you would have a branding guidelines document you can provide to them.  If not, use the first section of your brief to pin down what your brand is all about, and how you communicate to your audience.

If the brief you’re writing is to create branding for your company, you may find it challenging to describe your brand. In this case, your best bet is to give the agency as much information as you can. Try answering the following questions to give a good overview of your brand and the aesthetic you want:

• What feeling do you want your brand to evoke?

• Who is your target market?  Try to define them in every way can e.g. demographically (age, gender, marital status, education level, etc) as well as geographically.

• What other brands have an aesthetic that you think would work for your brand?

• What is your brand personality? i.e. are you Hugo Boss, or Big Hugh’s Discount Trousers?

• Who are your competitors? What do you like / dislike about their branding?

Once a designer knows your brand inside and out, everything they create will be informed by your brand identity and your goals. Not a bad start.

STEP TWO: TELL YOUR DESIGNER EXACTLY WHAT YOU WANT DELIVERED

Now we get to the nitty gritty, and the most important thing to remember here is to be specific. You absolutely must spell out exactly what you want delivered at the end of the project. This is the number one cause of problems between clients and agencies and is probably the easiest one to avoid. Below are some good and bad examples of being specific with your deliverables:

BAD

A poster, a web banner and social media promotional images with a picture of people outside. Must include our logo and the words “Fun activites this weekend!”

Way too general. What size are all of those assets? What style of image is going to make sense for this promotion? While most designers can make smart assumptions about the answers to these questions, you want to try to avoid leaving any room for error.

If you’re not sure about what images you think would work best, say so in your brief! Designers know best what images are visually appealing, and they can give you a number of options if you want to choose something personally.

Also, did you notice the spelling error in the copy? Spell check your brief. Some designers might just cut and paste your copy directly into the design file, so if you misspell a word in your brief, the designer might miss it too and it could end up in the final file.

GOOD

Promotion Details:

We are promoting an activity weekend with a BBQ for parents, and a bouncing castle and finger painting workshop for kids. We need promotional materials to include an image of kids having fun (preferably on a bouncing castle or in an arts and craft workshop) and the below copy:

“BBQ and kid’s activities this weekend! July 29-30, 2017”

Please include our logo on all of the assets.

Deliverables:

–  A3 Poster

–  Web Banner 800x400px (width x height)

–  Facebook Promo image 800x800px (width x height)

–  Instagram Promo image 800x800px (width x height)

A lot less room for error here. It’s a little bit more effort to write it out like this, but it will save a lot of potential headaches, changes and lengthy email chains. A quick tip, the standard for the graphics industry is to list dimensions width first, height second.

STEP THREE: BUDGET & TIMELINE

Try not to beat around the bush when it comes to budget and timeline. Generally when working with an agency, pricing is negotiated beforehand, but if for whatever reason, the agency or designer you have decided to work with hasn’t settled on a price for you, try to be as honest and up front as possible about what your budget is.

The earlier on in the process you can have this conversation, the better. There’s nothing more frustrating for both you and your design partner than spending a huge chunk of time discussing and deliberating a project only to realise that you have completely different ideas as to how much the project should cost.

The timeline is also incredibly important. Even if the job isn’t urgent, put a deadline on it. Agencies and individual designers work by packing their jobs into a schedule, and if your job doesn’t have a fixed deadline, it might end up on the bottom of the pile.

If you do have a job that needs to be turned around urgently, you need to be aware that urgent jobs can often affect the budget. It’s common practise for agencies to charge rush fees if jobs need to be turned around in a day or two. If you want to avoid those sorts of fees, make sure your brief is delivered nice and early. Give the designers some time to consider your project, and to do their best work.


That’s all there is to it! Writing a brief can sometimes feel a bit like an optional step, especially if you’re frequently working with the same single designer or agency. But, it’s so important to write clear briefs to keep the working relationship between you and your designer healthy and productive. The less time spent clarifying the bits and pieces of a project, the more time your designer has to do great work.

This is part one of a series I’m writing on working well with designers. The next part will deal with giving feedback to your designers that is constructive, well structured and clear.