I’ve seen some pretty poor graphic design briefs during my time working in ad agencies. As an account executive, I was the point of contact between clients and our design team. When a client wanted a new piece of content made, they’d send me a brief which I‘d pass onto to our designers. To be fair, most of the clients I worked with supplied plenty of useful information in their briefs. However, we received a fair chunk of pretty awful ones too.
I’ve seen some pretty poor graphic design briefs during my time working in ad agencies.
As an account executive, I was the point of contact between clients and our design team. When a client wanted a new piece of content made, they’d send me a brief which I‘d pass onto to our designers.
To be fair, most of the clients I worked with supplied plenty of useful information in their briefs. However, we received a fair chunk of pretty awful ones too.
When I’d give a brief to a designer I could tell within minutes, if not seconds, what they made of it. Their facial expressions often said it all. If they didn’t like the brief, you’d know it.
Overtime, we began to put the briefs we absolutely hated into different categories.
Here’s a few of them:
1. THE ‘QUICK TURNAROUND’ BRIEF
A brief that makes designers blood boil.
Clients send over a brief at four o’clock on a Friday and expect work to be produced and returned for sign off before close of business the same day.
I’ve yet to come across a designer who doesn’t have a pretty jam packed schedule everyday. They organise their days to make sure they can allocate an appropriate amount of time to each of their clients projects.
So when a client sends over a brief and expects a designer to drop everything to work on their content, it doesn’t go down very well. Tensions run high and content quality can be negatively compromised due to the last minute nature of the job.
2. THE ‘FINGERS CROSSED THIS IS WITHIN MY BUDGET’ BRIEF
Instead of asking designers to create content which is within their budget, clients often push their luck and put together a brief that pretty much resembles a wishlist.
Once a designer reads one of these graphic design briefs, they’ll know straight away that the proposed work is way outside the client's budget. The brief will be swiftly returned to the client who’ll be asked to adjust it.
3. THE ‘YOU FILL IN THE BLANKS’ BRIEF
These briefs are generally pretty bare.
There’s no information given about the company, its products or services, style, colour ideas etc. The only details provided by the client include the company name and the piece of content they need designed. For example:
I need a logo designed for my business, Jenny’s Jam.
There’s no information provided about the format of the logo needed, the brand values, mission statement, brand font or colours. Unless Jenny is open to anything, she’s going to have changes and that’s going to take time.
Designers are pretty talented individuals, but they can’t read minds. You need to include more information in your brief if you want them to produce good content.
4. THE ‘I’M NOT SURE WHO MY TARGET CUSTOMER IS’ BRIEF
This brief is often sent in by individuals who want branding created for their new company but haven’t yet identified who their target customer is.
If your target customers are women in their twenties and thirties, your branding should include elements that appeal to this segment. If your target audience is men in the fifty to seventy year old age bracket, your branding will need to be tailored towards them.
While it may not seem like an important piece of information to clients, designers need to know who your target customer is in order to create highly effective content. Designers can add a lot of extra value on a job, some may even be able to help with audience analysis but be sure to include this request in your brief if you expect them to do the work.
5. THE ‘YOU’LL BE PAID WHEN YOU SEND ME THE DESIGN’ BRIEF
A red flag kind of brief.
Whether you're a seasoned designer or someone who's just started out, these graphic design briefs will inevitably come your way at some stage.
My advice: Use a contract with clear boundaries and, when possible, get a deposit before you start work.
Both clients and designers can do their part to avoid writing and receiving terrible briefs like the ones above.
If you’re a designer, it’s worth putting together a one or two page template brief to send to clients that includes different headings (company background, product/service description, links to competitors, target customer, etc.). While some clients might not fill it all in, most will and if you need more information you can easily ask the client to supply a few more lines under certain headings.
If you’re a client, the more information a designer has, the better their designs will be. Take the time to fully complete a graphic design brief for a designer. Yes, it might take a bit longer than you’d like, but believe me, it’ll pay off in the long run.