Having a design brief land on your desk is exciting. It is (come on, think positive!). It’s of course an opportunity to apply your learnings and hopefully gain more. But why is a design brief important? In a commercial environment it is difficult to take what’s in the client’s head and apply it to adobe software or pencil led/ink to page based purely on a document of words.
There are certain ways to gather themes and styles that the client likes (including using a shared Pinterest Board – Top Tip) but what we want here is to gather a deeper understanding than just the colours they like and the organisations they aspire to be like. Remember yes, you are creative but not every client wants you to be let off the leash. Some hardened and experienced marketers simply need the artwork exactly as described, after all a lot of background research may have already been carried out and data collected to get the brief together.
We have therefore compiled 10 killer design brief questions that will support you to get right under the skin of the design brief without being generic or scaring the client.
1. What is the story of this project? Why are we talking?
It’s probably the most direct of design brief questions, but it will likely open up the conversation. Why are they choosing to do this now? Is there something deeper as to the reason this is being conducted? There may be something within this conversation that would work well in the creative that the client is not necessarily thinking about as they are so close to it.
2. How many decision makers/Can I talk to them all?
Likelihood is that there will be more than one decision maker for the final sign off. Whilst it is obviously difficult to please everyone what must also be appreciated is that the vision of one may not be the vision of the group. In a number of cases the person leading the project from the client side is not the final decision maker. Discussion with all stakeholders will no doubt offer a clearer picture of the brief, and of course why would they not be impressed with your attention to detail?
3. What are your clients/prospective clients issues that you solve?
Rather than a ‘what do you do?’ use this question. It will go beyond what is written on the website and be a cause for further conversation maybe shedding additional light on how they differentiate from the competition. Again, this may be useful for elements within the design i.e. is the clients service or user journey really simple, no frills, or do they focus on adding value at every corner and charge appropriately for this?
4. How is the marketing function going to accomplish the goals of the brief?
Yes, you are of course going to do some sexy artwork for them but where are they going to be displaying it? Why is this important? Well it is a factor to be taken into consideration regarding the elements of the artwork. For example if it’s a super awesome logo to go on the side of a promotional pen will the name/tagline/icons/elements be legible and clearly visible. Or if it is a promotional banner for their new responsive website does there need to be multiple versions of it so it works on all the most used devices and platforms?
5. How do we expect the desired audience to respond if we get this right?
Is this about better user journey? Making more money? Better exposure? Getting into a new audience? This line of questioning cuts through all the BS/buzzwords and better exposes the agenda. They are an organisation in some capacity, they are looking for a return on their investment. What does that look like? What do they want to happen?
6. How do we expect the competition to react?
This is a rather more open question than just ‘who are the main competitors?’ It raises the point that the competition is not static, they are watching and of course carrying out their own agenda. Their reaction is worthy of consideration, will they likely try to mirror? If so is their a contingency plan to further differentiate? Can that be considered in the design? Is the competition already doing this/already have done this? Can we use that for influence and better it?
7. What are the implications of going off schedule?
This is arguably one of the most important design brief questions. The client has set you a timeline to complete the task right? Well if they move the goalposts it’s going to affect the timeline of delivery, right? So questioning in this direction makes sure that everyone is on the same page from the outset.
8. Is the client able to provide as many existing artwork files as possible from previous projects?
Unless you are working with a company representative who wants to take their identity in a completely new direction (or it’s a brand new business of course), the chances are that they have previously liked other designers work. With this you will also get a view of their identity progression and elements that have been bought in. Unless you are presented with a well maintained brand guideline document, you will also be able to build up an understanding of their boundaries and the right tone of voice and elements to exaggerate or not.
9. Are any of these other assets going to be affected by this project?
This is always a worthwhile question 1) it shows you care and have good attention to detail and 2) it can give the opportunity of more work. Even if they are a startup, they may not have considered everything they will need wider of the project. Yes an opportunity to upsell but also an opportunity to demonstrate good marketing awareness, share knowledge, consult and build a relationship.
10. What is expected to be the deliverable or the outcome of the project?
This is paramount to understand from the outset. Are they expecting every single asset you design to be in a usable and edittable format? Are there going to be multiple uses of the design, for example digital and print? Is there specific files that are needed? How are they going to store these files? Are they expecting you to always have a backup if they need them?
Obviously all of the above questions can be reworded to suit different projects, arguabley the best way to extract this information is via a conversation. But hopefully this has provided some guidance and it has given you enough to really challenge briefs to better absorb them and provide client designs that absolutely Do More ;- )