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How to get the design you want with an effective creative brief–by piccia neri–slides

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Are you an entrepreneur or a business owner? Do you need to design your logo or website, but have no idea how to communicate your needs to your designer? If you’ve ever struggled to get the design you wanted, you’re in the right place. The answer is in the brief: successful design always starts from an effective design brief.

And if you are a newly-minted freelance designer, you probably need to learn the art of talking to non-designers: if you often deal with clients who find it difficult to explain what they want, you will also find very useful advice here.

This article is part of a series of blog posts on the design process, aimed at helping both clients and designers. It provides a step-by-step explanation of how to build a great creative brief. With free interactive samples to download.

Published in: Design
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How to get the design you want with an effective creative brief–by piccia neri–slides

  1. 1. HOW TO GET THE DESIGN YOU WANT WITH AN EFFECTIVE CREATIVE BRIEF.
  2. 2. Are you an entrepreneur or a business owner? Do you need to design your logo or website, but have no idea how to communicate your needs to your designer? If you’ve ever struggled to get the design you wanted, you’re in the right place. The answer is in the brief: successful design always starts from an effective creative design brief. And if you are a newly-minted freelance designer, you probably need to learn the art of talking to
  3. 3. non-designers: if you often deal with clients who find it difficult to explain what they want, you will also find very useful advice here. This article is part of a series of blog posts on the design process, aimed at helping both clients and designers. It provides a step-by-step explanation of how to build a great creative brief. With free interactive samples to download.
  4. 4. Design is a process, and it starts from a good brief. Too often, business owners are disappointed because their designer did not interpret their brand correctly. A thorough, accurate design brief will avoid frustrations and ensure a successful outcome. A good brief provides clear written instructions to the designer. Simply put: in the brief, the client tells the designer what they need. And they put it in writing in order to avoid misunderstandings and mistakes, and manage expectations. DESCRIPTION OF AN EFFECTIVE DESIGN BRIEF.
  5. 5. However, an effective design brief is not simply a shopping list of all the requirements and elements needed to complete the project. A good brief must paint a comprehensive picture of the organisation and the project: audience, positioning in the market, past, present and future; competitors, allies, strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes. DESCRIPTION OF AN EFFECTIVE DESIGN BRIEF.
  6. 6. A good brief describes the project’s background, its aspirations and aims. It establishes content and visual style guidelines. It focuses on the desired outcomes and results, as well as providing a practical list of all deliverables. Most importantly, a good design brief identifies all issues and makes sure they are addressed before work starts, providing an essential reference point for both client and designer. DESCRIPTION OF AN EFFECTIVE DESIGN BRIEF.
  7. 7. Get a clear vision of a successful design outcome thanks to a well-researched briefing document.
  8. 8. ANATOMY OF AN DESIGN BRIEF. So how do you build an effective design brief that takes into account strategy, project content, style and specifications? Large organisations looking to outsource a design project usually provide prospective suppliers with a comprehensive brief, outlining all essential elements in detail: background of company and project, goals and objectives of the project, audience and market, deliverables and timeline (sometimes budget too, but that depends on the project).
  9. 9. However, in the case of small businesses the client simply does not have the resources or the knowledge to write such a detailed brief themselves. So the forward-thinking freelance designer will give their small-business client a well-built briefing document containing a series of questions, divided into logical sections, for them to fill. ANATOMY OF AN DESIGN BRIEF.
  10. 10. ANATOMY OF AN DESIGN BRIEF. BACKGROUND INFORMATION PROJECT INFORMATION DESIGN INFORMATION EXAMPLE OF OVERALL DESIGN BRIEF STRUCTURE.
  11. 11. The generic, wider sets of questions (background info, the market, target audience etc) are applicable to all types of projects, while the detailed questions on the deliverables (i.e. the ‘shopping list’) will change according to the project, of course. This is an important point: there isn’t one single, perfect blueprint for the perfect brief, to fit each and every project. ANATOMY OF AN DESIGN BRIEF.
  12. 12. I always find myself tweaking the questions according to the circumstances so that each project ends up getting its unique blueprint. Make sure the questions fit your project: don’t just assume they will fit it. Feel free to add or take out as you see fit. To help you build your own brief, I have made a cheat sheet available for you, as a reminder of an ideal briefing document structure. Please click here to download it. ANATOMY OF AN DESIGN BRIEF.
  13. 13. This first section is crucially important, and yet so often neglected or skimmed over by both designers and clients. Clients: A business owner should never assume the designer knows the first thing about their business. Don’t take anything for granted. Even if you sell PlayStations and your designer is a stay-up-all-night gamer, you should not assume that they have insider’s knowledge of the gaming platform sector. 1. FIRST SECTION: BACKGROUND INFORMATION.
  14. 14. It’s the client’s job to tell the designer as much as possible about their company, its industry and its market. Do your homework properly, and your designer will have the elements to express what you want to say with your brand. Designers: if you want to create a successful design that makes your client happy and makes them come back to you again and again and again, make sure you give the background research the time it deserves. 1. FIRST SECTION: BACKGROUND INFORMATION.
  15. 15. The information that you get from the client in the background information section of the brief will provide the backbone of your research and the foundation of your inspiration. It will make sure that you understand the client’s market place so that you avoid fatal mistakes such as using a cliched design or accidentally copying the competition. 1. FIRST SECTION: BACKGROUND INFORMATION.
  16. 16. It will win the client’s trust: everybody loves talking about themselves, and you are giving your client an excellent opportunity to do so. It will also help the client focus on their aims and objectives: not everybody who commissions a logo or a website already knows what they want when they come to you with a request. 1. FIRST SECTION: BACKGROUND INFORMATION.
  17. 17. Clients and designers: The briefing process also provides designers with a golden opportunity to educate clients on the power and role of good design. Once a client realises how much research and considered thought go into a design project, they will never assume that ‘you could do it in a couple of hours’ again. (The brief also helps avoid ‘scope creep’, but that’s a whole other post…) 1. FIRST SECTION: BACKGROUND INFORMATION.
  18. 18. EXAMPLE OF STRUCTURE OF FIRST SECTION BACKGROUND INFORMATION COMPANY PROFILE THE MARKET TARGET AUDIENCE 1. FIRST SECTION: BACKGROUND INFORMATION.
  19. 19. It’s a good idea to always start the design brief from a concise but detailed company profile, providing essential information on your organisation. I repeat: Clients, please do not assume that anybody knows anything about your business, even though you have already had conversations with your designer about what you do. You need to put it in writing now. 1A. COMPANY PROFILE.
  20. 20. EXAMPLE OF COMPANY PROFILE QUESTIONS: • Overview of the company. What do you do or produce? • How old is the company? How did you start it? • What size is it? Are you planning for it to grow? • Strength and weaknesses of the company. • Mission statement – if any. 1A. COMPANY PROFILE.
  21. 21. By the way: I always add, at the end of most questions in the brief, a final box saying ‘Please add anything else that you feel is important.’ Even though I try to include all scenarios, there is usually something I haven’t thought about or don’t know about that’s specific to the client’s case. If you would like to see an example of a typical brief, please help yourself to the full suite of samples of briefing documents: just visit my website to download it. 1A. COMPANY PROFILE.
  22. 22. After the company profile, it’s very important to provide a description of the company’s industry environment. The designer has no insider knowledge, so they need to be made aware of the basic facts and of the potential scenarios. Moreover, the questions in this section help identify possible issues, as well as aspirations and goals. For instance, if the client isn’t happy with the position that their company has in its market, the new design can help address that. On the other hand, if the company has a 1B THE MARKET.
  23. 23. very solid position that only needs to be consolidated or maintained, the design must reflect that. In the case of start-ups, with no position on the market yet, this stage is even more important. The market questions section is also where you find out about the competition. Discussing and analysing competitors is another way of making aspirations, strengths and weaknesses come to the surface. It also avoids potential pitfalls such as using a similar symbol or colours to those of a competitor. 1B THE MARKET.
  24. 24. Insiders’ knowledge of the market is very important.
  25. 25. EXAMPLES OF MARKET QUESTIONS: • Describe your market niche and how your company is perceived in it today. Are you aiming to change this perception, and if so, how? • Who are your competitors? Please list their websites. • How do you compare to your competitors? • What is your top competitor’s greatest product/service advantage (if any)? • What is the core idea that gives you an advantage over your competitors? 1B THE MARKET.
  26. 26. Understanding the target audience of the client is another key step towards a successful design. This section of the brief will help define the visual style, as well as the tone of voice. The client’s answers in this section give the designer vital clues as to what visual and content style the project will require. 1C TARGET AUDIENCE.
  27. 27. For example, if the business is an art gallery, you could have different types of audiences: if the gallery sells old masters, the audience will be older and more conservative, which will probably lead to a sophisticated, classic design and typeface. On the other hand, the gallery could be a contemporary space promoting up-and-coming young artists: this would require a hyper-trendy visual style and a different copywriting approach. This is where you find out. 1C TARGET AUDIENCE.
  28. 28. This section also reveals whether the design project has a business audience (B2B) or a consumer one (B2C), that is to say the client’s target audience is composed of business organisations rather than individual customers. This is also a very important factor to consider when conceiving a design solution. 1C TARGET AUDIENCE.
  29. 29. EXAMPLE OF TARGET AUDIENCE QUESTIONS: • Who is your target customer? Provide a brief description. • What do you want to represent for your target audience? • Please list specific demographic features of your audience, i.e. age range, gender, income, occupation. • Is your audience defined by its geographical location? 1C TARGET AUDIENCE.
  30. 30. The tone of voice of a design project is identified thanks to the target audience research carried out in the design brief phase.
  31. 31. 2 SECOND SECTION: PROJECT INFORMATION. This section deals with the specific requirements of the project in hand. Parts of this section will change according to the type of project: in this case, I’ve decided to use a website as an example, because it’s the type I do most often these days. If you are interested in briefs for other types of projects – such as leaflets, business cards, books, branding projects, etc – please visit my website’s free resources library, which gets updated weekly.
  32. 32. 2A PROJECT INFORMATION. EXAMPLE OF STRUCTURE OF SECOND SECTION PROJECT INFORMATION PURPOSE OF THE PROJECT TECH SPECS FUNCTIONALITY AND CONTENT
  33. 33. 2A PROJECT INFORMATION. The critical first question: what is the primary goal of the project? The project will be a website in our case. Sometimes clients only want a brochure site with just essential information and minimal functionality, with the main purpose of having an online presence. But once you ask the question and get them to think about it, they may find that they do need an events calendar, for instance, or to create a following via social share and email capture.
  34. 34. What is the purpose of your site? Please tick on all that apply. • Describe and advertise products and services. • Win new business. • Provide information. • Advertise events with a calendar. • Create a following with social shares and email capture. • Create an online shop. • etc 2A PROJECT INFORMATION.
  35. 35. 2B FUNCTIONALITY AND CONTENT. In this section, the client explains in more details what their site/ project is for, and what content will go into it. In the case of a printed brochure, the brief would ask for number of pages, format, type of paper and print run. In the case of a site, usually the questions are about functions, actions to be taken, number and titles of pages, and so on. It’s also important to ask whether the client can provide all content, copy and images, or whether they will need help organising photography and copywriting services.
  36. 36. 2B FUNCTIONALITY AND CONTENT. For instance, first of all, you’ll want to know what action the visitor to the site needs to take once they land on the homepage. Do they need to find a phone number? Fill in a contact form? Purchase a product? Watch a video? Each of the questions has a number of multiple choices or the opportunity to write the info in. For the detail of all the questions that I normally ask in the Functionality and Content section of a website design brief, please visit my site to get a free download of a full suite of briefing documents samples.
  37. 37. 3 THIRD SECTION: DESIGN INFORMATION. Let me be clear: every single item on this questionnaire is aimed towards providing the best solution for the client, which of course means the best design. So every single answer provides another bit of visual information. However, this section talks more specifically and directly about design. This is the section that varies the most according to the project, so I’ll just provide you with a sample structure and questions.
  38. 38. EXAMPLE OF STRUCTURE OF THIRD SECTION DESIGN INFORMATION BRANDING OTHER SPECIFICS STYLE 3 THIRD SECTION: DESIGN INFORMATION.
  39. 39. • Will your existing branding inform the styling of the site? • What would you like your audience to feel when they land on your site? (i.e. Curious, happy, inspired, safe, etc) • Please list here at least 3 websites that you like, explaining why. • Please list here at least 3 websites that you don’t like. • Is there a specific look and feel that you have in mind? Please provide examples. • Are there any specific colours, typefaces or images that we should avoid? • Are there any specific colours, typefaces or images that you have a preference for? 3 THIRD SECTION: DESIGN INFORMATION.
  40. 40. Knowing a client’s colour preferences is important. You can advice them on which colours suit their brand, but their personal taste will always bear a weight.
  41. 41. CONCLUSION. So we’re there finally! Once this comprehensive (and exhausting) list of questions has been filled in, you can build the final brief. When a client returns the filled questionnaire to me, I then respond by compiling the answers in the brief, or sometimes a longer design proposal – it depends on the project.
  42. 42. CONCLUSION. Whether long or short, however, this document does not have questions, rather, it outlines the project, highlights issues and provides a road map. Re-writing it all may seem redundant: it isn’t. It’s essential to lay it all out in the form of a proper plan, rather than leave it in the format of the client’s answers to your questions. You would still run the risk of misinterpreting.
  43. 43. CONCLUSION. This is where a creative design direction can be outlined, interpreting the client’s thought and formulating solutions or raising issues where necessary, as well as listing the deliverables. Then, when the client signs it off, it means we understand each other and agree on the way forward, practically, strategically and stylistically. TIP: If you would like to see an example of a brief created by a large organisation, head off to the Project Brief website and download any of those samples (I particularly like the Nike one).
  44. 44. CONCLUSION. One thing is for sure: if you follow this design briefing process first, I can almost guarantee that you will not get a design wrong again, whether you are a frustrated client or a designer. Don’t forget to download the complete briefing document suite from the resources library.
  45. 45. THANK YOU. I HOPE YOU FOUND THIS USEFUL. YOU CAN READ THIS POST ON MY WEBSITE, TOO.

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