When it comes to branding, websites or logos – you’d be surprised just how many firms approach freelancers or design agencies without any idea of what they need, let alone providing any professional brief. In fact, some wouldn’t even know what a ‘brief’ would entail or how they’d even begin to compile one. If you’re reading this and you’re thinking – ‘What’s a brief?’ – read on!

A brief is simply a document containing everything a freelancer or agency might need to be able to quote for and carry out the required design work. There aren’t any specific rules on how briefs should be written but they might contain the company background, target audience and brand guidelines. They might also include mood boards, key messages and mission statements.

The idea is to help the prospective supplier to get a really good feel for the brand and how you’d like to progress. It’s not a case of expecting freelancers or agencies to be able to ‘read your mind’ and come up with exactly what you want without any details – you have to provide them with what they need to see results. With this in mind, I’ve provided the following tips to help you put together your own design brief…

What is a brief?

First of all, what the hell is a brief? Well, it’s exactly what it says on the tin. You’re basically briefing a potential supplier about your requirements, who you are, what you hope to achieve, your target audience and any other helpful information. On the basis of this document, suppliers should then be able to establish a solution and how much it will cost. You can then decide if you wish to go ahead and hire that freelancer or agency.

Establish the project objectives

Before you do anything else, ask yourself this essential question – what is the required outcome? Think about what you want to achieve and communicate this clearly and concisely. For example, consider your branding, where you want it to be and where you see it improving. Write down the project objectives as simply as possible to outline the desired outcome.

Provide your company profile

You might think this part is unnecessary but telling a supplier who you are and what you do is actually the most important. A freelancer or agency won’t know your company as well as you do, so make the effort to write a brief company overview. Outline your background, what you do, how long you’ve been in business, how many staff you employ, what your target market is, and how you sit within your own industry sector. Best of all – sum up who you are and what makes you so special in one sentence… For example, ‘We’re an independent coffee shop in London that prides itself on true, artisan coffee and cakes for people passionate about quality.’… Or something along those lines.

List your company aims

There is no point in providing a design brief without giving the supplier a solid idea of your own marketing strategy. It’s crucial to gain a clear understanding of where you’re headed. So list all of your aims within the brief. For example, do you want to gain more sales? Move into another market? Upscale your brand and achieve higher quality clients? Encourage more enquiries even? If you don’t make these aims clear from the very start, the supplier could misunderstand the desired outcome.

List your products and services

To really provide helpful information, you could list all of your products and/or services, their target audiences and their competition. Don’t assume that the supplier will know everything – leave no stone unturned and give as much information as possible to allow them to gain a full understanding of who you are, what you do and where you’re coming from.

Offer some creative direction

It is often said that designers have the hardest job in the world, creating something that they think their client will like. But without proper creative direction, this job becomes impossible. Remember, it’s not a test to a designer’s abilities on whether they can ‘read your mind’ and pluck out the right design – it’s more about working with them and telling them exactly what you want. In which case, offer some creative direction wherever possible. This means you should consider style, tone of voice, mood, materials… even your key messages and how you want the brand to be perceived.

Provide some inspiration

With the above in mind, a great design brief often includes one or two mood boards, photographs or even links to relevant websites where the company showcases a range of designs and styles that they’d like the brand to move towards. It helps the supplier to get a really good idea of desired colours, typography, imagery and the overall atmosphere of the brand. Take some time to do your own research and pick out things that catch your eye. Use Pinterest to make life easier and share the board with the potential supplier.

Highlight any constraints on design

Some projects might require a little tip toeing and careful consideration due to design constraints. It could be that you have to stick to existing styles or colours. It might be that you’re part of a wider group and you have to match a certain overall branding. Whatever the constraint, make sure you include details within the brief.

Your budget and timescales

You might not want to reveal budget at this early stage but it will certainly help the supplier to gain a better understanding of your expectations. It will also help them to establish how much support, if any, they can provide. It allows them to see if the project is feasible. You should also provide an idea of timescales because if you’re working to a specific budget, the supplier will need to be made aware of it.

And that’s it! Remember, there is no right or wrong way to write a brief but these tips should get you started. If you’re a designer or agency reading this and I’ve missed something out – which I’m sure I have – then please comment below so we can make this Tips article as helpful as possible.

Written by: Avi Bisram

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