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How to write design briefs to make designers love you!

By 
SC
September 12, 2020

So here is the thing, I am not a professional designer and I run a visual design studio and I am a design thinking consultant. I work with designers, animators, creative and art directors all the time and I love working with them and I think most of them enjoy working with me.

And it was not always like this. My wife started the studio that I now run and when I joined her in 2016, our designers hated working with me. Yes, they literally hated working with me on design projects.

They would like hanging out and have fun lunches or ideate or brainstorm with me but they ran at the idea of collaborating with me on a design project.

Why did designers hate working with me?

The reason was that I sucked at giving briefs. I simply wasn't able to define what I wanted designed. I am an ex-entrepreneur and my job was meeting investors, potential clients, employees, partners all the time. And in these meetings, I was pitching a vision all the time. I was talking about the big picture all the time.

And that is what I did with designers and it simply did not work. I confused them and any project that went through me took atleast triple the time to get done because my brief was pathetic, all over the place and filled with 'big picture talk' and jargons.

How to write a clear, compelling brief for your designers?

So if you are someone who works with designers in any capacity, here are a few steps to write a clear, engaging brief that will not only get the job done but earn new-found respect from your designer or designing team.

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  • Title the Brief: If you are writing an email or creating a document on which to capture the brief, a clear title that tells the designer at one glance what the brief is about. Something like 'A5 sized flyer for open-house on 15th June' or 'Website homepage Banner Design'.

  • Write an introduction: This is where you can give a context about why you want that flyer designed. What do you have in mind about the project, this is the space to run wild.

  • Define the audience: I find most of my clients do not define the audience. You are not designing for yourself, you are designing for your audience. Here is the chance to define them. Who are the human beings who are going to consume this design? Where are they when they are going to consume this design? etc. (look at your audience with fresh eyes like we did for L'Officiel)

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  • Define the medium: While you want a website homepage banner designed, mention if the main medium on which your banner is going to be viewed is mobile. Mention sizes, do you want a mobile only banner or one that is optimised? This is way more important if you are printing because the colour modes and print bleeds needs to be factored in. Saying this at the end moment simply adds chaos to the project and it wastes your time and your designers time and drives costs up.

  • Provide References: This is one of the most important aspects of the brief and is usually the one most neglected. The other name for referencing is 'RESEARCH'. Take the time to actually research what you like, what you potentially want, what you dislike. Pinterest and Google search are usually more than good enough to help you with your research. Visualize the end product and sketch that out if required or do a quick mockup on PowerPoint. The more you visualise and research, the better the chances of having a project that ends on deadline and saves both you and the designer a lot of back and forths. If you are thinking, this is best left to the designer because they are the 'creative' hires, you are making a huge mistake because it is your product and your brand and your vision and you really want to spend sometime envisioning what you want to create. A good designer will always go beyond your references, a good designer will challenge your references and suggest alternate ones if need be. Always reference and spend time doing so. (That is my dog in the picture giving a good amount of thinking time for his brief after he sketched a concept out)

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  • Provide existing resources: Make sure your brand guidelines, existing artworks, photographs and any other relevant resources are added to the brief. Again, doing so at the end of the project as an afterthought will drive up time taken and costs.

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What will happen if you write amazing briefs?

Writing a well thought out clear brief will go a long way in quicker turnarounds and lower costs. Most importantly, it will create a beautiful working relationship with your designers. They will not know how to thank you and will inevitably keep prioritizing you over other clients even well paying ones. Go ahead, provide a top-class working experience to your designer or design team.

How do you write awesome briefs for your designer?

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