Tips & Tricks

10 tips for better briefing

Posted by Colin Higton

Clients often tell us that pulling together a brief for a designer can be quite stressful – but from our experience there really isn’t any need for it to be. You don’t always have to do a lot of preparation, and it certainly doesn’t always need to be a written brief. Here are our 10 tips to help you get the most out of the briefing process.

1. Try not to make your mind up before you start

You will probably have a fairly clear idea of what you want before you brief the designer – but there can be a lot to be said for getting a good designer’s view on the problem you are trying to solve. Try to keep your brief as open as possible in terms of the exact form the finished result will take, and to be as clear as possible about what you want to achieve with the item you are producing.

For example, we often get briefed on A4 brochures because they are practical and easy to file – but if you want your product to stand out, making a brochure a bigger size that can’t easily be ‘filed away’’, or a smaller size that can easily be kept to hand may have much greater impact.

Give yourself the freedom to simply tell the designer what you want to get out of the project, and more importantly what you want your audience to get out of it. Let them suggest ways to achieve those goals – that’s how you will get the best from them, and it’s what you’re paying them for.

2. Be honest about what you DO want to see

Having said that, if there are specifics you don’t want to compromise on – tell the designer now. For example, if your new brochure has to be A4 to fit with other items in a folder – tell them now. If you really like blue and want to use it in your new logo – just say so. It’s your money so don’t be shy – and that way the designers know where they do have room manoeuver.

Think of it like planning a journey – tell the designer where you want to go and any points you want to go through along the way – and then let them plan the rest of your route accordingly.

3. Make the brief a conversation

If you think of the brief as a statement it will make the whole process harder for you – try making it a conversation. You shouldn’t have to think of everything in advance – let the designer ask questions  and they should be able to help pull the right information out of you.

4. Prepare the basics

Having said all that, there are certain basics that the designer will need from you – and if you have these to hand you will probably be more comfortable in the briefing. If you don’t have the information to hand – you can always give the designer a number and a contact to call. They should always be happy to speak to publications, printers, ISPs  etc on your behalf – but bear in mind some designers will charge for this.

You can use our briefing checklist to help you plan for some specific items

5. Involve all the right people

If you aren’t the only decision maker in the process, think about involving the key people at the briefing stage. They might well think of things you haven’t, or be able to answer questions you can’t – but in any event they can be useful to bounce ideas off.

6. Don’t feel you can’t say you don’t know

If you don’t know or aren’t sure, tell the designer. These are the areas where the designer can help you find the answers – and often the areas the designer will most enjoy – so don’t feel you’ve failed when you say ‘I don’t know’.

7. Trust your designer

If you’re paying a designer to look at a project for you, be open to their ideas and consider what they say. Remember you are paying to get someone to help you see the wood for the trees – so they probably will suggest ideas that you haven’t thought of. Listen to them with an open mind and try to see why they are suggesting the ideas – it might not be what you were expecting, but it could be a better solution.

8. Trust yourself

Listen to the designer with an open mind – but don’t assume they ‘must know better’. If you listen to their ideas and you still aren’t convinced – make sure you really aren’t just dismissing them because they are new and different – but remember the final decision has to be yours. If you think it’s wrong – don’t do it.

9. Be honest about deadlines

A designer should be asking you about deadlines and planning accordingly – but it’s best to plan to discuss it yourself. Be honest about the deadline – both with yourself and the designer. It can be frustrating for designers if you say you need it much earlier than you really do  – and it can make the whole process more expensive for you, or even compromise the result.

But equally, you might not want to give the designer the absolute final deadline up-front. If it helps you to build in a few days ‘comfort zone’ then do it – it might save you a lot of stress, and you can always change it if it causes problems. Just keep it sensible, and if there really is no comfort zone at all, and the deadline is an absolute – tell the designer that straight away – they may well assume you’ve allowed some room for manouever.

10. Be clear about budgets

Equally with budgets – be honest about what you want to spend, but by all means build in a contingency. A good designer will show you what you can do with the budget – but they will usually also have ideas of how you could achieve more by spending more. Often these are good ideas you will want to pursue – so you don’t want to stop them, but if the budget is absolutely all there is, tell the designer right away and save everyone getting excited about something they can’t have!

Download our Briefing Checklist

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