Creating a design brief can feel daunting

Briefing a designer

Friday 29 March 2019

Creating a brief for a design project can feel daunting

If you’re not used to with working with a graphic designer then making that first move to get in touch about a project might feel daunting. What will they want to know? Will I be able to answer their questions?

I’m always very happy to chat with clients to gather all the information I need about a project. And I like to think that I’m quite approachable. But for anyone who likes to feel well prepared – and to prove that writing a design brief isn’t as impenetrable as it might seem – I’m sharing what I like to know before I begin a project, and why.


I need to understand as much as possible about your business. I will need to know who you are, what you do, and who you do it for. Include information about your direct and indirect competitors, and what makes you different from them (this is called your unique selling point, or USP).

If you have any existing marketing or communications materials then sharing a few examples will help me to understand how you have previously communicated this information visually.

Once we have worked together on a few projects then, unless something has changed, you should not need to include this information again.


This section is all about the specific project you’d like me to work on. The focus here should be on what it is that you want to achieve, and why.

Mention if the project has a specific target audience, which is different from – or a subset of – your businesses general target audience.

If you have previous editions of the same project then share these with comments explaining what you think works well, and what you would like to improve in this next edition, and why.

You might already know if you need or want to use print or digital media – but be wary of specifying more precisely than you need to. By deciding on a particular solution, eg a poster, you’ll be missing out on the benefit of a designer’s input and ideas – I might suggest an alternative solution which you hadn’t considered.

Of course, you should clearly state if something is fixed, eg if the finished item needs to fit into a specific size display rack.


Simply list the elements that you have available. Include information about the availability of brand guidelines, logo, written copy, photos, illustrations, and so on. For each item be clear about whether it is already available, whether you will be sourcing it, or whether you need me to source it for you.


State clearly what you want me to supply you with at the end of the project. Would you like print-ready artwork that you can send off to your print supplier? Would you like me to help you source print and/or manage the print process for you? Designers will sometimes make a charge for print management so it’s worth discussing and being clear about what works for you.


At its simplest, this is the deadline by which you would like the agreed deliverables to be handed over to you. But it can be more detailed. It’s very helpful, for example, if you can say when you will supply all the content. If you are handling printing, then include an estimate of how long they will need to produce the item.

Adding in time for unforeseen delays or problems is a great idea, but be clear about whether you have done this as I may also add in contingency time of my own.


Have an open discussion about the budget at an early stage. Bear in mind that there could be production/printing costs as well as design costs and fees for any other commissioned work such as copywriting or photography.

If you have a fixed or limited budget then sharing this will allow me to come up with solutions which will work with your budget from the start, saving any nasty surprises when you come to get the project printed.

You don’t need to have exhaustive answers prepared for each of these areas, but now you’ve got an idea about what to expect, I look forward to hearing about your project.

Ready to dive in?

Now you know what to expect, I hope you’ll feel much more confident about speaking to a designer. I’d love to chat about your project, so why not get in touch!

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Hello! I’m Sarah, an independent typographic designer, helping businesses to communicate their unique selling points through printed marketing and communications.

I’ve been sharing my knowledge about design, typography, marketing, branding and printing since 2014. I hope you enjoy reading my blog.

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Sarah Cowan