How to brief a design agency

A good brief is something that’s key to any design project; it gives your designer the information they need to produce work that does the job. We get design briefs of all sorts here at Dynam, and while it’s great to get a solid brief in the first instance from clients, we are always able to tease out the information that we need by asking the right questions. However, if you’re looking for tips on where to start with a brief, look no further!

To get the best work from a designer or design agency, there are some important things to remember when putting together your brief.

1. Objectives and goals of the design project

Let the agency know what you want to achieve at the end of the process. Be upfront and clear with them. Make sure you’re both on the same page - sometimes it’s difficult to explain what you want, especially if your idea is still at the fledgling stage. The agency will ask lots of questions to make sure they understand your objectives. It’s important to be clear about what you want, but if you’re prescriptive down to the last detail, it can strangle the creative process. Leave your agency some space to manoeuvre within the parameters - they might surprise you!

You can trust your agency, in the same way you trust your dentist or accountant, to deliver the job to the highest standards of current thinking and knowledge. Don’t worry if you’re not up to speed with the latest in design technology. In the same way your dentist doesn’t blind you with science about how they’re going to fix your tooth, your agency is more interested in listening to you describe what you want and talking to you about how they’re thinking, rather than telling you about the widgets they’re going to employ to achieve the end result.

2. Budget and schedule

Do you have a budget in mind? Have you set a deadline? Complicated designs can sometimes take longer than expected, which will affect costs and timescales. Communication is key - if it's going to take longer than your budget (or timescale) has allowed for, your agency will let you know.

Avoid submitting a brief at the last minute; your agency has other things on their drawing board as well, and work has to be scheduled, so allow as much time as you can. Sometimes, last minute requests are unavoidable, and although they can be accommodated, the more time for thinking, planning and execution available, the better the experience. Understand that additions or changes to the original agreed spec will increase the final cost.

3. Target audience

You might be starting from scratch and be looking for a new logo and brand for your business. However, even if you already have your logo sorted, your brand can be developed in different ways so that the design of your adverts and marketing collateral can reach out to different audiences. Who are you looking to target? It’s important to let your agency know, as this will help them to create the right design for your market.

4. Consistency

It’s important for your brand to be consistent throughout all your marketing materials. For example, your business cards, letterhead, vehicle livery, website and any adverts should all immediately look as if they belong to the same company. If you’re commissioning a new design project, make sure that you have thought through the other marketing elements that are out there, and how this new material fits in. You may find that the scope of your design project increases to include other collateral.

5. Overall style/look

Do you have something in mind? Even if it's a particular style that you like, don’t like, a colour scheme or you’ve seen another design which has caught your attention. Don't shy away from showing your agency what you have in mind - they're not mind readers, and a starting point lets them see how you’re thinking. Equally, listen to your designer if they think your idea won’t work, and don’t take offence - your agency is trained to have the best interests of your business at heart, and produce work that will be attractive to your customers. Your agency brings an objective eye to the proceedings, which can help you see your business as your customers see it.

6. Any definite “Do not’s”?

Do you have a colour or look which you definitely don't want to see? If you absolutely can’t stand purple, or have a chronic aversion to certain typefaces, your designer needs to know, as they will be unlikely to guess. To avoid wasting your agencies time (and your money), be honest and upfront about what you don’t want!

Your agency is there to help you get the best result possible for your business, so the best way forward is to adopt a collaborative process, exchanging ideas, listening to each other and respecting each other’s viewpoints. Your brief is the catalyst for what follows, so make sure it is:

  • relevant to what your designer has to do
  • explains what the project is trying to achieve
  • identifies the target market(s)
  • states the key messages
  • itemises any no-go zones
  • gives a clear timeframe
  • states the budget

For anybody who still feels unsure, we can supply a one-page brief form to fill in. Just get in touch with us by email or phone and we’ll happily share it with you. Happy briefing!