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Points to include in a design brief

The design brief
"12 page CMS website, business card and promotional brochure" just isn't enough information for your designer to provide a realistic cost or timescale for your project. Provide as much detail on the design brief as you would a vacancy advert. You're employing a designer for the duration of the project and it's vital that they (and you) know exactly what is expected of them.

Writing a comprehensive design brief will ensure that you know exactly what you want to achieve from the project, how much it will cost, when it will complete, and most importantly, what it is you expect from your chosen designer.

Many designers charge for their time and not for a specific product. A project that is defined with a detailed brief takes less time to complete than the exact same project provided with no real guidelines - and subsequently costs less.

Your company profile, values and a brief history
This is particularly important when commissioning a designer for the first time but can also be helpful in reiterating your profile/values to existing designers.

Competitors & market position
Along with information of where your company is situated within the market place, you can also provide information on your competitors. The strengths and weaknesses of both yours and your competitor's marketing can be used to direct your new campaign.

Target market
Who are you trying to reach? The demographics: gender, age, lifestyle, etc.

Message
What are you telling your target market? A new product launch, ongoing marketing, sales push, etc.

Objective
This should outline what you plan to achieve from your communication and also why you are trying to reach your chosen market.

Why now?
Why do you need this communication now? How does it fit in with your current marketing plan?

Budget
If you have a budget to work to, that hasn't already been discussed or finalised, it will save time to be up front with your designer as to what you expect the project to cost. If you have a strict budget to meet, then your chosen designer should be able to suggest approaches within your budget.

Format
In what format is the artwork required? Do you need a logo, website, brochure or an annual report? How many pages do you expect the finished article to be? Adding any additional pages during the project impacts on everybody's time and on the overall cost. Sometimes additions are unavoidable, but if you have a feeling this may happen, make your designer aware so that they can allocate time and budget aside for this eventuality.

Timescales
When does the project need to be delivered? It's a good idea to work backwards from the delivery date, scheduling key dates for proofing, drafts and signing off. Making your designer aware of these dates ensures they don't over commit and the project can run smoothly.

Do you have your own ideas or suggestions?
Provide details on previous projects that worked well or examples of competitor campaigns and highlight what you like or dislike about them. It's OK to sketch out exactly what you want and have a designer create a professional looking layout from this (as long as the layout puts across your messages correctly).

Know what you don't want
Is there something you definitely don't want? If there is, share this information, as without it you may find that the last thing you want is the thing you're presented with.

Everything else
Do you need your designer to liaise with your printer, or handle the print for you, and if so what is the specification of the finished product? If this is a web-based project, is it hosted internally or externally?

Have we missed anything?
Campaigns and projects vary and so if there is anything else you feel the designer needs to know, tell them.

Many of these points will have been covered in preliminary discussions, but it can still be helpful to create a brief which can then be referred back to should there be any issues during the project.