Tips to get started writing a brief for your graphic designer

with Stella Gianotto, Branding Expert

We’ve all heard the horror stories of that time a business owner tried working with a designer or freelancer and wound up with a hot mess for a logo, wasting both time and money. Avoiding this all comes down to the quality of your brief to the designer, so here are some tips to help you get started writing yours.

  1. Keep it simple. That means no jargon, industry-specific terminology or buzz words that are not widely used as these can all cause confusion or misinterpretation. Also, be economical with the words you use, and use one short, sharp sentence instead of three rambling ones.
  2. Keep emotion out of it! When writing, avoid describing things in terms of how you feel and instead stick to describing things in terms of the visual outcome you want to keep your designer on track.
  3. Use examples and image references. How you describe something might not be how someone else would describe it so using an image or visual reference helps get your thoughts across clearly. This is particularly helpful when talking about colours. Saying, ‘I want blue’ in your brief is too broad as there are many different types of blue a designer can use – baby blue, sky blue, indigo, navy, royal blue etc.
  4. Be annoyingly specific. Typefaces are another area that can lead your designer astray. Don’t write in your brief, ‘I want a font/typeface that looks nice or is strong’. Being more specific by saying, ‘I want a typeface that is large, bold, striking, big, eye-catching, prominent.’ This will help paint a picture for a designer.
  5. Offer instant feedback. If you’re posting your brief online or offshore, you’ll be surprised at how quickly designers will work on your brief. Submissions often start streaming in within a few hours of posting your brief. Regularly check the submissions online and be specific and immediate about your feedback as this will help meet your deadline. It will also direct other submissions too so you don’t wind up with multiple versions of the same thing. Feedback such as ‘I don’t like it’ isn’t helpful. Be specific about why you don’t like it. For example is it the colour you don’t like? Is it the positioning, the typeface, the size of the logo, the proportion of the graphic elements, is the logo too busy? And so on.
  6. Include must haves and do not’s. It’s very important the designer has a framework to work within from the beginning. Really good designers get carried away (creatively) and sometimes forget what or who they are designing for. Being able to give them a guideline of what to do creatively, boundaries to stay within and including what is an absolutely necessary can make or break a logo design.
  7. Don’t make it a popularity contest. Sharing your prospective logo designs with friends and loved ones is a fundamental mistake because most people end up selecting a logo they like versus a logo that is actually relevant for your business and – more importantly – on brief. This is where you need to keep your emotions in check and make sure the logo you are selecting is deadly on brief and appropriate for you and your business.
  8. Remember: you get what you pay for. As the saying goes, if you spend peanuts you’ll get monkeys, and it’s true for logo design. Spend within your means but be aware that good quality logos do require an investment of both time and money from both yourself and your designer.
Stella Gianotto is a branding expert who is passionate about making branding accessible and understandable for her clients. Stella teaches her clients how to navigate the muddy waters of branding through real world examples of branding in our everyday lives, and sharing her roads to success and the lessons she learned. Stella’s presence in the industry has led to her  contribution to several books, Marketing Brands Made Easy, Social Media Marketing: Write Up Your Tweet, Book of Amazing People, Well Spun: Big PR and Social Media Ideas for Small Business.
As a small business owner herself, Stella understands the juggle that every business owner has with time and finances and that has led her to help businesses understand how, and why, they should be branding their business.