10 Tips For Nailing Any Design Brief

In a perfect world, all design briefs would be clear, concise and deliver all the information and assets you need for the job. Unfortunately, identifying the main elements of a brief can be the most challenging part of a project, with clients often confusing a request for proposal (RFP) with a comprehensive creative brief.

In order to pin-point a brief's exact requirements, consider the following 10 tips and ensure you nail your brief first time, every time.

1. Understand what your client does
A solid brief should include a company profile. If it doesn't, make sure you get the information yourself. Ask your client lots of questions, request marketing packs, further information and case studies, and research the company's history - you'll be surprised where inspiration strikes.

2. Identify the project's goals
Ensure you fully understand what your client's over-arching intentions are. Are they trying to sell more products or raise brand awareness? A problem statement or description should make this clear, so identify and write out each point on a Post-it note and keep it close to hand.

3. Find the 'single message'
If this isn't made explicit in the brief, try to condense the project into one sentence that answers the following: what's the single message to tell the audience? What's the single message they should remember? How will they believe and trust this single message?

4. Identify the target market
Your client may have comprehensive market research on this included in the brief. If not, ask some questions about who the audience is to get a complete picture of the age range, gender, social make-up, income, interests, hopes and fears of your target market.

5. What existing assets are required?
Make sure you know what existing branding elements and imagery must be used, the guidelines for using them, who you can get them from if they aren't already supplied, and who will be signing-off any copy that's not already included in the brief.

6. Check the project's specifications
A solid brief should include precise specifications, including substrate weights and finishes for printed material. Make sure you have a solid understanding of how and where the work will be used, and the exact size and technical requirements.

7. Use examples
Visual examples are far clearer than written instructions. If a brief lacks any examples, dig some out yourself, create a mood board and send these to the client to gauge their reaction. It's also worth identifying what your client doesn't want so, if this is unclear, ask.

8. Check and double-check budgets
If you're working on a fixed, commissioned fee, ensure it adequately covers any third-party requirements but also leaves room for revisions. If you out-source specialist development work, you should make your client aware of this and reinforce the reason for your fee and budget requirements.

9. Identify specific outcomes or results
Obtaining an untainted idea of exactly what's expected of the project may be difficult from the brief. However, a clear understanding of the targets set for the project may open new creative avenues or make room for you to suggest a more direct or realistic approach to a design problem, so ask if you're unsure.

10. Nail deadlines and due dates
It may seem obvious, but mark out the agreed due dates in your diary or project management software and take some time to assess whether they're realistic. If the brief asks too much of you and your services after an agreed deadline has been set, be forthright and honest.