Good Creative Brief for Better Customers

A good brief is the very first step for a satisfying creative project and this is true for both, the designer and the customer. It is the mile stone to ensure to the designer working with the right kind of customers and to the customer having best result and high professionalism.

I’ve started this article by saying in the title “Good Brief for Better Customers”. What does it means?

Every designer doesn’t matter if specialized for the web, for printing or more focused in creating identities or packaging, hopes to work with good customers. But what “good customer” means? A famous name?An high budget? An interesting and challenging project? Sure all of these points and many others.

Every designer doesn’t matter if specialized for the web, for printing or more focused in creating identities or packaging, hopes to work with good customers. But what “good customer” means? A famous name?An high budget? An interesting and challenging project? Sure all of these points and many others.

What he/she usually get? People which are not aware of what the creative process means.People which just say “You know what to do”. Worse, people which have “a cousin well versed in graphics” (cheaper than you, you can bet on it) or even people which “are able to do it myself but I’ve not time enough”. These all are bad customers.

What has to be the goal? Becoming a magnet for good customers.

How to win this goal? Starting from us and from our Creative Briefing.

Why the Creative Briefing is the starting point? Because, by submitting the right questions to the customers, you will be able to spoil if he is experienced, aware of his business, confused, positioned in the market, available for discussing his own interests and many other important information.

A Small Piece of Theory: What a Brief is

instantShift - Good Creative Brief for Better Customers

The brief is that document which is useful to outline all those elements which is vital to know before starting a design project. It is a tool which is helpful both for the client and the designer: the first can clear his mind about what he wants to have created, the second collects information about the client background, needs and expectations.

The use of a brief, in all producing industries, shows professionalism. Particularly, in the design field, a good design brief will ensure higher quality that meets the client’s needs saving time to submit the same question missing something every time. It should be directional and inspirational. Directional because it has to contains all those guidelines which are going to define what you can and what you can’t do, deadline and so on. Inspirational because it has to contains a wide description of the customer, his business, your place in there.

The designer will be able to focus the main points and to prepare a well-tailored offer. In addition he will realize if it is a potential client or he is not being serious about the work he wants.

What to Ask

instantShift - Good Creative Brief for Better Customers

The briefing enables you to get answers to things you would need to know to do the design. There is no escape because you really need to get info. The only difference is the approach.

Do you prefer spending a lot of time in a face to face conversation or thousand e-mails to just award fragmentary replies?

Or, otherwise, do you think is better having a well-focused list of questions to submit and receiving well-structured replies to them?

The briefing sheet leaves to the client the freedom of taking his time to reply and gives you the opportunity of having the essential information always available on your table.

The more information you can get the more likely you come up with a suitable design.

Let’s see how to create an effective Creative Briefing paper to submit to your customer.

PART 1: Background Information

The vision and mission document is typically an interesting background document useful to set the scene and explain goals of the activity, way of working, offered services. Having this information can be valuable and inspiring.

Company Name, Industry, Contact

All these details are important for a good begin. Particularly having a person to contact to obtain further information, feedback and materials is of basic importance. Moreover, for the right development of the project this person should for preference be just ONE. Changing contact may cause information, time and money loss.

What is your company mission?

The client should provide as many information as he can about the company activity to outline the core business.

What is the longer-term strategy of the company?

Either if it is a brand new start up or a well settled company they should have a strategy for its future development. Sharing this information with you is important to set up a confidential partnership.

What adjectives would be relevant to describe your activity?

Try to filter the provided information from all those overused terms like “well settled”, “professional”, and synonyms. The remaining is useful to compose the mosaic.

Are there any experiences from the past, whether positive or negative, that can be relevant?

This is a useful question to outline the company background.

Who are your main competitors?

This is a real key question. Making benchmarking is really important to understand the market where the clients want to improve his presence or event start his business. We have to ask about the client’s competitors because nobody else knows them as he do.

He should be able to describe his own strengths and weaknesses compared to theirs.This is important point to better understand how to promote the company.

Do you have existing brand colors, company website or other communication materials?

This includes both previous and present communication activity, such as research, advertising, direct mail, graphic design, public relations, brochure, company profile, etc. These marketing materials contribute to create a profile of the client, what he likes, and other works which he has already approved.


Remember never assume you know the client industry! Each industry has its own specific requirements, oddity and expectations. The best thing to do is ever listen to the client and how they want to present themselves in the market.

PART 2: Project Executive Guidelines

What is the goal of the design project?

Try to describe briefly the objective pursued.

Who your business is addressed to?

The customer has to describe the most important target groups. The designer needs to well understand all demographic information, age, gender, income, behaviours, lifestyle, etc.of the target in order to create a well—focused product of design.

Which creative products your project need?

Does your client need a logo or does he wants to redesign it to give to his company a fresh look? Heis going to do a presentation and he needs family feeling materials for the seminar or perhapsheneeds a brochure or a new website. Whatever he needs, YOU need to have it described. You are not a mind reader and the client should list everything he needs to let you evaluate and prioritize according to his goals and deadlines to provide him the best service you can.

State your design specifications (if you already know them)

It is important to include the exact specifications for the final product. These include size, resolution, file specifications.

What is the principles and atmosphere that you want to communicate?

The client should try to describe the contents which he wants to communicate to his audience, mood, thoughts, and images.

The best approach to that is providing visual examples and link of all those materials which he considers relevant or effective and that he likes.These are not suggestions and they are going to affect your work only in the measure they help you to understand the client wishes. He will pay you for your experience, skills and abilities. Giving him your best that fits his need is your task.

Which elements definitely you wish not to avoid?

He should describe which style he doesn’t want to adopt, colours or meaning which he wants to avoid.

What is the end result you expect?

Which position this project has in his business plan? Which priorities he has? Which results he wants to reach?

What is the available budget?

This will avoid wasting time for both. You definitely need to know his approximate budget and what this will include. It includes your service only or others, such as printing, hosting and so on, too?

You need to know that in order to do a realistic offer.

What is the deadline?

Planning the sufficient time for the project is really important. Making realistic estimation is important as well because it will affect your relation with the client. You definitely can’t make wonderful promises just to make him happy. Don’t to let him down. Professionalism also means being able to evaluate your own times and work you need to spend in a project.

Take in your consideration the following workflow:

  • Consultation (research, strategy, brief development)
  • Creative (concept and design development)
  • Production (artwork, printing and other production)
  • Delivery

All these steps need the right time to be accomplished. Explain this to your client and ensure him he is going to be involved in each of them so that you he will be always aware how the works is proceeding on.

Time Saving

instantShift - Good Creative Brief for Better Customers

Getting as good a brief as possible from client meanssaving a huge amount of time otherwise spent in direct question and discussion.

Obviously the briefing won’t replace your direct contact with him. It is a tool to have all those information to discuss about with him once arranged the meeting.It will avoid you to miss something, constraining you to call him back again wasting yours and his time.

Moreover, having it in your hand will let you to making order in your minds, reading with accuracy each detail, sharing the information with your cooperators.

Different Briefing for Different Scope

instantShift - Good Creative Brief for Better Customers

Any brief clearly shows the sign of his creator because each of us needs to collect information which is different depending on the personal approach.

Even more, what I’ve listed are questions with a general design but, as a matter of fact the brief should be tailored to the type of project. Eachproject needs additional details.

Relevant information point for the logo design conceptsis the way in which it is going to be reproduced. How (i.e. one colors, multiple colors, offset printing, digital purpose, embroidery, etc.)? Where (i.e. web advertising, billboards, etc.)?

Web design has its specific technical (i.e. about traffic, bandwidth, hosting, etc.), graphic (i.e. how many pages? Do you need to update the contents frequently? Do you need to manage newsletter?), usability questions.

The Tricky Question about the Budget

instantShift - Good Creative Brief for Better Customers

One of the most problematic and argued questions among those listed above is that one about the budget.

In a comment of the famous article How do you write a design brief?, by David Airey, we can read:

“I make it a point to make the client know that he is paying me for my skills and not for the timeline. It helps them in understanding the value of our work.”

Another fellow designer says:

Client: Pay peanuts to get monkeys. Heard that? If you KNOW what you want to achieve, and you are experienced enough, you will know what kind of budget can achieve it.

Designer: If you see the budget, you will know the scope of WORK that is required and the resources you need to bring to bear. Using “junior” and charging “boss rates” really won’t get you far if you have an experienced and savvy client.”

How much money have been planned for the project is extremely important because that cost may cover your creation but the final product too! This means that you have to take in consideration the budget amount to decide number of colors, special paper or special effects such as letter press or fancy cutout.

How many colors are used in a graphic project for printing purposes, such as special paper or special printing effects, letter press or fancy cutout, require money. If the total budget includes the final production services this means that you fee will be affected also form the technical choices that you are going to take. The same if your project involves other services, hosting, database, licenses, stock photos, particular fonts from foundries. Each passage of new people or stuffs needs other money.

Doing your offer and signing your contract with the customer you have to be aware of all these details in order to do a quote that can be satisfying for both of you.

Again, this not means that, aware of the budget, you are going to arrange extreme money saving solution to gain more. The quality of the job must be preserved because it will be the meter of your talent evaluation.

A planned budget shows the reliability of the client and let you know if he wishes a super-portal with extreme features by paying for a one-page FrontPage standard website.

This is a real possibility and if you are going for a while doesn’t mean that you can’t be the right man for the job. This only means that you have to be able to come out with a good low cost work. This have to be your aim: providing always a good work which suits the budget you have. This requires your experience, your full ability, flexibility and professionalism.

To Sum Up: The better the design brief, the better the design

A great brief ensures you to go deep inside the customer need. Understanding his attitudes and intensions you will be able to come up with a better design. You will save yours and his time reaching the desired result fast making your and your client happier.

Briefs should be simple and to the point. Not too long, because you have not been boring, but not too short, because you may miss relevant tiles useful to compose the mosaic.

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  1. Very interesting read Ester. Thank YOU! Gonna think on it all…

  2. Definitely a very good articles. Simple and smart.

  3. Very good article! I read these suggestions around many times but here you’ve summed it up very well. I’ll save this post as a reference :-)

  4. Thank you all for your appreciation. I’m glad to have been useful. :)

  5. Customers are a big problem sometimes, when you work especially from home. They want you to do a great job with less money, and they can make you some bad days.

  6. Customers are a big problem sometimes, when you work especially from home. They want you to do a great job with less money, and they can make you some bad days.

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