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Briefing a designer

Aimée Colley

Designer at Shaw

For Shaw, the most important stage of any project is the brief. We love to work on briefs in conjunction with our clients, so we’re all on the same page when it comes to the direction a project will take.

But before you come to us, you might not know where to start on writing a brief. Or it might be a small project that doesn’t need a massive brief, just a steer in the right direction when it comes to what you want from the design and the designer.

So from a designer’s perspective, here are some things we like to know when starting a new project. They really help when working together for the first time, and can help to make sure we’re all on the same page when it comes to new and future projects too.

  • Do you have brand guidelines? Or if not, do you have known colours/fonts/rules that the designer should be made aware of before they begin any work? If you work for a larger company, brand guidelines might be extensive and prohibit certain ideas or design options. Having these to hand before any work is done allows you to talk things through with a designer.
  •  Do you have high-quality versions of your hero imagery? This is very important if the work is going to be done for print. If you only have certain photos at high resolution, you don’t want to fall in love with a design that’s using a web only image. If it’s possible, it’s great to get all relevant imagery delivered at the start of a project.
  • Do you have an in-house style for your brand? You might have pdfs of other previously completed work that you can supply to give a flavour of how your brand usually appears. This helps keep things consistent, but sharing examples that didn’t work can also help brief on the direction you don’t want to go in.
  •  Do you have any inspiration you’d like to bring to the table? If there’s something you feel inspired by, whether in your field or not, this can help a designer develop work in a new direction for you. Starting with visual examples can be much easier for all parties. We can see and discuss with you what you like about your examples and be inspired to develop new ideas for your brand.
  • Who is your audience for the design work? Is there any background info to the project that’s important we know? We want to make sure that when we’re designing your work, we’ve got your key demographic or audience in mind. We can be more purposeful and informed with design decisions from the outset – whether that’s on copy size, hierarchy of information, or the structure/format of the work.
  • What is the objective of the project, ie what do you want to achieve? Having that clear aim – or aims – gives a sound foundation to how we structure and deliver every project.

These are just the basics of a design brief – but they should give you an idea of how best to communicate with a design team when you start working together.

In a more extensive project, our project managers like to help the client develop the briefing, with initial ideas and contribution from the designer. We listen, we ask questions, we are strategic, and make sure we understand the objectives and values of your project. This means when the project begins, time is spent efficiently – with a clear direction in mind and a focus on achieving results for you.

Got a project you’d like to brief us on? Drop us an email at