Branding on a Budget: How to Write a Great Creative Brief

By QuickBooks

4 min read

Need a quality design but worried about the cost? I have a priceless tip for you: start with a killer creative brief.

One of the easiest ways for your design budget to spiral out of control is to start your project without clear direction. This leads to you and your designer continuously spinning your wheels, frustrated but hoping that you’ll eventually land on a design that you like. You can easily prevent this from happening by learning how to write a great brief.

The creative brief is the foundation of your project. Basically, you’re telling designers what you want to achieve. The brief will help you organize your thoughts before kickoff and allow you to evaluate the success of your project (and the return on your investment) after the design is completed.

At 99designs, we’ve helped thousands of small businesses around the world get designs that communicate their unique brands. It doesn’t matter if you’re running a contest with thousands of designers or collaborating with just one—crafting a thoughtful brief is always the first step to getting a great design without inflating the cost. The brief translates your brand values and attributes into digestible content for your designer to act on. A clear and thorough brief gets designers in alignment with your vision and allows them to start visualizing initial concepts.

What You Need to Include

Here’s a checklist of content to help you craft an effective design brief. Your logo is the keystone of your brand identity, so that’s what we’re focusing on below. However, much of this information can be translated for any creative element you need designed.

1. Introduce Your Company

One of the easiest ways to sink too much money in design is to not provide your designers with enough context on your brand.

In order to prevent getting a piece of work that looks nice but just doesn’t fit your company vision, take the time to give designers a bit of background about your company. Think of this as your elevator pitch—describe what you do and why you do it. This will help designers create a logo that reflects where you are today and where you see yourself in the future.

2. Describe Your Project

Tell designers what your project is all about, including goals and objectives for your new logo. Maybe you want to attract new customers, generate sales or gain media attention.

This part of the brief will help set expectations with your designer, but you may be surprised to learn that it’s also a great help to you. Writing out your thoughts allows you to clarify exactly what you want to achieve before any work starts, giving you a chance to identify any flaws in your original idea. But remember not to worry about design aesthetics—that’s the responsibility of your design partner.

3. Identify Your Target Audience

Graphic designers need to know your target audience in order to create a logo design that resonates with them. What group of customers does your business focus on, and how are you meeting their needs? Identifying what your audience finds appealing will make it easier to capture their attention.

4. Explain Your Market

Describe what your competitive landscape looks like. What makes you different from others in your industry? How do you want to stand out? This info will help your designer present your company distinctively while also being sensitive to specific industry essentials.

5. Add Some Personality

Now that you’ve described the tactical elements, it’s time to give designers a sense of your company’s personality. Think of words like energetic, youthful, caring or playful. Your personality gives your brand a human tone that your audience can connect with, and it allows your designer to make informed decisions when it comes to elements like colors and fonts. It’s often helpful to identify a character (maybe even a superhero) that you feel embodies your company’s personality.

6. Provide Inspiration   

Trust me, one of the best ways to inform and inspire your designers is to provide images of other designs you love. A Pinterest board is a great way to collect and organize examples, and you can link to it right from your brief. You can find inspiration anywhere, but for logos in particular, our clients find sites like our Ready-made logo store and our logo-design Pinterest board particularly helpful.

If there’s anything else you want to include to help your designers communicate your brand, go for it! It’s also a good idea to list any specific requirements (i.e. files types, legal guidelines, deadlines, etc.) up front to limit confusion and future delays.

At 99designs, you’ll refer to each of these components when filling in our simple online brief. But remember, putting all these details in writing doesn’t mean your design brief is set in stone. It does, however, provide a foundation for your logo from which strategic creativity can emerge.

Create Beauty on a Budget

I can’t overstate the value of a great design brief. During the process of getting your logo designed, the brief will be your go-to document to keep everyone on track. As you know, people can be quite opinionated about designs, and it can be tough to figure out who is “right.” But a creative brief serves as your reference to help you determine exactly what feedback to provide to the designer.

If everyone involved—you, your team and the design team—knows what the logo or design needs to achieve, everyone will spend less time and money re-working a design to bring it closer to your original intent.

Information may be abridged and therefore incomplete. This document/information does not constitute, and should not be considered a substitute for, legal or financial advice. Each financial situation is different, the advice provided is intended to be general. Please contact your financial or legal advisors for information specific to your situation.

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