How To Brief A Graphic Designer

Providing a  Graphic Designer with a full and comprehensive brief is essential if you want to ensure that you get the outcome that you want. 

A clear brief is how to create a process and goal that is fully understood while keeping time and expenses to a minimum. 

Where clients become the most upset about design isn’t often the design itself; it’s the cost incurred from time overspent on what they think to be a simple project.

To say “I don’t really know what I want, you just work your magic and show me some ideas.” simply is not good enough, unless you have an infinite budget. A client may not consciously realise, but the fact that they have come to a designer for assistance means they already have a picture in their head as to what they want.

Now let’s sit you in the seat of the potential customer.

How do you begin a brief?

It all starts with a conversation – Graphic Designer

A professional graphic designer, or perhaps a dedicated studio manager, will ask to meet with you to talk through initial ideas for your design. 

We would always advise it’s best to meet in person. This enables the designer and client to look through visuals together; also to get a sense of personality, which often needs to show through the design itself.

Give an overview of yourself, your company and the message you want your design to convey. Talk about your target audience and how you want them to feel, what action you want them to take. Also talk through previous designs you’ve had, what’s worked and what hasn’t. Talk about what you’d like to see in your new ones.

Researching design styles – Graphic Designer

If you or your company already has a brand identity, then a lot of the design structure is already decided. Most brand guidelines will delegate a refined range of colours, fonts, logo positioning and much more.

If you don’t have any guidelines, firstly take into consideration what style might suit your business best.

For ideas of different design styles, take a look at specialised websites that showcase portfolios such as Behance or Designspiration.

Provide examples of designs you like, pointing out the reasons why. Too often a client may say they like a design, but there could be one element they want (such as a font, colour or pattern) but areas they don’t like. A good example to give the designer would be something like this:

“I like this advert because the main title font is bold and bright”. That would indicate to the designer that it’s not a specific colour you like or the images or layout used.

Another fantastic way to convey your thoughts to your designer is by providing examples of things you don’t like. And why. This is helpful beyond belief, and it dramatically reduces the possibility of you not loving the first concepts.

Researching competitors – Graphic Designer

Knowing your competition is a way always to stay ahead of the game. By seeing what they do enables for you to figure out how to do it 100x better.

Discuss your thoughts with the designer and find weaker areas of your competitor’s marketing. Then inform the designer of your businesses’ unique selling points (USP’s).

You want for your design to align with current trends, so as not to look dated, but you also don’t want to look like everybody else. A designer will help you through this delicate balance in getting this right.

Being clear about your content – Graphic Designer

In order of priority, very clearly list what information and assets you would like on your design. Here’s an example below:

Title (bold font, centre page): Singing lessons for just £20 per hour

Sub-title: Come along and meet Dan who will help raise the bar

Body copy: [insert paragraph(s) of text here]

Background: Plain, light purple colour with a couple of musical notes where best situated

Images: A photo of a girl singing, looking over into the distance giving the impression that she is performing to an audience. A small profile photo of Dan (supplied). Our company logo (supplied).

Call to action: To book your lesson, please call Dan on 01234 567890

Being clear about your final items required

It’s best at the initial stages to state what your design might be needed for at all possible steps down the line. 

Here are a couple of examples that may hinder future needs if not stated early on:

  • “I just want a couple of web banners and social media adverts” – this may be what you need at this stage. However, a decision will be made by the designer to create work in the most suitable software for time efficiency and best outcome. Web banners are often made in Photoshop at a web-friendly resolution. If the client were to return at a later stage asking for this: “Could you just turn the web banner you did for me, into a flyer?” it wouldn’t be possible without heavily sacrificing quality. Printed items usually need to be created at a 300dpi resolution or above, for them not to look blurry. Anything that might have to be scaled up from the smaller web banner will lose quality and may not even be readable.


  • “I’d like a logo for my wellbeing business. I’d like it to have a three colour gradient and an intricate lace pattern around the edge.” While this design may look and sound beautiful – if the client was to then need for this to be embroidered onto a shirt, the complexity of both the shape and colour may not be easy to replicate in embroidery.


Communicate To Your Graphic Designer

Instead, communicate to your designer what plans you have for the designs now and in the future. Don’t worry at this stage if you will see those future goals through; you’d ideally want for your design to be ready in any case.

Be clear in what you’ll expect to have at the end of the design.

If it’s printed materials, consider:

  • Paper size
  • Paper thickness
  • Any finishing
  • Any binding
  • Quantity

Digital Assets

If it’s digital assets, think about:

  • A list of dimensions for each advert required. Occasionally clients see this as just one advert as one brief with one idea. However, depending on the content within it, the designer will have to consider re-formatting layouts in the best way for each advert size. By listing all dimensions required will eliminate and hidden work for the designer, and unexpected charges for you.
  • File formats you may need, such as an editable vector file, a png, or jpg.

Ask the critical question of who had legal ownership of the design once it is complete. A studio may reserve the right to claim the design as theirs, with the ability to showcase it in their portfolio. Most of the time, once designs such as logos are complete, you as the client, have the legal ownership of the design.

Be available throughout the process.

Give a realistic deadline and take on the understanding that you may not be the only client project they’re working on. If a designer rushes to complete your work to the unfavourable deadline of “ASAP”. Then you reduce the designers time to use their skills and worthwhile thought-process when working on your project. If they rush to give you work, then you don’t inform them of when you’ll get back to them with your thoughts. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that you’ll have to wait in line while they finish a stage of another project.

Graphic Designer Channel of Communications

If you keep an open channel of communication with the designer, then they’re more likely to keep you updated through each stage of the process.

Being open to conversation at all stages will help the designer to save their time and your money by having any questions or issues answered. 

The design overall is very personal to both the client and the designer. Providing each other with sensible feedback may sometimes feel critical of your creativity. However, at the end of the day, you both want the same thing.

A design that works and you’re happy with the look of.

If you like this blog feel free to read some of our other articles like “How Do You Make The Perfect Colour Scheme For Your Logo”, Poster Printing Tips, FREE Fonts and where to find Them,