Guest post: How to Brief a Graphic Designer for Print Projects

Dan Dukwarth is a Melbourne based digital marketing expert and operates a quote comparison service which helps small businesses compare quotes from local graphic design companies and freelancers. Thanks to Dan for summarising this process for me to share.

I’ve seen many clients start a graphic design project with a vague idea of what they want and the belief that they can work it out as they go. The notion of start early and iterate often is a great one, but applies more internal projects than it does to outsourced projects unless you have a flexible budget. The best projects, the ones that operate smoothly, on budget and on time always have a clear brief.

There are a whole bunch of guides out there that will tell you that you need to talk about market position and provide unique selling points etc. But it’s really not necessary for smaller graphic design projects. There are three types of information you need to provide:

1.    Creative direction
2.    Main message to communicate
3.    Print specifications

Providing the graphic designer with creative direction

It’s important to maintain a balancing act here. Graphic designers are experts in their field, they have been trained and they know what they are doing. So if you start overruling their decisions you are going to have a hard time justifying yourself. Let the designer do their job, but provide them with direction, not instruction.

The three most important pieces of information you can provide for creative direction are ‘look and feel’, ‘target audience’ and ‘inspirational material’.

How to define the look and feel

This is actually easier than it sounds. Let’s take business card design as an example. First of all, think about the emotional selling point of your brand. How do you want prospect to feel when they see your brand?

Here are a few ideas:

●    Awe
●    Romantic
●    Safe
●    Inspired
●    Entertained
●    Healthy
●    Energised

How to define the target audience

One of the most common mistakes people make when defining an audience is to think

“I really want to have as many customers as possible, so my audience is everyone.”

This won’t work for a few reasons:

1.    You will be a small fish in a big pond and won’t be noticed
2.    Your message will be generic and overlooked

Spend a bit of time figuring out exactly who your audience is. And I mean more than just their age and marital status. I mean the kinds of activities they do, the places they visit, the jobs they have, their hobbies etc. Figuring out these will start to inform the way the emotional sell point of your brand will be created.

How to provide inspirational material

My personal favourite is to use a gallery called Dribbble. It’s a community website where designers submit designs they are working on. Browse through the material there and use the search tools find to examples of what you are looking for e.g. brochures.

Defining the main message

If you are working on a business card, this isn’t quite as important. However if it’s a brochure, a sign or poster than it’s much more important. First of all, what is the point of this print project? What is it trying to achieve? If it’s brand awareness, then the focus will be on the design and highlighting the logo. If it’s to get the reader to take action, then the design will highlight benefits.

I highly recommend writing the content for the project before working with the graphic designer. The nature of the content will shape the design. It’s far better to shape the design around the content that force the content to fit the design. After all, it’s about communicating a message that’s important. In some cases, I would even hire a copywriter to take a look at the content to make sure the writing is compelling and says exactly what it needs to say and no more.

Providing the graphic designer with print specifications

The is the boring part but it’s necessary because it will have a direct impact on the costs involved.

At the absolute minimum you should specify:

●    The number copies are required
●    Page count
●    The size (this will most likely be worked out with the graphic designer)

You might also want to specify the type of printing, but this is usual too technical and the graphic designer will have a better idea of what will be best suited according to your requirements and budget.

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