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How to understand and follow a design brief

How to understand and follow a design brief

Top tips from Joel on how to get what you really need when starting a design project
How to understand and follow a design brief

Establishing the key elements required for a design can sometimes be a struggle when it comes to briefs. Often, clients will use the design brief to offload their whole business history, ideas, morals and every detail possible to make things clearer for themselves. This can over-complicate things and give the designer a clouded direction with the very thing that matters most.. the artwork!

Our job as designers is to take all of this information, digest the details and establish the key points that will help us create awesome designs. Here are some of the common issues I have found when digesting design briefs, and how to overcome them.

1. Really understand the target audience

Audience by Ty Wilkins

Working out exactly who the design work will be aimed at is key to ensuring a successful project. Often clients will list basic demographics, ages and locations as their target audience. Researching these points and creating a clear vision of the type of a person is a vital stage of the process.
Understand the company and it’s customers, find out more about this type of person, their likes and interests to help you build a solid, clear profile of who your artwork needs to speak to.

2. Understand the client’s style preferences

Different style options by Studio Carreras

One issue I have found whilst digesting design briefs at my agency, is clients will very often look for successful businesses in their own industry and use these companies logos and websites etc as their design and style choices.

However, when you actually go down the design route you will find that the style they are after, can be very different indeed. This is where suggesting styles back to the client and outlining an aesthetic plan of action, before moving forward with the artwork is key.

After your research and you feel you have a style in mind that can work, go back to the client with 5 or 6 designs in this style, explain why you feel this could work and get confirmation of the design style before moving forward.

3. Don’t be afraid to ask (lots) of questions!

Questions by Andrew Colin Beck

When you first start designing, it’s very easy to get excited and jump right in there with the artwork. This is one of the major pitfalls a designer can fall into as even though the artwork you create might be strong, it might, just not be what the client is after.
Once you have gone through the brief and got back to the client with any style and inspiration clarifications, make sure you also have clear details as to the actual requirements, how many pages, colour choices, visual references to include, and not to include etc. Don’t be afraid to clarify every detail you need, as in the long run it will help to ensure a smooth project from start to finish.


As a summary, and what I always say to other designers is that the priorities for a designer in this order are: Get that style and aesthetic inspiration completely locked down and clarified before even sketching ideas. Build a solid and clear profile of who your design needs to speak to, and finally ask as many questions as you need and don’t be afraid of annoying the client, because in the long run, they will love you for it!