How do you write a design brief?

There are a couple of main reasons why any graphic design project needs a detailed brief — it spells out exactly what clients want to achieve, and acts as a point of reference for everyone involved.

This means less time (and money) is spent on the result. The more information clients provide from the outset, the more value for money they’ll receive from their design partners.

Design brief

Potential topics for inclusion:

Corporate profile

A summary of the business and a brief history will help.

Market position

A realistic evaluation of the company’s service/product relative to what competitors are doing.

Current situation

An explanation of what’s happening to bring about the need for this project e.g., a new product launch.

Communication background

Previous and present communication activity, such as research, advertising, direct mail, graphic design, public relations, etc.

Communication task — “the message”

What’s the context of the specific message in relation to the business plan? Where possible, include information to be shown in the designed item e.g. taglines, body text, imagery, etc.

Target market

Demographics — age, gender, income, employment, geography, lifestyle of those the client wants to reach.


What does the client want to achieve? Where possible, make the objectives specific and the results measurable.

Schedule and deadline

The designer should have a detailed and realistic schedule of how the client wants the project to advance, considering these pointers:

  • Consultation (research, strategy)
  • Creation (concept and design development)
  • Production (artwork and print procurement)
  • Delivery (handover)

If, as a designer, you’re dealing with a client who hasn’t produced a brief, it’s important to have your own set of questions to supply at the outset.

I’ve listed a number of important client questions, explaining why you should ask them, in Logo Design Love, available on and other places that sell books.

78 responses

  1. A good set of points listed here. I had a client working for a print company that was not used to briefing design. I produced a brief questionnaire sheet (posted in my resources section) for them which enabled them to get answers to things I would need to know to do the design. The more information you can get the more likely a designer is to come up with a suitable design.

  2. Hi David,

    This, and none other, is the most important productivity tip for any designer! I don’t think that any designer should start any work before having a brief accepted by the customer.

    [is a design blog]

  3. Great article. Dugg and printed. Now I have to get back to work, will carefully read it afterwards.

    David, the edit plugin works without a glitch on your blog. Glad you’ve installed it here.

  4. I bet you’d be a very happy man if a client gave you all that information in a brief. Personally I try to give as useful a brief as I can but one item I wont really discuss is the budget. A lot of designers ask for this but I find that a bit cheeky.

    Generally when I commission design work I will ask two or three designers to quote on the job. If I start talking about the budget then I get three very similar prices. What I will say though is that I expect at least three (or however many) conceptual ideas to be presented to me.

  5. As a account servicing person, I asked all those questions you listed above. It never failed to astonish me when a client cannot provide an answer. Some would turn around and challenge me with “Aren’t you marketing agency supposed to help me with all these.” Yes, but we first got to listen to his needs and wants before we can brainstorm a marketing strategy and thereafter work out a creative strategy. We cannot simply take on the stand that “I know this client so well for the past 10 years, and the sure win formula is like this like this”. The client may not changed but his marketplace and audience would have in this fast changing economy. I would not take the risk of not having an agency brief, or discussing with the client on the workability of his marketing strategy before briefing the studio. If I do that, I might waste my client’s money but I would surly waste my creative team’s valuable time. No brief or bad brief will results in lots of reworks and worse, reject.

    Some clients will not disclose a budget. What I would ask is a range. If he said between $3000 – $5000. I would provide him with 2 quotes on what he can get for $3000 and $4500. It may not be ideal but definitely better than having no information.

    And David, I’m going to link this post to my blog (in a post entitled “Is your marketing & advertising agency really so lousy”.

    Nice article!

  6. Great tips here, for sure. A budget would be more than helpful but if the client says their budget is $3000 I will usually pitch him something for $3500.

  7. Vivien, thanks for the Digg, and for the plugin feedback. Glad it works.

    Aaron, I’d be very happy. It hasn’t quite happened, but getting there. Thanks for the process insight. I inform all prospective clients how many concepts they’ll receive before making an agreement.

    Vivienne, a client shouldn’t expect these questions to be answered for them. Thanks for the link.

  8. Aaron, that’s interesting that you think it’s cheeky for a designer to ask a prospective client what their budget is. From my point of view, this helps me to decide if a client is serious about what they want to achieve. You’d be surprised how many people undervalue our profession.

    Sometimes I think that if I didn’t ask, I’d be puttin in a lot more hours. So many people come back to me saying that their budget is somewhere from £50 to £200, which isn’t worth the time an identity project needs.

    I’ll go into more depth in a future post to clarify.

  9. I should be clear that I’m talking about before I’ve commissioned you, and I’m asking you and several other people to quote me. From a buyers point of view it’s plain daft to give you any idea of budget because everyone will come in with the same price. What I want is a really competitive price.

  10. I thought this article was very informative. I also appreciated the way the article was organized.

  11. I agree with David about the budget. I think it is important to get an idea of how much a client wants to spend. I’m not saying put all your cards on a table, but what budget you have is certainly going to have an effect on the quality of the work. I have some clients who say I have £XXX budget, can you do it? I can then say I can do x, y, z within your budget. If the budget is low you would perhaps say you can only do one concept,rather than 3.

    It does make me laugh sometimes though, obviously the designer wants to get the best price for their time and the client the cheapest and best quality. I have been asked for a price by a client, I ask for their budget which they won’t tell me. I give them my price, they say I’ve only got £XXX so we end up coming to a compromise anyway. Its like a game of Poker.

    • I loved this article. One of the problems that most designers have is that they don’t ask enough questions. The more information you can get from your client about exactly what they want, the easier your job will be.

      Once you establish parameters that describe exactly when the client is satisfied, the more productive you can be. One other thing that I do is to ask to be paid up front, to give three prototypes to the client, and have them choose one. Once they have chosen the prototype, I can make adjustments, but without having anything written, they might not have any idea as to what they actually want. By forcing them to describe what they want, it speeds up the entire process. By forcing them to pay up front, I don’t have to chase the client to get paid. By forcing them to choose a prototype, I eliminate a lot of dithering.

      Your preparation speeds up the entire process. If you don’t prepare, prepare to waste a lot of time.

  12. I think a lot of misunderstanding abound with regards to “budget”. Clients think that “revealing” the budget reduces their ability to bargain, and designers think that the “budget” is their license to the big ticket.

    I feel both are wrong.

    Client: Pay peanuts to get monkeys. Heard that? If you KNOW what you want to achieve, and you are experienced enough, you will know what kind of budget can achieve it.

    Designer: If you see the budget, you will know the scope of WORK that is required and the resources you need to bring to bear. Using “junior” and charging “boss rates” really won’t get you far if you have a experienced and savvy client.

    In the end, give value. Respect value. Both ways.

    Just my 2 cents worth. Ooops! i revealed my budget!

  13. This is a great summary. Re designing with no briefs (no pun intended), I often face this with smaller clients. It’s at times like these that a graphic designer takes on the added role of marketeer. I love the challenge, and I find that when I get back to the client with my concepts, that they begin to form their own opinion/brief – I enjoy this process.
    I like the Poker analogy too – how apropos!
    ps: like the image at the head of your post.

  14. Tara, I’ve had exactly the same thing happen RE: budget discussions. Do you play poker by any chance? I enjoy a bit of no limit.

    Calvin, I think one of the main issues is that a client doesn’t know what budget achieves what results, and if they haven’t worked with a particular designer before they’ll be very wary of being overcharged. On the designer side, anyone worth their corn won’t try to charge ‘boss rates’ if they’re not capable of the work.

    You sum it up nicely about respecting the value of the project. I was thinking about outsourcing some work your direction, but your low rates are kind of off-putting.

  15. What if, as a client new to this whole scene, you have no idea what you can have down at what budget level? Are there general guidelines someone can throw out there? When I contact potential designers, I don’t want to sound unprofessional or disrespectful of the value of their work.

  16. Tegan, my advice would be to ask for three quotes from different designers, so you have a range of options. Then, when you compare their prices against their portfolio and experience, you’ll have a better idea what the going rate is. People are going to shop around before making a decision in order to get the best product/service available for their budget.

  17. Well.. i stumbled upon this somehow, and I think its totally wrong. You can’t charge for time frames. Otherwise you would be lying. Thinking you will come with the right solution within a time frame, or that you will spend more or less time depending on budget its again hilarius. How about when you come up with the right solution within 20 minutes of talking to the client and reading the brief? would you drop the rate? adjust it? no way.

    A budget whats it usefull for. A budget its important but not for the designer, but for the identity rollout process. You need to know whats your client budget for production of the graphic pieces you may give him are you gona design with 9 spot colors or with 1? are you gona use metal cards or special paper effects? etc etc. A budget its really usefull after the quote. And thus thats were its suitable to ask for it.

    We designers have a real hard task when asked upon our process and this goes as far up as pentagram (look at Michael Bierut Article in designobserver). Trying to charge design upon the scope of a time frame sounds like a logical solution. But more sketches doesnt mean a better design. How do you plan to charge for the hours you spent browsing webpages or heading to a bar and coming with the right idea for the client? I think this concept needs to be thought more than this easy going solution to budgeting.


    (sorry for my engrish)

  18. Time is Money!

    If you can only afford 3 hours worth of graphic design

    your design will look very different than someone who can afford 30 hours of design.

    Money effects Quality.

    They won’t let you stay at the Ritz for the same price as motel 6!

    Enough Said….

    Now let’s be realistic…..

  19. I kind of disagree, a bad concept, will still be a bad concept 30 hrs later, same as a poor rendering etc.

    How do you integrate talent in the equation. making 2000 mockups not necessarily will give a good solution and thats how design is different.

  20. The practical benefits of discussing budget with clients…

    First I ask if there is a budget for the project. If there is no budget in place and I feel a comfort level, I may broach the subject later in the conversation of how the project would be funded. Of course they may resolve my concern or not. But it’s a chance to qualify the client’s intent. Are they sincere… or window shopping?

    For those people reluctant to ask for a figure, ask matter of factly “if” they have a budget for the project. The answer that question is good to know, but it also may naturally lead to helpful information later in the discussion.

    If they have a budget in place, then I know they are sincere. That helps me relax and relaxing is good. They are often willing to let me know a figure later in the conversation. With established, experienced clients, I usually ask for the budget range and dispense with the dancing around. Sometimes I don’t even have to ask, they offer it.

    I prefer an in-person meeting to get as much useful information out of the initial interview as possible. I feel this enhances trust and communication and works well for me. Sending a survey does not give me adequate information or even save time, but I use a survey to drive the discussion. If I got things right, then the brief/contract is an affirmation of the initial interview (including the cost) It simplifies the process. I don’t have to re-negotiate the contract much, if at all, before getting to work.

    Most people, even if they are not experienced creative services buyers, have an idea of what they want to spend when they go shopping. It does go against the grain of some folks to divulge. I suggest building trust. If a client trusts you, they will be likely to give you an idea what their budget is.

  21. Hi Sally, excuse the late response. I get a lot of window shoppers, as you put it, and I wonder if I’m not providing the real prospects with enough attention. There’s a fine line, and you can’t spend too long dealing with those who have no real intent to work with you. Face-to-face meetings can help, but for many, that’s not possible.

  22. Hi David,

    Your website is so important! I feel all junior designer like me should visit atleast 10 times. Thanks a lot for the informations…

  23. Hi David

    I love your blog and find it really inspiring and informative for my own design business. Please keep up the great work.

    On the topic of budgets in design briefs, I’m sitting on the fence about this. I had someone write to me and they filled in my logo design questionnaire diligently, but their budget was $400. In my questionnaire I do not have a fee range (like you do) for the main reason that the fee range may turn prospects off immediately and that cuts off any opportunity to convince/persuade.

    Here in Singapore, quite a large portion of businesses are unwilling to invest in design and the culture doesn’t take design seriously as a valuable marketing asset.

    On the other hand, placing a fee range could save both parties time and that ‘splat’ feeling I get when I get all excited about a prospect only to be disappointed with the unrealistic budget.

    What’s your (and fellow reader’s) experience been?

    Thanks in advance for sharing!


  24. That’ll be super!

    I’ve decided to do a little risk-taking and put in the fee range. Will then be able to have some comments for the post when it’s out :)

    Thanks for the prompt response, and I look forward to the post.


  25. Hi David

    Thanks for this blog topic. I found you via google as I am meeting with a designer tomorrow who suggested I had a brief. I know how to do IT project briefs but NO IDEA what goes into a design brief! Your headings helped focus on what I need to tell them… thanks! Fingers crossed they are able to help me.


  26. Hi David,

    Thanks a lot.

    in my office we have to presant that what is logo?
    & I get good information from ur bolg I don’t need to refer other sites.

    Thanks again.
    Now i am in hurry.
    But I will be in touch .

    Have a good Day.

  27. Most of the times we end up with prospective clients who come to us with some inspiration from a source thats totally irrelevant for their business. This has happened to me numerous times. Having a design brief helps them to decide their priorities and goals. This process of rethinking proves vital in a contracts success as the goals and objectives are properly set.

    Also good to read comments from the buyers side too regarding the budgeting. As David said its a very thin line between a prospective client and a window shopper. I charge for the service I offer and not for the time I spend on my work. Also I make it a point to make the client know that he is paying me for my skills and not for the timeline. It helps them in understanding the value of our work.

  28. In the case of not getting a budget out of a client, and often they just do not know what the should be spending (investing), we produce a three tiered cost structure, top end, middle of the road and basic. This means they cannot say ‘No’, and this gives them choice.
    We often push the envelope with them by using the analogy of an architect – you have to reveal the budget in order that the scope is accurately defined, and time (our most precious asset) is not wasted.
    If their first question is ‘How much?” we politely refer them to the competition. We are into the ‘Value’ proposition, and never reveal hourly rates or hours spent.

  29. We spend quite a lot of time creating a tailored quotation and specification for all of our work (including logo design), and we have found that asking for the client’s budget is a great way to weed out those who are looking for a week/month of your time for £50.

    As quite of the comments seem to say, if a client doesn’t realise it’s worth investing that in their company’s image, they’ll generally regret not investing initially in the end!

    Another excellent post, thanks David.

  30. Naresh,

    “I make it a point to make the client know that he is paying me for my skills and not for the timeline. It helps them in understanding the value of our work.”

    Well said.

    John, I can empathise with that first question being ‘how much?’ I wonder how you choose which companies to refer those clients to. For instance, sometimes I’m too busy to take on new design work, and I refer clients to designers I respect, but where the price is the issue, not time, the choice becomes more difficult.

    Richard, you’re very welcome. Thanks for your thoughts.

  31. Absolutely invaluable information here on this blog. As a brand new designer I can’t thank you enough for sharing your wisdom. Your site has been bookmarked and will likely become an oft-referenced place for me.

    Thank you!

  32. Much of our work is without a succinct brief – especially logo/branding.

    Is your Logo questionnaire something you would mind us adapting at all?

    I realise that’s akin to using your methods to keep work from you, I’m assuming your blog is to spread good practice but would never lift your work without the courtesy of a request.

    Thanks for the insight.

  33. Naresh said,

    ” I make it a point to make the client know that he is paying me for my skills and not for the timeline. It helps them in understanding the value of our work.”

    May I ask how do you make this point clear, when one is starting up or when the client seems to have a blind ear?
    I mean, practically, how do you do that?

  34. Re “cheeky” as a response to “what’s your budget”… this is the first way to spot a “red flag” client IME. If they have no idea what they can spend, let alone what they will, you’re already on the path to trouble.

  35. Hi,
    Great to write about this subject. My own brief goes into a bit more detail and I tailor it to the type of project. I have one for web, one for general design projects and one for logos.

    Anyone who doesn’t use a brief is really nuts. And I have been pushed on occasion to begin a project when the brief is incomplete, contradictory in some way or too general. I have refused on occasion to move forward. But it’s hard to convince some clients until you get in there with concepts that aren’t working.

    Even with one, I have had mystery people appear mid way through with different ideas, or a key piece of information is introduced. At least with a brief you can say “didn’t you say THIS was a key attribute?” for example. It doesn’t fix everything but at least the client knows they’re responsible in some way, not to mention that you actually use the brief for designing.

    As for budgets, I try to say that I don’t base my cost on budgets but that I need to know if it will be a good fit. Not to price up to the budget limit. Some organizations are refreshingly transparent. This is likely because they have actually planned a budget based on known factors.

  36. Hi David,

    I’ve had some people approach me without any clear vision of what they want for their upcoming project – yet they want a design and they want it NOW.

    I think it’s important to realise that we shouldn’t be designing things for everyone simply for design’s sake.

    (Unfortunately, those potential clients never ended up following through with their ventures…)

    Anyway, I’m a student still in working progress, and you’re an inspiration to me. Thanks for writing this article!

  37. Hi David,

    I read your blog constantly and I want to tell you that it’s great and extremely useful.

    I just started freelancing and just this past week I had two opportunities with new clients and I’ve been following your advice on how to deal with them.

    I replied to one client with sort of a design brief – It would have been very useful if I had read this article before I sent it!

    I think is very important having a brief detailing how the work is going to be done, questions for the client because it shows professionalism, it benefits both the designer and client and I guess as a designer we will realise if it is a potential client or they are not being serious about the work they want.

    Thanks for your articles they are very inspiring.

  38. I usually provide the client with a brief to fill out and one of the most important details i have on it is:

    Instructions on how to fill it out!

    The instructions deal with the variables such as partners, board of directors and even spouses when filling out briefs. They all have different views and opinions giving different answers for a single brief which in the end leads to a confused brief with no direction.

  39. That’s a good point, Chaten (about making your questions clear and concise). I’ve had clients tell me on a number of occasions that some the questions I asked were unclear, and it’s always worth remembering that you aren’t talking to a designer. Use of jargon is to be avoided at all costs.

  40. Whenever I´m designing a brand identity, I ask my clients:

    If your (name of the new company or product) was a person, how would it be?
    (I encourage them to describe that person physically, emotionally, as well as the activities, dressing, age and gender)

    It has helped me a lot to visualize the concepts in my head.

    Still, I have to be careful to notice if the client is describing him or herself, and if their description matches the target market, objectives and values to be projected.

    I hope it helps, and please tell me if you have any suggestions or comments about this.

  41. Hey David…Great info. Just starting to charge for my designs, and I had no idea that all this info was necessary or involved in the process. Man was I off LOL…This just makes sooooo much sense especially when attempting to inform a potential client that it is not as easy as e or she thinks to give a quote on the spot with minimal info on the project. Is there any way that you can repost or email your questionnaire for me… Thanks again David…Great stuff man…J.R.

  42. Greetings David… I’ve recently came across your blog and must say there is great information here to work with and apply. After reading through the discussion on the topic of design briefs, I’m left with one fundamental question from the point of view of a designer. Do you insist on a design brief (and is it realistic to expect one) when you are being asked for a quote and are competing for a project? Or, do you request a design brief only after you have been selected for a project? Or both? Okay… that’s three questions.

    From Houston, TX

  43. Hello Antonio, I can only provide a quote once I learn my client’s design needs, and these needs are discovered after asking questions contained within the brief. It’s not possible to offer a realistic quote before knowing about the project. I hope that helps.

  44. Hello David…you have produced an inspiring and informational site for the industry here! It should be required reading for students who are thinking of entering the profession.

    I have always felt that the only way to gain professional respect from clients is to treat their projects as a “business” problem to be solved. And that process should always begin with a project brief. It forces clients to really think through the problem (logo/identity/web etc.), and encourages them to go all in and collaborate for the best solution. If you can get them to engage in the collaboration, they start to feel that they are partners in both the process, and the eventual solution.

    Also as Jane (5.14.09) noted above, the document can serve as a useful benchmark when a new “player” enters the process. The new person/s can often be a disruptive force because they don’t know the groundwork that has already been laid. You can refer everyone back to the brief and determine whether new information should be added or “politely” discarded. To use a poker term, it’s your ace in the hole.

    After 16 years on the design agency side I am heading back out to self-employment. I hope you won’t mind if I adapt and tweak a few things either (as Marc noted above) as I build my online presence and portfolio.

    Hmmmm – I believe I will have to head over to the store and pick up a copy of Logo Design Love…

    Rainy Saturday in Atlanta GA

  45. Several things in here that my business is going to find useful.

    We operate a national franchise which offers graphic design as part of an optional service, and we have a design brief/questionnaire that we use to extract the right information from the client.

    Your article will help us make this clearer for the clients we deal with – which will hopefully help the sanity of the graphic designers!

    Thanks so much!

  46. Yes, this template is going to be really good start, i just need to translate it! Here in Serbia, brief like this is something new, and sometimes you need to beg your potential clients to get serious about it. Hope it will change sometime…

  47. Hey, great blog. Just came across this while writing up my briefing documents to hand to potential clients for my photography & design business.

    I’d like to go back to budgeting. Personally, I charge on the service and not the timescale it’s takes to complete a project. I think clients are more reluctant to go for the pay per hour/day route as they have no idea on the efficiancy of the designer. Remeber, clients have no background info on your workflow and turnaround times, they just see what you can produce from your portfolio. If you are an experienced designer then you will have an idea on timescales, and you should have a set of prices laid out from which you can create from past experiences.

    I remember when I was asked by my brothers girlfriend to discuss about designing a logo for her new business, I hit her with a very competitive price of £300 and she hit the roof lol. I tried to get the point across about the amount of time and effort I would need to put in, but she just didn’t want to pay it…so I dismissed her. Ignorance!!! Also many people don’t like the fact you are earning more money than themselves.

    Just my take on things. This web site is bookedmarked.

  48. This is a wonderful find! I’m a visual artist rather than a graphic designer, but have been requested to design a logo for a global business – i feel very daunted by the prospect, and your blog has been so helpful. Thank you!

  49. After you meet with your client for the Q&A do you write up an estimate that is agreed upon and then the design brief or the design brief and then an estimate that is signed?

  50. It’s nice to see that everybody agrees that a design brief is vital. Something that I’ve not seen mentioned is: should the client include information on the competition and how thorough should he be? I know the better designer will always do his part of research before generating ideas and concepts, but how far does he go? I believe this is important because in a worse case scenario the designer and the client might end up with an excellent design, but which is very similar to something already out there.

  51. David, thank you for the effort/candor you put into your postings and replies to comments. Inspires enlightening discussion for a newbie like myself. You’ve provided a resource far more practical and immediately applicable compared to much of the instruction I receive in the classroom. Greatly appreciate that you’ve given us permission to modify the structure of your creative brief to meet our needs. (Mark, thanks for asking).

    My philosophy on the topic of inquiring about a prospective client’s budget before, during, or after: I’ll be honest and admit that it’s tempting to ask what her budget is so that I can charge that much (if I was planning on charging less) or politely decline the project (if it’s less than what I need in order to take a bite out of that semester’s tuition, bills, etc). Yet, my conscious and my gut refers me back to this: if I’m in a legal bind and I go to a reputable lawyer, he isn’t going to ask me what my budget is and then create a package to suit my legal needs. If my need is great enough, I’m not going to allow his legal fees to be a barrier to hiring him. I’m either motivated by the knowledge that his lack of representation will land me in jail or my desire to stay out of jail is greater than my desire to hold on to thousands of dollars or both. Can you image going to a doctor, especially one in the emergency room, who proceeds to ask you what your budget is before deciding if he’s going to prep you for surgery to remove a bullet from you chest?

    There’s just that sense of urgency and immediately identifiable value in the services these professionals offer. I’ve observed that the businesses or business owners that experience the financial comfort they seek do so by identifying the value of their skills/experience and charging accordingly. They see their service as being vital to someone’s quality of life — their prospective client, whether the client consciously realizes it or not. (They wouldn’t inquire if they didn’t have a hint of the service’s value). The successful business owner values herself. She values her client. That’s why she charges what she’s worth. It’s in the best benefit of the client.

    If I make a commitment to charge what I’m worth, because I value myself and I value my client, does asking for a budget/range fall in line with that principle? I don’t believe it does. When I do the opposite (lower my price to fall within that budget, land a client/job) what I find is that I end up compromising on my standard of living and not on the adjustments I make to my design process because I’m not willing to compromise of the quality of the end product. What that course of action/behavior indicates is the following: whether I charge a penny or $1 million, the consistency of the quality of my work is going to remain the same. Asking for a budget speaks volumes of the integrity of my practices as a designer and business-owner. While we may not experience the same type of protection or benefit in this field as a health provider (who is required by law to provide a service, like emergency care, knowing that the patient cannot afford that care and subsequently benefit in the diligence of the billing department) or a patient (whose health provider cannot ask for her budget/refuse care based on that response, guaranteeing her service), well, that’s the upside of our field. We can pick and choose who we want to provide our services to. If designing according to the principles or philosophy that you stand on as a professional is a top priority for you then set your price. You’ll discover soon enough if the value of your work is worth the price tag you’ve placed on it — the clients will either roll in or out. If it’s the latter, here’s the worse of it: you charged too much, your ego is bruised, your reputation is shot, you have to build a new client base. But, those don’t really sound like the end result of the actions of a self-valuing designer, anyways. So, what do you have to lose? (Did you notice there’s no suggestion for the inclusion of a budget inquiry in David’s outline for a creative brief? I wonder why that is…)

  52. Hi David,

    I just wanted to put in my two cents (or two pence in the UK?) about your posts. Your site has to be the greatest collection for designers on the web. Since I started a long time ago, I was often unsure of myself and my abilities. Living in Canada didn’t help either since this country is so spread out while the cities are so dense. There never was really any way to see what other designers are thinking. Your site has definitely helped me get through a lot and I encourage every student thinking they’ll be ready when they graduate for the real word, to go through your site – though not all of it or they’ll never start working. Your posts have made me feel so much more comfortable going forward, they’ve helped my business grow so much so thanks.

    You have my deepest gratitude mate, please keep up all of the posts. Best wishes from across the pond, eh.

  53. Good for you, Kim, for not compromising on quality. It’s a decent comeback for those clients who ask for discounts — “Do you want me to discount the quality, too?”

    AJ, very kind of you to say. Thank you.

  54. David Airey, I must say that since I heard your name some 3 weeks ago, my life has tipped for the better. Someone recommended I connect with you when I did a presentation of one my designs to him. I basically use CorelDRAW for ALL my designs except I have to do a photo retouching for book cover designs.

    I’ve learnt so much especially about getting a “written-down” design brief before anything else. I’m a believer of respecting or placing the proper value on whatever I or a client requests that I do. I’ve had to turn down jobs because of this, and many people call me a fool for refusing to compromise.

    My basic challenge is how people get to say my pricing is quite premium, which for me is still on the low side compared to my counterparts, and yet I just started my company in September 2011 after I quit my job to follow my dreams. Please how can you advise that I stand on excellence without compromising my pricing, while tackling the desperate need to make money to offset bills and grow my company?

    Thanks very much David. By the way, I’m based in Lagos, Nigeria.

  55. I stumbled on your site looking for web design inspiration. I may have lost a night for design, but gained much more valuables in knowledge and resources! So thank you David.

    Design briefs? WTH? I’ve been freelancing for too many years and it never occurred to me to create one! Ahhh! I will say after reading this and everyone’s posts that through plenty of trial and error I pretty much capture the needed information nowadays through my face-to-face meetings with clients. My client-base is very niche and all word of mouth – mostly Pacific Islander businesses and community non-profit orgs in Southern California. It took a while to help the community realize the value of design; when I first started out, it never occurred to them to budget for design – without realizing it they would indiscriminately gang it together with the printing costs! Word eventually got around that good design, and paying for it was well worth it (as opposed to having office staff throw something together in Word!). It took educating a community, a whole lot of low-balling and quite a few years though!

    Anyhow, I see many of the trial-and-error scenarios that I went through mentioned on here – coming down on price to meet your client’s “price” – only to kick yourself for not sticking to your worth because in the end – you WILL NOT come down on the quality of your work. That is not in a good designer’s DNA. I’ve also been guilty of throwing an outrageous price out there for a project I didn’t really want to do – and it backfired. Although they paid the huge price, I got stuck for months on a project that I had no interest or inspiration in doing, thereby taking me away from other more desirable projects.

    I no longer fret about how long a job is going to take, how many hours to charge, etc. It’s too hard to put a timetable on design/inspiration process. This is what sets us apart from other professions! I’ve had logos I’d bang out in an hour, and others I’d sweat months over. Instead, I look at what the logo’s used for, the client’s profile, the competition, and what their story/message is. Sometimes I ask for a budget, sometimes they’ll flat out tell me, and other times I have to help them figure it out. For me I really have to feel my way through that initial conversation with a client. I always tell my clients I will work with them on costs if needed, but the most important thing is that they’re happy with the work. This has worked for me 99% of the time. But it wasn’t always like this. I was not always confident, and did not realize the value of my work.

    I will say that it took getting burned a few times, along with all the accolades I received over the years, to help build me up to this point. It’s a process, and you truly have to LOVE designing in order to persevere and grow in this business.

    Thank you David for having this space open for creatives to learn, speak and share with one another. Amazingly, 8 years and this page is still helping people. I am really glad I found this, and will have to get your books now!


  56. Hi David,

    Great succinct article. One question I have is the four types of projects you’ve outlined in the last part – by delivery do you mean the physical handing over of the project (which may include the other three forms of projects)?


    • Thanks Whitney, yep, I could’ve explained that better. Those four pointers were for steps in a single project — consultation (discovering the project goals), creation (coming up with ideas), production (digitising your designs), delivery (sending files to the client).

      Does that help?

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