How to brief and work efficiently with a graphic designer for great results

How to brief and work efficiently with a graphic designer for great results

Tara Roskell Published on 9/1/2018

Choosing a designer

There are lots of ways you can choose a designer, but one of the best ways is to ask for recommendations from friends and colleagues. This will ensure that your designer is reliable. If however you try this route, but cannot find someone whose work you like, the world is your oyster these days. If the designer has a blog this is also a good way to get a feel for their personality and how they work.

Decide if you would prefer to work with someone local, or are open to working with someone in another country. There are pros and cons to both. Obviously, if someone is local you can meet in person and you may find it easier to discuss your project this way. If you make a decision to work with someone remotely, you have potential to save money, but there could be issues with time differences and language/communication.

Getting a quote

When getting a quote from a designer, make sure you provide the full scope of the job. Also, check to see what is included in the quote, is it inclusive of all amends, or if not what rate will they be charging you for additional work.

Briefing a designer

Once you have chosen your designer, before you discuss your brief in full with them, you will want to set aside some time to work out exactly what you want.

Before the brief

Plan out your content

Imagine for example that your project is to have a 12 page brochure designed. You could start by planning out what content you want on each of the pages. This could be as simple as drawing little rectangles to represent the pages. Then writing on each things like “photo of office” and “about us text”. Think about how much text you might want to put on each page. There is no point supplying your designer with an A4 word document full of text per page if you want your brochure to look white and minimal. If you are in any doubt, you can discuss this with your designer and ask them to give you a rough word count per page based on a concept visual they create for you.

Collect existing marketing material together

If you have previously had design work done for your company, gather it all together to show your designer. If you are working with someone remotely, just take a few photos of it. You can use this to explain what you like and don’t like about work done before.

Ask your designer if they have a briefing questionnaire

Before your briefing session, ask your designer if they have a briefing questionnaire. Depending on the type of job they may have a series of questions they generally ask. For example, I have a set of questions that I use as a starting point for a logo design. Having an idea of these questions in advance will allow you to spend a bit of time thinking about them and finding relevant reference material.

Think about the type of look you’re going for

Prior to your briefing spend a little time thinking about what you want your design to achieve and the type of look you want. A great way to do this is to gather together imagery, such as images, logos and typography that you think have the same sort of “feel’ as you are trying to achieve. Think what brands align with yours, even if they are in a different niche.

I have worked with clients who have been brilliant at showing me what they like and others who spend no time thinking about their brand and tell me it’s my job as ‘you’re the designer’. While it is the designer’s job to create a beautiful design, the client will generally know way more about their product and brand. The more you can show and tell your designer what you want to achieve, the more likely they are to produce what you want first time. Imagine a totally different scenario where you were asking someone to choose a car on your behalf. All you tell them is your budget and that you like blue. They would then look at you and make a decision about the type of thing they think you would like. They might come back to you with a sporty little two-seater in turquoise. It’s at this point you realise that you should have told them you have 2 kids, a large dog, you don’t like bright colours and you were thinking more a navy blue.

Make sure your text has been proofread and approved

If you are providing text to your designer make sure it has been proofread and approved. It sounds obvious, but doesn’t always happen. Extensive type corrections which have to be made by your designer could start adding additions to your bill. Even if your designer has made all amends inclusive, you can guarantee that if they expect there will be a lot of amends next time they will start building it into their price.

The BriefingHow will you brief – phone, in person, Skype, email?

Skype or a similar service is a great way to brief your non-local designer as you have the ability to show them things or share your screen. Email can also work, but may require the addition of a phone call or two to clarify elements. Email also requires you being able to provide a full written brief, or the easier option, your designer provides a questionnaire.

Ask what you need to supply the designer

Find out what your designer needs you to supply. Are you supplying the text and images or will they be supplying them for you? If you require photography who will be handling the project, yourself or the designer. If you are using stock photography check if this will be charged as an addition by your designer or if you would prefer to source yourself.


Work out a timeline with your designer for when you will be receiving your first visuals, to when your job will ready and printed. Bear in mind that printing or commissioning photography will all require additional time. So if you have a very specific deadline to meet you will need to work back from there.

Who is printing your job

Will you be handling the printing or your designer? If it’s you, make sure you supply your designer with a print specification so they know exactly how they should set up their artwork.

Don’t design by committee

If you are handling the job for your company, make sure only one or two people are the decision makers. I have done jobs that have taken a year, not because of the design, but because the content kept getting changed by different people. Although it was a little frustrating, I was charging them every time I made amends (as previously agreed). This made a job that should have been relatively simple cost substantially more. You will never get agreement on a design job from more than 2 or 3 people at most, so keep the number of people involved to a minimum if possible.

I hope these tips help your next design job go well.