Over the years, I’ve executed and overseen a large number of design projects – some small, some big, and mostly very successful. I will admit though that occasionally there have been situations where clients have not been happy straight away, and it’s taken a lot of back and forth to get to a good end result. These situations can be difficult for both the client and the designer, stretching budgets and straining creativity. With a good designer, and a good design brief, these woes can be easily and completely avoided.
Tell Us What You Want
Sometimes, clients simply forget to tell designers why they want the work in the first place. Sometimes there’s a deeper reason than just “for my website” or “to drive sales.”
A few examples:
Recognition of a problem with existing design
Reaction to bad feedback
A shift of audience demographics
An effort to improve Google Page Rank
A design is needed for a specific event
Telling us why you need the work helps us understand the results you expect to achieve. We know this from experience. The shorter the brief, the longer the design process may need to be!
It has taken me a while to realise that this isn’t necessarily obvious, especially if you’re new to working with designers. I had an epiphany one day while getting a hair cut. I realised that I had a very “lassez-faire” attitude towards hairdressers – having spent years trimming my own hair with clippers, when I started growing my hair again I would just go into hair dressers and barber shops and just say “make it shorter” (or words to that effect).
Then, although I thought I didn’t care, I would invariably come home and get a horrified reaction from my partner, and have to deal with my hair looking deeply unfashionable for a while, until it ‘settled’.
I realised that day that I had been giving hairdressers terrible briefs. I wasn’t telling them why I wanted my hair cut, what I wanted to achieve, and what the people in my life might expect to see.
Tell us How You Want It Done
How you’d like the work delivered is also important, so please tell us when you write your brief! Let us know where your deliverables will be used. For example: will you be using your logo on your website and social media sites, or are you just getting it embroidered on a tee? What size resolution would you like? Will you be stretching or condensing the image? We can work with you to provide exactly what you need, but if you don’t tell us what you want, sometimes accidents can happen. For example, we once provided a client with final artwork for some printed flyers, but the client then uploaded the print files to Facebook. They looked quite peculiar because print files are set up in CMYK colour rather than RGB… if we had known the client wanted to use the same designs on Facebook or elsewhere on the web we would have provided appropriate files.
Tell Us When You Want It
Be realistic about timescales, but give us the actual deadline, don’t build in a month of ‘buffer time’! As the name suggests, we pride ourselves on working swiftly and hitting deadlines, however giving a design more time is almost always a good thing! It can be frustrating as a designer when you stay up late completing ‘urgent’ work, only to find that the client has gone on holiday, but of course the opposite situation is even worse. Make sure when you give us a deadline that the work is definitely not going to be needed any sooner!
I hope this post has given you a good idea what you need to put together a great design brief. If you’re ready to do just that, we’ve got a handy online form for you here.
If you have commissioned work that hasn’t gone to plan, or if you’ve had some real success stories, we’d love to hear about it! Feel free to tweet us or just leave a comment right here!
For a long time I found it difficult to set prices for my work. I would struggle with the idea of something like a logo design having a fixed price. How could I go about designing a logo for £95, for example, when some logos would surely take longer than others? Through experience, the answer eventually came, but only after some trial and improvement. I realised that the pricing of my services was a problem, and I could approach it with the same process I had been using for design itself, which at the time was something like this:
Analyse the problem
Come up with an idea for the solution
Identify pitfalls of said idea
Go back to step 2
So, the first idea I had was to do this:
Work out roughly the maximum number of hours of work that might be involved in a project and quote a corresponding price.
Explain to the client that this is the maximum I could imagine the work costing, and that hopefully it would be less if we could get to the endpoint quickly.
Ask for 50% of the quoted price as a deposit, and explain that the remaining balance to pay once the work was completed could be anything between nothing and the full remaining 50%.
Looking back, it is clear that this was a needlessly convoluted way of doing things! The model often worked fine, but it definitely put one or two clients off. I asked myself how I would feel knowing that the amount I would have to pay for a service could be anything between say £500 and £1000, and if I had to condense the answer down to one word, it would be “uncomfortable”. So, having identified the pitfalls of my solution, I decided to come up with a better way – a way that would be better both for me and for the client, and I have been happily using the same system for years now, not just for logo designs but for a lot of my work. My new process is much easier for clients to understand, and is easier for me to manage. Here’s how it works, using a logo design as an example:
I will quote you £95 for a logo design, but I will inform you from the off that this only covers two initial ideas, then two rounds of development/amendments. I will explain that if you then require further development there will be an additional cost.
Once you have understood and agreed to that, I will take your deposit and begin the work. Often I will actually come up with more than two initial ideas, but that’s fine – I’ve committed to two, if I give you more than two you’re quite happy with that – you’re getting extra value.
I then show you the initial ideas, you pick your favourite and we discuss how to develop it.
I show you some development on your chosen logo. Again, there will always be at least two options to pick from, but I may provide several. Again, we discuss what changes are required.
I work the logo into a final version based on the latest feedback. Often at this stage I will have a screen sharing session with you so that you can check how the logo is looking before I then send it to you in your preferred formats.
I am not claiming to have invented this method – it turns out this is a fairly standard way of doing things, but I got there independently through an effort to find a better way. Clients are always happy with this model – they understand the responsibility they have to communicate clearly what they want, and in cases where the client does want further development they are always happy to pay extra. It’s all about having clear parameters agreed at the start. Frustration and discomfort are completely avoided from both sides – I am happy and I end up with very happy clients. In fact since adopting this system I believe I have been able to provide better value for money.
Clients are aware they need to be clear with their brief so that the design time doesn’t run over what is achievable for the agreed price, and they are reminded at the stage when they only have one more chance to give feedback and request amendments. To give you an idea what all this process looks like, here’s a recent example showing the steps I took in creating the Aria Luxury Villas logo for £95:
In this example I actually provided four initial designs, my client then picked one they liked and I developed it on from there until we reached a final design. This is what Chiara, my contact at Aria, said about the work:
Henry is a quick, creative, patient and intuitive professional. Working with him was easy, pleasant and fully satisfactory. I highly recommend him!
So, that’s how I go about designing a logo for £95. It should be noted that a ‘traditional’ logo design process would take much longer, and cost much more than this. I have created logos that cost ten times as much and involve months of research, testing and validation, but for many people that’s just not possible or necessary.
I'm really proud of the website that Henry has made me! I think it looks really professional and it's easy for someone to move their way around in order to find out about various aspects of my business. I'm excited to use this now as a platform for 'phase 2' of my business. As well as bringing various technical and design skills to this project, Henry has been a thoroughly lovely person to work with. Thank you for all the hard work, Henry, and for helping my business out in this way!
I have worked with Henry at Blank Media Collective and within other roles. Each time he has been a delight to work with, understanding what the organisations needed, as well as suggesting exciting and innovative ideas to help strengthen our work.