slice blog logo

How to brief your design agency (to get the best results).

We’ve all heard the stories of agencies and designers being briefed on the back of a fag packet or post-it notes. Briefings take many shapes and forms. Some are very thorough, others are very top line and need a lot of digging around work out the objectives.

You can only do a great piece of work if you get a great brief. By a great brief, what I mean is a very detailed explanation of what your key aims are along with any mandatories.

Now, whether you are designing a flavour extension to a product, or repositioning an entire range of FMCG products, the core principles of briefing remain the same. In order to make sure that you are happy with the deliverables, you need to pull together a ‘bobby-dazzler’ of a brief!

So, how do you go about doing this?

Part 1: Gather the information.

1. Highlight the main business issue and define the objectives.

Design and branding is all about problem-solving. If we understand what the problem is upfront, it’s a lot easier to solve it. It may seem obvious, but highlight the problem rather than what you think should be the solution. The reason being, there may be an easier (and more cost effective) way to crack the problem.

2. Include the wider team.

Most projects require the input of members of the wider team, it could be that the printer needs to advise on number of colours and cutter guides changes. It could be regulatory that need to define distinct claims. It’s good to get these team members involved in the beginning stages so that the brief addresses all of their requirements front on rather than when you have received the first draft back. 

3. What is your degree of change?

This is a great way to define how far you want to change the look and feel of what you have already. If you think of ‘1’ as evolution and ’10’ as revolution. Try to think where along this line would be most comfortable seeing design solutions. That way we can manage expectations when we present back.

4. The budget.

Be realistic. If you have a budget in mind at the beginning of a project, always include this in the brief. That means that the deliverables can be tailored to suit the available budget.
What have you paid for a similar project previously? The agency proposal will detail the methodology and costings for a certain number of studio hours to complete the task. In the last 10 years also, budget and deliverables have tended to move into opposing directions. Yes, there is always somebody willing to do it for cheaper. But is cheaper always necessarily the best option? How many times have you gone for a cheaper option and regretted it?

5. Define the timescales.

Everybody wants the project delivering the week before last. The most important part of any creative process is the initial concept generation and this is where most of the time should be invested. 
A project timeline is there to illustrate how long it will take to successfully complete the project. 

6. Briefing the design team.

It’s never a good idea to send over a lengthy Word document on its own, cross your fingers and hope for the best. Always take the time to talk the agency through the brief. This gives the agency an opportunity to flag up any key questions and iron out any key issues in advance of starting the project.

It also provides a great forum for discussion to explore ideas not in the brief or stop them in their path!

Part 2: The Creative response

7. Creating the proposal.

The proposal is a working document. It’s the agencies understanding of what you want to do and details the costings, timings and methodology involved in getting to the final piece of creative.

All design projects are organic and often deliverables change through the course of working. That may be adding some deliverables or removing some. In some cases it can mean adding entirely new stages such as a consumer testing et cetera. These will obviously effect the cost.

The cost is based on the deliverables. It might be that one of the design routes chosen to take through to artwork involves very complex bespoke photography or it may be that it’s very simplistic and minimalistic. Clearly each of these two very different routes can have very different costing structures as they involve different skill sets and different set of deliverables.

8. Feeding back on the proposal

The proposal is a working document and there to be input on. It takes time to pull together to detail the costing and methodology and skillset at each stage. It is a little late once this has been worked out to then explain to the agency that your budget is only 50% of what they have stated in the proposal if you knew the figure all along! (see budget section)

Most client jump to the back page look at the cost and respond to that. In my experience, projects rarely to follow the same path, with the same deliverables. Looking at an evolution, with 4 flavours that follow a master design is obviously a lot more straightforward than looking at an innovation project that may require a different tiering strategy in a product portfolio even though there are less SKU’s.

It’s healthy to challenge what is presented back. Ultimately it’s the role of the design agency to explain why they have taken a particular route.

You can see what a great brief produces here.

Scroll to Top