Banner Default Image


The 10 Biggest Mistakes That Can Derail a Graphic Design Brief

05 Jul 00:00 By Lawrence Akers

What Can Emerging Graphic Designers Learn From Those That Went Before Them (17)

​Understanding the Importance of a Good Design Brief

When it comes to efficient, effective, and productive graphic design work, the brief is at the very heart of it. As a recruitment consultant, I've seen projects be delayed from starting or derailed once they have started from a lack of a thorough, comprehensive brief. In this blog, I want to explore some of the biggest mistakes that can derail a graphic design brief.

Picture a graphic design brief as a treasure map. It's the cryptic parchment leading creative explorers, your designers, to the hidden hoard - the successful design outcome. But what if the map's incorrect or incomplete? Then you have a crew of frustrated creatives sailing the wild seas of imagination with no land in sight. The mistakes in your brief become the treacherous rocks on your creative voyage, threatening to sink your project.

1. Neglecting the 'Why'

Every design voyage begins with a 'why'. It's the motive behind the adventure. Neglecting to include this vital piece of information in your brief is like launching a ship without a destination. Understanding the purpose of the project is key to keeping the designer's creative compass pointing in the right direction.

2. Vague Audience Description

Imagine trying to cook a meal for a guest without knowing their dietary preferences. You'd likely serve up something unappetising. The same applies to a design brief. Failing to define your audience accurately can result in a design that's unappealing to its intended consumers.

3. Undefined Goals

Goals are the treasure at the end of your creative voyage. Not setting clear, measurable goals is akin to setting sail without any idea of what you're searching for. This can lead to a design that, while aesthetically pleasing, fails to fulfil its intended purpose. This should include both the aim of the piece as well as the actual output required.

4. Lack of Brand Guidelines

A brand's identity is like its signature scent. If your brief lacks clear brand guidelines, your designer could end up creating something that smells all wrong for your brand. This can lead to a jarring and inconsistent user experience, which is rarely successful.

5. Unrealistic Deadlines

Time is the wind in the sails of any project. Setting unrealistic deadlines is like trying to outrun a storm—you may survive, but it won't be a pleasant journey. Plus, rushed work rarely equals quality work. It makes far more sense to discuss the timeline with your creative as you discuss the brief and take onboard their feedback.

6. Insufficient Budget Allocation

Picture your project as a grand banquet, and your budget as the ingredients. If you don't allocate sufficient resources, you could end up with a lacklustre feast. Your designer needs the right tools and resources to cook up a successful design. Back in 'the old days', we used to say that if you paid peanuts, you got monkeys. It isn't too dissimilar here that if you've got champagne tastes on a beer budget, don't get upset if you have to settle for Passion Pop.

7. Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen

Design by committee can feel like navigating a ship with too many captains. Everyone has a direction they want to go, and the result can be a disjointed and ineffective design. It's best to assign one point person for feedback and revisions. On top of this, I've had experiences of multiple people directing a project only to give the designer contradictory directions... and then get upset when the designer was unable to achieve it. "I want it to be left and right at the same time!"

8. Failing to Trust Your Designer

Your designer is your skilled navigator on this creative voyage. Micromanaging them is like constantly questioning your captain's decisions—it can undermine their confidence and disrupt the creative process. Remember, you've hired them for their expertise—trust them to do their job. They're already aware that you have the final say but they're also wanting to ensure that they bring their skill, knowledge and experience to ensure they provide you with a credible, well designed outcome.

9. Lack of Open Communication

Communication is the wind that keeps your project's sails filled. If your channels of communication are blocked or unclear, it's like sailing into a dead calm—nothing moves. Open, honest communication ensures that everyone stays on course. I've had negative feedback on projects only to discover that, at no point, NO ONE had actually given that graphic designer the same feedback. If they had, then maybe they would've had the outcome they actually wanted. Graphic Designers skill is to create strong visual communication, not mind reading.

10. Not Allowing for Flexibility

A design project is a voyage of discovery, and sometimes, the winds of creativity blow you off course. Being too rigid in your expectations can stifle innovation and result in a design that's uninspiring. Allow some room for flexibility and innovation—it might lead you to a better treasure than you initially sought. This applies not only to the brief itself, but to the conditions that the job exists. Nowadays, there is a greater desire for remote or hybrid working. You can't blame graphic designers for not wanting to take the job in the first place if you're insisting on the work being done onsite and you're in the middle of nowhere which requires a car to get to.

Steer clear of these common mistakes, and you'll set your design project on a clear course for success. Remember, the journey is just as important as the destination—so ensure your design brief makes it a voyage worth embarking on.