Logo Design: Elements of a Creative Design Brief

Adapted from Smashing Logo Design: The Art of Creating Visual Identities (Wiley)

By Gareth Hardy

A creative design brief is a joint agreement between the designer and the client on the specifications that will lead to a successful solution. Many people think that the client provides the design brief, and the designer follows it. In a sense, the client does provide the brief, through the information that you gain from them, but the client shouldn’t write the brief without your input (besides, they probably don’t know how). You’re the one who will be using the brief, so you need to make sure that it’s written clearly and that there’s no room for confusion.

In what follows, I outline all the basic elements of a creative design brief. Your brief may have more information than I’ve listed here, but it should at least include these pieces.

The design brief itself is not a work of art. You don’t need to spend hours making it look pretty—nobody will see it apart from the design team and the client, so save your creativity and time for the design of the logo.

The problem statement gives a brief summary of the overall task in one or two sentences.

Having met the client or at least conversed with them in detail, you should know everything you need to about their brand, but if you’re working with a team, they may not all have had the same opportunity. The client profile is a short summary about the nature of the client and their history. It will help to educate anyone who uses the brief as a creative platform. Plus, it’s always handy to have the client profile written down, as a reminder for yourself.

Away from the Competition

When I was working as a designer at an agency, I had a meeting with a client for whom we were designing a new identity. The client felt that we “hadn’t quite hit the nail on the head yet.” When I walked into the room for our meeting, I noticed that the client had a bunch of catalogues on her desk from the company’s competitors. The client pointed to several of the competitors’ logos and asked, “What about something like this? Or this?”

You’d be amazed by how many businesses want to look like their competitors. They mistakenly believe that companies already operating within the market have the single recipe for success. Your goal is to steer the client away from the competition so that they can stand out from the crowd. Most clients don’t trust new ideas. After all, the success of a new idea hasn’t been proven yet, so clients are often apprehensive, making selling new and unique ideas seem like an impossible task. The key is to convince your client that their new business shouldn’t look like every other brand in the market. Being different is the best solution that you can offer.

I’ve found that it doesn’t matter how extraordinary the idea is, as long as it answers the brief. It would be impossible to identify a new emerging brand if they were using a logo that looks similar to ones that are already established.

The aims and objectives state the overall purpose of why the work is being carried out and how it will help the client. Be sure to include any specific requirements—for example, “to gain a wider understanding of the identity in a location or language that was previously unused.” The aims and objectives help create an overall picture of the problem you’re trying to solve.

In this section, you summarize the characteristics that belong to the select demographic that the client is trying to appeal to. When targeting consumers, key demographics include the following:

  • Gender
  • Age range
  • Geographic location
  • Income bracket
  • Occupation
  • Social class
  • Marital status

When targeting businesses or organizations, key demographics include the following:

  • Industry type or sector
  • Location
  • Annual sales
  • Size

This part of the brief details what the client will be expecting from you, such as the files, any style guides, or fonts (if you’re buying a license for them on their behalf). Also, explain the file types that the client can expect to receive, and break it up into necessary categories such as print and screen. This is will help the client know exactly what they’ll be getting beyond just a pretty picture. If they require any special file types, include this information here (assuming it’s an output that you can offer).

This part of the design brief mentions not only how much you’ll be paid as the designer, but also any additional budgetary considerations such as:

  • Print costs
  • Research and development (including a set fee for detailed primary research methods)
  • Conceptualization (if you have a price structure in place for a certain number of concepts)
  • Any other design work fees (if you’re working on a complete brand identity as opposed to just the logo design)

This part of the design brief is where you decide how much pressure you want to put on yourself by clarifying the final deadline for the project. How long it takes to create a logo depends on:

  • The speed of the designer or team taking on the task
  • The depth of agreed exploration
  • Whether the logo is part of a broader project such as brand identity
  • When the client requires the final logo source files

One thing is for certain: Creativity should not be rushed. At the same time, you can’t keep the client waiting for years until you find that eureka moment that defines your career.

In this section, you’ll find an example of a creative design brief for a fictitious company.

Design the new logo for a new luxurious hand-made chocolate maker named Chapman’s Confectionery.

Chapman’s Confectionery is a new venture started by two partners. They have been creating specialist handmade confectionery for the past six months, initially working from one of the partner’s homes, but they have now secured their first official premises. They operate in East Sussex in the United Kingdom. The products they create are mainly small, highly decorated individual chocolates, but they also offer the service of custom cake-making for special events and occasions. Chapman’s hopes to employ more staff in the near future and eventually convert the brand into a franchise.

The main aims and objectives of the project are as follows:

  • Increase the growing reputation of the brand within the local community.
  • Show that Chapman’s Confectionery is of a high quality and deliciousness unrivaled in the area.
  • Make the business look like a professional organization.
  • Increase trust in the eyes of potential customers and clients.

The demographics of the target audience are as follows:

  • Primarily females, but both genders are potential targets.
  • 16 to 65 years old.
  • People located in East Sussex and the surrounding areas. (This will expand over time.)
  • Brides and bridesmaids.
  • People who have a slightly higher level of disposable income.

The client will receive the following:

  • Print-ready logo artwork files: EPS and AI
  • Screen-optimized logo artwork files: JPEG, GIF, PNG, and PD
  • Logo usage guidelines: PDF and hard copy
  • Business-card design (double-sided) print-ready file: PDF
  • Any font licenses and font files that may be used to complete the project

All files will be posted to the client on a compact disc.

The budget for the new identity includes the following:

  • Research and development: $X
  • Conceptualization: $X
  • Fonts: $X
  • Total: $X

The initial concepts are to be presented to the client by December 29, 2011.

Final approval from the client is needed by January 31, 2012.

Don't miss the next Graphic Design article on Graphics.com. Get the free Graphics.com newsletter in your mailbox each week. Click here to subscribe.

Excerpted with permission from Smashing Logo Design: The Art of Creating Visual Identities (Wiley) by Gareth Hardy. Copyright © 2011.