biz ladiesLife & Business

Biz Ladies: 9 Steps to Writing a Killer Brief

by Stephanie

Today’s Biz Ladies post comes to us from Vari Longmuir, a graphic designer and owner of the online branding and graphic design studio, Buttercup Ink.  Vari works with passionate female business owners creating branding and graphics that are in perfect alignment with their deepest intentions and unique genius. Today, Vari shares some of her person insight and expertise in crafting the perfect brief when working with designers.  Thank you for offering your advice today, Vari! —Stephanie

Read the full post after the jump…

Working with a graphic designer can be scary for many business owners. You know you need to give a detailed brief but how much is too much?

The secret is to find that sweet spot between being clear about your vision whilst allowing your designer space to do their thing and be creative.

Think of your brief as a way to introduce your perfect customer to your designer. This allows your designer to understand what you are offering and the problem you are solving for your client.

Also, by following the steps below and creating a detailed brief, you’ll get super clear on elements of your brand and design that you hadn’t previously thought about. This is a great way to get into your ideal clients head and identify exactly how you can serve them best.

Follow these 9 steps to create an awesome brief that will save you time, energy and money which we all want more of. Right?


Explain in one short paragraph, who you are, who your client is and what you do. (This is your elevator story.) You want to keep the language simple and easy to understand. No industry specific jargon allowed here!

e.g. I’m Jessica and I’m the owner of The Confident Closet. I work with women, especially new moms, to help them discover their unique signature style and become more confident.


What do you need? What are the deliverables? You might have 100 ideas swirling around in your head so to list out all the items you need brings clarity by the truck load.

e.g. My business has evolved over the last year and I need a new logo, social media graphics and some basic stationery like a business card, letterhead and postcard to reflect the new direction.


Business is about connecting with your customers on an emotional level. Fundamentally, we buy based on an emotional need. We hire the personal trainer because we want to feel fitter, stronger, lighter. We want the SUV in the ad because we want that feeling of the lifestyle that’s portrayed. Parking up at the beach, watching the sunset with the surfboards on the roof. Good design should be aligned with these feelings. So ask yourself, “What feelings do I want my brand to evoke?”

e.g. I want my clients to feel safe and supported about the transformational work we’re embarking on. I want them to feel excited about the immediate impact our work will have on their life and relationships.


What aesthetic are you looking for? Minimal and modern? Soft and feminine? Again, think about your perfect customer. What magazines does she read? Where does she shop? Where does she go on vacation to? What movies does she watch? You want to make sure that your branding is ‘in her world’.

e.g. I want to emulate the look of a high end fashion mag like Harpers Bazaar or Vogue but in a more accessible way. The imagery will be focused around 25 – 40 year old females. I’m looking for something fashion forward and modern.


Where does your business/product fall on the scale of Target to Chanel? Where does your perfect customer shop? Chances are, if she has a huge collection of red soled shoes, she’s unlikely to connect with or even notice a brand that has a discount store aesthetic.

e.g. I have a few different price points but I want to position myself towards the premium end of the market. I really want my clients to understand that working with me is an investment in themselves.


What brands do you love and why? These doesn’t have to be in your industry. Just brands that you admire.

e.g. I love the friendly and personal tone of the copy that Company X uses on their website.

I really like the bold fonts that Company Y uses.

I’m drawn to a minimal colour palette (black and white + one accent color) like on the Company Z website.


Who are your competitors? What makes you different?

Often I see clients get stuck here. They think, “Well I’m not really doing anything new. There are lots of people doing the same think as me.”

But that’s just your fear talking. The fact that it’s YOUR business means it’s as unique in the world as you are.

It might be your unusual business model for your industry. It might be your past experience in a totally different industry. There’s no one else in the world like you, so dig deep and see how you can apply some of these unique qualities to your business.

e.g. A+B Style are the main competitors for me so I’d like to stay away from their color scheme. But really, there’s no-one focusing on working with new moms in my industry. I’ve been in their shoes and totally understand their frustrations and insecurities. This is my unique selling point.


What is your budget for the project? When do you need the project completed? These are great points to cover off in the initial brief to make sure you aren’t miles apart.

e.g. I’m looking to spend $2500 – $3000 and ideally, I’d like to have everything signed off within 2 months.


What’s the best way for us to chat? Email, phone, Skype? I love to jump on Skype with my clients. It’s the closest thing to an actual face-to-face meeting. We get to cover so much in a short space of time and I’m all for strategies to reduce my inbox overwhelm!

e.g. It would be great to chat over Skype initially and then probably best to communicate via email. My Skype name is jessicajones and my email is jessica@theconfidietcloset.com.

TIP: Try and get an in person or Skype chat before you commit to the project.

You should always work with a designer who shares your excitement and understands your vision. I offer new clients a complimentary Skype session. This is so important for both of us as it lets us see if we ‘click’. It also gives me the opportunity to ask any questions of the brief or clarify any grey areas.

Remember, it’s the responsibility of the designer to fully understand your vision.

By following these steps, you now have the tools to get out there are find the perfect designer for your business.


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  • Vari, this is a fabulous! What a great summary of the essentials for a fantastic brief. This is such a crucial stage in a design’s development, and all too often we start before really nutting out the best approach. It’s also a great vehicle for encouraging the client to verbalise and clarify a bunch of abstract ideas. I’m inspired to add a few additional categories to my briefs in the future :)

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