Get the most from your graphic designer

Written by Yvan Marston

From logos and packaging to websites and washroom signs, a graphic designer’s services touch many aspects of a business. The product of solid graphic design is effective communication, which helps your company build brand awareness and increase market share. But any designer you hire has to understand what it is you want, and you can make it crystal clear by writing a thorough creative brief.

Typically one page in length, the creative brief acts as a road map, defining your goals for the designer and aligning these with your business. Designers won’t expect a brief on small projects such as business cards, but for letterhead, posters, packaging and booth graphics, the designer will require more background from you and this is where a brief can shorten meeting times and hasten overall production of the material.

While it may seem counterproductive to do a lot of writing before outsourcing a job, the brief can save you time on the back end of a project, explains Scott Purdy, the principal at Toronto-based Gravity Design, a 10-year-old graphic design firm.

Purdy suggests you answer these questions in your creative brief, before you meet with your graphic designer:


  • Who will be seeing the item (brochure, sign or business card, for example)?
  • Who is your competition? Do you have samples of their work?


  • What elements must be on the page? Are there specific colors and logos that must be included to remain consistent with your existing material?
  • What types of graphic design do you personally like? Do you have examples? (Examples don’t have to be related to your industry.)
  • What’s the tone? Is it MuchMusic or Bank of Montreal?


  • Where will the communication be presented? Direct mail piece? Magazine ad? Website? Trade show booth?


  • By when do you want to see the first concept? What about a final draft? What’s your final deadline for the product to be delivered into your hands?


  • Why are you doing this? What’s going on in your company or industry that sparked this project?
  • Why is this important? What idea do you want your audience to walk away from the communication with?

Answering the bulk of these questions will bring you much closer to your goal than will playing it by ear. And if you’re having trouble answering your own questions while writing the brief, says Purdy, “then maybe it’s too early in the game to bring in a design firm.”

Read other pointers on How To contribute to your business success!

© 2003 Yvan Marston

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