How to brief your design agency for the greatest ROI

Jonathan Branney, marketing executive at Buffalo7, presents key briefing tips to help demystify the agency process

Writing a great brief can make or break your company’s design project. The best briefs are detailed and focused, providing clear blueprints for what you require and when. The worst of them are filled with muddled corporate waffle and unclear objectives, endangering the success of your project and jeopardising your relationships with agency partners.

How to brief your design agency

Despite its paramount importance, many still see briefing as a mysterious art. But the below tips aim to shed more light on what makes an effective design brief. Follow them and make sure that you're getting the most from your design partners.

Detail your business scenario

Providing your agency with an overview of your business is essential for setting the scene and providing context for the design project. Give as much information as you can about your business, industry and the markets that you operate in. Be open and honest about your market position, competition, and the challenges that you’re facing. Doing so will mean that your design agency will be better able to come up with creative solutions that align with what you’re trying to achieve.

Clarify scope and end products

Your design agency should know what your project’s key deliverables are – in other words, exactly what you expect to receive at the conclusion of their work. Detail the depth of the project, as well as what features and functionality are required. Do you simply need the design files? If it’s a print project, do you require printing to be arranged by the agency? For web projects, do you require hosting and development to be handled for you? Your design agency will be able to help with as many parts of the puzzle as you need, but it’s a good idea to identify what collateral and capabilities you already have in place and those that you require. Provide a budget at the outset if you can – or at least an indication of your spending capacity for the project type. This way, your agency can propose solutions that are well-suited to your requirements – and avoid wasted time developing concepts that aren’t affordable.

Explain your objectives

As discussed in the prior point, you of course need to share with your design agency what you require, but equally important is why you need it. What are you trying to achieve with the project output and how does this fit in with other design and communications efforts taking place across the company? Place the work in context of your larger business objectives and enable your agency to take strategic approach focused around delivering value for your bottom line. Outline how you’ll measure success to set key parameters that your agency can keep at front of mind throughout the process.

Confirm delivery and timelines

Make it clear to your agency what you expect to be delivered and when. Make explicit how you would like the end product to be handed over and whether any supplementary material must be provided. It’s important for both client and agency that delivery expectations are clear at the beginning to avoid any unexpected costs further down the line. Knowing your deadlines is of paramount importance to your agency. They’ll want to know when you need the final product and at which milestones you would like reports on progress. This is essential for the agency’s time management: they’ll have to schedule the appropriate studio time for your project, making sure there is enough for concept development, design and build, and then an allowance for amendments as per your feedback.

Conclusion

Working with a design agency should be a collaborative endeavour. Of course you’re paying them for their specialised skillset and creative legwork, but recognising that the relationship is a two-way street and communicating openly will ensure you receive the most sophisticated responses and the greatest possible return on investment. Often one of the best things you can do is simply pick up the phone or meet with your design agency face-to-face to dissect the brief and ensure everyone’s singing from the same sheet.