Design for Non-Designers, Part 3

Before a designer starts working on your project, the two of you will need to have a design briefing: a conversation focusing on the parameters and goals of the design. To ensure a successful design briefing, make sure you spend some time preparing for it.

Preparing for the Design Briefing

Here are some basic questions to ask yourself about your design project. Having the answers handy will prepare you to speak knowledgeably about it and convey its most essential aspects to the designer.

  • What format(s) will the design appear in? E.g., print, online, multiple formats.
  • Who is the audience? Try to be as specific as possible. Think about demographics, unique characteristics, interests, needs.
  • What is the main message the design needs to convey? Try to be as specific and concrete as possible. If you can, express it in a sentence or two.

Models and Examples

The designer may also have asked you to provide models and examples—comparables—at the design briefing. For example, if they are designing your book cover, they might ask you to identify a few books from the same genre or subject area as your book whose covers appeal to you. You can look at your own bookshelf for ideas, and then ideally you’d find links to those titles online so you can provide them to the designer.

Priority of Elements

In a typical design briefing the designer will review the key elements of the design—text and art (if any)—with you and ask you to prioritize them. That is, you will need to provide a hierarchy of elements so that the designer will know what is to be most prominent in the design, what is to be least prominent, and the order of all elements in between.

For example, a book cover might have the following priority of elements:

  1. Title
  2. Art
  3. Subtitle
  4. Author’s name
  5. Tagline

For this cover, the aim of the design is to make the title the most prominent text element, while the art drives the overall cover design. The author’s name is not as important as the title and subtitle, implying that the author is perhaps not very well known. The priority of the elements is determined here by what is known of the main audiences of the book—what their interests and preferences are in relation to the books’ subject, themes, and message.

Tips for a Successful Design Briefing

  • Have all your notes and links ready to refer to or share during the briefing.
  • Ask for clarification if the designer uses terms you don’t understand.
  • If you have strong likes and dislikes, don’t hesitate to communicate these to the designer. This will save time and frustration later in the process. For example, you might say, “I really dislike most shades of orange. If at all possible, please don’t use orange tones.”
  • Be sure that the designer understands the essentials of the design project: the audience(s), the message, and the core elements (text and art).

Note: This is the third part of a three-part series. Read Part 1. Read Part 2.

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