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I've recently come across the concept of the design brief as something that the designer generates to the client in order to fully comprehend the scope of the task and to minimize the amount of back-and-forth before you can start designing, and hopefully to minimize the number of revisions.

What questions, or kinds of questions should be answered by the client in the design brief?

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When I think of a design brief I think it should have:

- The overall target audience the design is to be aimed at

Many factors can come into play when deciding an audience. Some people will argue that certain typography and colors could be associated with a particular audience, as just one example.

- Where is the design to be delivered

You should know if you need to communicate with someone else like a print shop or advertising agency that is going to use your design.

- Finished file type

Whether the client is going to expect source files, a template to be repurposed or a PDF.

- Set Budget for the project

Not just for the design but factor in any additional time that may be needed for bringing any source files up to spec for the design project

- Schedule time expectation

This is a very big one that I think gets over looked and I've seen some designers get burned. If you are going to provide multiple iterations or if the process is phased than each phase should detail the time for completion; and the expected time the client is to have it approved, typically 24-48 hours. If you don't set times and you come up on the deadline, the client can and will expect you to finish within 24 hours and blame you if you don't have it in writing.

- Source files from who and time deliverable

Some projects a client will rely on another person brought into the mix and if you have a tight deadline and the client's photographer or illustrator didn't meet the time they were supposed to provide the material for you to do the design that will fall on you to still meet the deadline.

- What is the client's goal for the project

Knowing the goal in the brief will help the creative process

- Revision expectation

Not every client will like your design off the bat so in the brief it needs to be determined if there are a set of revisions that may be expected since you're here to not only provide a service but you need to make money.

- How many versions are to be submitted

We all have a standard norm to our design process but the brief in regards to versions provided some clients may expect a logo design to have on the first submission four or five.

- What is the business background and mission statement

The business background could be a key factor in the design, also help in the target audience and overall creative process in the design.

Do they have examples or ideas in mind

Sometimes you're fortunate to have an expectation or examples of how the client wants their design project to be because a client that has no clue is dangerous and you could be jumping through hoops trying to figure out what they want when in the end of a terrible project they never knew what they wanted in the first place.

A couple good articles on the subject that come to mind are How To Write An Effective Design Brief and Get The Design You Want! and The Ultimate Design Brief.

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Some of the questions from my Creative Brief (many of which overlap with Matt's excellent answer):

  • If you have an existing (site/brochure/iteration), what do you like about it? What works?
  • What doesn't work?
  • What's your goal for this project?
  • What's your budget?
  • What's your timeframe?
  • Do you need to be able to make future changes yourself?
  • What is your business?
  • Who is your competition?
  • What do they do that you like? that you don't like?
  • Who are your customers?
  • What do you want people to be able to do with the (site/brochure etc.)?
  • How do your customers find you?

Asking broader questions such as "what do you like about other people's work?" can allow you to get a sense of what kind of design your client wants. Some clients know exactly how to express what design they want and some are like "make it more webbish." (™ Dilbert)

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