I am a self taught designer and so to be honest the technique of design briefs and mood boards are new to me. I have found myself dealing with clients more and found that design briefs might actually answer and avoid problems and more work down the line. Should these steps be used for all clients small or large?

A small client meaning a keyboard player or drummer for example. More so a single person versus working with a sound company, where I would not only create a brand identity but do business cards for all those within the business.

If a client is asking, "I just need something - do whatever" (which I feel like is a hidden trap where I will end up going crazy), do you try to back track and create a design brief or just take it with a grain of salt and just give them what you think would be good?

  • These may be helpful, if not duplicates: graphicdesign.stackexchange.com/questions/85415/… and graphicdesign.stackexchange.com/questions/50764/…
    – Scott
    Apr 20, 2017 at 17:44
  • I edited your question a good bit to try and improve the English and make the question more clear. Feel free to edit it again if you feel like I changed your question past what you meant Apr 20, 2017 at 19:30
  • BRIEF: Yes, always. I created my own briefing sheet (essentially client prompts) half way through college and but for a few tweaks over the years it remains the same. I can wing it now but I still get it out for new clients - psychologically (I believe) it puts me on the front foot, lets them know I am serious with good attention to detail, and allows me to time / wrap the 1st meeting effectively. MOOD BOARD: No. Really they are for you to get the design process / exploration going (by association, colours, fonts, themes) OR for a client struggling for a visual cue. 10+ yrs since my last one. Apr 24, 2017 at 11:08

2 Answers 2


Every project should have some sort of design brief. This is essentially the project objectives and goals, and often will also incorporate strategy and process. How formal this is can vary wildly, of course. It can be a 50 page document and a 2 hour presentation. Or it can just be a 5 minute conversation. But it's a necessary step.

As for mood boards...use them when they make sense to use them. Size of client doesn't matter. Type of project and type of client is really what matters.

I've worked for agencies that did it for every single project partly--I believe--as a type of smoke and mirrors. Some clients "got it" and it helped, but just as many clients would look at us funny and think it as a complete waste of time. I couldn't argue with them most of the time. They were right. :)


I'd urge you to remember that you are the professional in the conversation. Clients, especially single-entity type of clients, can be aloof at times and not wholly vested in their conversation with you. They just want art. Some will have a few ideas or visions, others will have nothing to go on. It's up to you to steer the conversation where you need it to go in order to get enough information you need to work. Your the boss. the client doesn't know what they don't know. You do.

A design brief is fairly mandatory. Even if, as DA01 points out, it's a 5 minute conversation. The imperative aspect is that you walk away feeling ready to move forward with a clear understanding of what is expected by the client.

I don't bombard my clients with forms or questionnaires to get the information, I much prefer a conversation, then that conversation may be transposed to contract bullets. (See Here for general questions) I don't take the flippant "I just need something..." responses as final.. I ask questions. If the client gets annoyed by that, then I explain that I need the information to create something effectively. If they are still annoyed.. they aren't serious about the projects and I'll get a contract signed before doing anything (to force them to be serious or walk away).

As for "mood boards" .. meh... never needed one. I may personally play with some "mood" options myself but in the end I will use what solves the design problem the best in my opinion. The client's input on "mood" isn't really needed before I start designing. That's my job to sort out based on the design brief. Sometimes things in the industry are done by other just because "that's how it's done". That's kind of how I see "mood boards". That doesn't mean it's a worthwhile use of my time.

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