Beyond being spare, design briefs must set direction and inspire design. So the more focused the language, the better. And the more inspirational the language, the better. Start preparing the brief by defining brand strategy. From there, pinpoint the brand's core competitors, collaborators, and customers.
Once you identify the basics, set expectations. Write with precise, thoughtful language. Communicate the final objectives and goals with a rich (but concise) explanation that properly sets client expectations. Establish a wide variety of objectives concerning components that are measurable: timing, budget, sales, etc. But also remind the client that, though creative goals aren't necessarily quantifiable, they are observable and just as important. If only measurable objectives are set forth, then those are the only objectives by which the work is judged, irrespective of other accomplishments.
Successful briefs don't just set expectations, they also translate. The brief is the bridge between the thought and the image, so it must be descriptive. Therefore, language is essential—the more illustrative, the better. For example, what does the frequently encountered word "innovative" really mean? What is the visual association? Does it translate visually? Not necessarily. Dynamic words don't always make dynamic visuals. A better way to create visual associations is to reference existing images or abstract iterations. Spend time experimenting and figuring out which visual option works best.
The design brief should also consider and answer the classic whos and whats. Who is the client (history, people, size, and industry)? What are the budget and timeline (overall and broken down piece by piece)? Who is the audience (age, income, location, habits, and tastes)? What has occurred to date? What is the catalyst for changing the logo, and what has been done so far? What does success look like for the client (specific analytical goals, return on investment, sales, usage rates, internal rate of return, or any other predetermined analytical benchmarks)? And, what is the makeup of the decision-making team (people, personalities, individual goals, and a final decision-maker)?
Finally, how much time should it take to create a brief? After all research and strategy work is complete, no more than two hours. If it takes longer, you're likely starting to rehash existing strategy or language. How much time should it take to review a brief? Two hours is bordering on excessive. If you catch yourself admiring the increasingly elaborate doodles of your design team, it's a not-so-subtle sign that things have taken a turn off the productive highway. Boredom is a bad way to kick off a project. Keep the brief clear, focused, and brief.
Design Brief Questions
- What three audiences will see this logo design the most often?
- If there was one thing you could communicate to each audience, what would that be?
- What are the brand attributes, promises, features, benefits, and positioning statement?
- What words describe the brand personality? What visuals communicate the brand personality?
- Where will this logo appear most often? On what media: golf balls; billboards; business cards?
- Are there any must-haves or nice-to-have items?
- Who are your competitors? Who are your collaborators?
- What is the budget in hours? When are presentations scheduled?
- Why do you need a logo? Or, why are you changing the existing logo design?
- How will you measure this logo design's success? Smooth implementation? Awards? A change in signals? An energized staff? Other tests or benchmarks?
AT&T: The influence of a brief on an international logo redesign
When SBC and AT&T merged, AT&T required a logo to signal significant changes to the business strategy. Ed Whitacre Jr., AT&T's president and CEO, voiced the brand's vision as aiming "to be the only communications and entertainment company our customers will ever want."
Interbrand was asked to design a new entity to help actualize this goal in both business and residential sectors. The firm worked off a design brief based around Whitacre's vision, as well as around anticipated changes to the brand resulting from the merger. Extensive brand research confirmed that AT&T was an internationally recognized, iconic brand with a valuable heritage. But many consumers said the company had disappeared from the residential arena and primarily served business-to-business customers.
The goal was to change the perception of the AT&T brand from the monolithic Ma Bell of the past to an evolved company, by balancing AT&T's innovative heritage with SBC's ability to deliver communications and entertainment.
The creative brief defined the brand's positioning strategy by first defining who the key targets were, what the compelling promise was for both residential and business customers, and why consumers should believe this promise. Guided by the creative brief, research uncovered that, over time, the logo had become attached to negative consumer perceptions. For some consumers, the "death star" globe and bold AT&T type appeared bureaucratic and impersonal.
After deciding to change the globe, the team created logo options ranging from evolutionary treatments to revolutionary transformations. Although they had uncovered negative associations with the old globe, the team also found that the drastically retooled identities were too far removed from the original globe and lost the original brand mark's core value and positive consumer equity.
Rather than change the primary color, blue, the designers alluded to modern technology by adding dimension to the globe. The original horizontal wires enveloping the globe symbolized worldwide communications. Updated wires now also impart transparency and luminosity, increasing the brand's approachability and capturing a sense of openness central to the revitalized brand.
Beyond the globe, an even more dramatic change occurred in the logotype. Designers created a custom lowercase font based on the Cingular identity's font, Avenir. Solid monolithic type switched out in favor of softer lowercase type. The resulting tone was more personable, dynamic, and fitting of a business spearheading innovative technology.