Design tips

The Brief: a de-brief!

Its taken little while to write this latest post. I have been working very hard on some design deadlines – having probably taken on one too many overlapping projects. And  after Harriet’s stomach virus from three weeks ago, she then came out in a horrendous cold, which then developed into tonsillitis. Then after a week of penicillin she was raring to go, and now has Hand, Foot and Mouth (it sounds Victorian, and is a bit like chickenpox). Needless to say, our house is full-on at the moment!

Indeed, what should have been Noel’s birthday tea a couple of weeks ago, turned into a not-very-hungry supper for himself and Sidney, whilst Harriet and I spent the evening on the children’s ward of our nearest hospital for her to be checked out. Not very cool. But all is now well, thankfully, apart from the Hand, Foot and Mouth (Insert swearword).

My top tips to writing a successful art brief

So in the non-existent down-time I have had recently, I’ve been mulling over what design tips to offer up, and I reckon that coaching you on best practices for briefing your designers and illustrators could be great ways to:

  1. Improve the quality of your finished product
  2. Potentially speed up your approval process
  3. It might even save you money too!

Whether you are commissioning artwork for a book, a logo, a business card or branding for your mobile diner – getting your initial briefing right is first and foremost going to get you a good working relationship with your designer or illustrator. And if you get your design team on board, you stand a much higher chance of your artwork coming in on schedule and to budget. So here are my top tips to writing a successful art brief:

Choosing your person
Hopefully you have chosen your illustrator or designer based on something in their portfolio that you like and would like to assimilate yourself. But instead maybe they have been recommended, or they are someone that you know and they have volunteered their services. Whichever way, a good place to start is by looking at their portfolio and picking some examples of their work that you like. You can also show them examples of other work that you like. Styles of drawing, particular colours used, fonts that you are drawn to. This is a great way to show your designer what you are thinking of. Pinterest is a really handy way to show designers your ideas. Its visual and can provide a great way of creating a fantastic mood-board, which can itself become a pretty solid version of a brief.

Schedule
This is a key feature of your initial discussions. Most good designers and illustrators will be busy and in demand, so it can be a little unrealistic to assume that they can jump onto your project straight away. Depending on the scale of what you are asking, you may need to wait a month before they can even get started. You might have an idea of how long something will take, but your designer will be able to give you a realistic response of their availability. In my experience, not rushing things through is always a better approach to getting the results you want.
Outline the timeline that you have, but be prepared to adapt.

Budget
Like with planning your schedule, the budget is something that needs to be established early on. Different designers and artists will have different approaches as to how they charge for their work. Some charge by the hour, some charge by the project.
I tend to charge by project, and break it down for my clients into sections, such as Cover and page count. I have a set fee for cover design, and then charge per page for the interior. My page interior fees are calculated by the level of detail and work involved per page. Within my fees I also include three rounds of amends, and any/all final file production.
When you are commissioning, don’t be afraid of what your budget is. If your designer or illustrator is happy to work for you and you have agreed your fee, then you are good to go!

Outline
Ok. The fun bit – the stuff you need designing or illustrating! If you are commissioning a number of artworks, or a full book, it can be helpful to open your briefing with an outline of the content. You should include the target audience, page sizes, the format the content will be in. You can draw attention to key ideas and themes – anything that the designer needs to watch out for throughout. You might also introduce them to characters here, and explain their importance in the work.
Outlining your brief is also a good way for you to be able to explain what your project is in a concise way – it might even help you iron out any sticking points you are grappling with – as you find a way to summarise your work.

Detail
Now’s the time to get to the nitty-gritty! Your designer or illustrator should now have a solid understanding of the sort of work you are asking them to do. So you can now give them the details you require.
Some authors and editors give little art direction, and some give lots. Your designer should be used to working to both styles. If you are happy to give your designer or illustrator a free-reign, that can work really well. I would suggest you ask them to supply you with a few pages or artworks to check you are happy with the direction they are going.
Alternatively, lots of direction can potentially mean a slightly quicker turnaround, as it means slightly less thinking time required on the designer’s part.
Neither method is right or wrong – as you get your project underway – you will find your own level of involvement. My best suggestion is to encourage your artist or designer to ask lots of questions and that way, any issues can be worked out early on.

However you choose to put your art-brief together, I hope you find these suggestions useful. It really is worth putting the time into writing your brief – life will run much smoother for you if you do! (Smoother life = happy life = #lifegoals)

Best of luck in your projects – and I shall try not to leave it so long next time!

Sarah xx

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