What you need to do to avoid ‘Crap in, crap out’!

I’m sure like me you’ve worked with many designers over the years – some good some amazing.

Regardless how good designers are I’d argue they can only be as good as the brief you give them. I heard the saying ‘crap in, crap out’ recently and it’s so relevant to the design process.

If you give a crappy brief then certainly most of the time you’ll get a crappy job back from the designer.

Yes we’re all busy I know and need things in a hurry but the way many people brief in a jobs to designer goes something like this:

From: Simon Harris

Date: 12 October 2015

Subject: Design job needed – brochure

Dear Mr Designer

Please could you create a leaflet for the upcoming event, details below: 


  • A3
  • Tri-fold
  • Full colour
  • Use images as supplied
  • Follow brand guidelines
  • Copy for brochure attached

If I could see first draft by Wednesday.

Thanks for your help. If you need any help please call.


Yes embarrassingly that was a copy of an email I sent last year to a designer I worked with.

The reason why I remember this particular job is I briefed the job Monday afternoon and got the first draft back Friday (not too bad a couple days later on expected first draft) Guess how long it took to get final sign off from my first email?

Three weeks! That was three weeks of back and forward revisions (on a just a leaflet).

Some of you might think that the designer wasn’t talented – not the case at all. It was my poor brief to him.

If I had taken more time and effort in providing a half decent brief I would have definitely saved myself hours.

The brief you give your designers is the most significant element of the design process. However, for many, writing a brief is often the most challenging part of the process and not enough emphasis and energy is given to it.

Here’s a commonsense guide that will help you get the design you need quicker:

  • Make sure your designer gives you a design brief template that you can fill out or you can fill out with the designer. This way they can clarify what you really need. I’d advocate for interview style brief this way your designer can ask for more information or clarification if necessary, and you can generally provide anything additional they might need right there and then.
  • Describe the problem not the solution
  • Schedule is so important. Unless you’re a designer you probably don’t know how long it will take to complete your design. Often good design takes time so get a clear understanding of how long it will take and both agree on this date.
  • Be clear on the ‘definite do nots’ such as colour, images
  • Most of the time what you want and what you need are different. So it’s better to tell designers what your goals and what you would like to achieve (vision) rather trying to instruct them on what it physically looks like.
  • Always provide examples of work you like or elements of the work you’d like the designer to use. It will help them understand your vision.
  • Your target market is not everyone. Unless you’re announcing to the world that its about to end your target market will be more defined. Think about who your marketing efforts are aimed at (not just who could use your product or service)
  • Be overly helpful and reach out to your designer to see if they need you to provide early feedback. Remember if they like you they’ll prioritise your work!

The design brief serves as the guiding document for the project. Think of it as like a business plan for a specific project. It should cover everything necessary to the project, in a manner that is easy to refer to throughout the project timeline.

Bottom line here is always take the extra time to brief your designers – it may feel like extra work but in the long run saves you so much time and allows you to be much more productive at work.

Let me know if you need a brief template that can use with your designer – happy to share the one we use at Designus – simon@designus.com.au


Simon Harris