Writing a graphic design brief

Blog by Dawn Button, Button Graphic Design

A graphic design brief not only gives clear instruction on expectation and delivery, but saves you $$$, maximising your spend.

Providing a design brief requires prior thought and attention to detail as you communicate the scope and goals of your project. You need to have a firm understanding of what your end goal is before you even begin the brief.

What’s a design brief?

A design brief outlines the objective, outcome, and desired results of project design, rather than the design itself. You’re not responsible for creating the design. It’s your job to focus on your objectives and to provide guidance for the graphic designer. 

Why do I need one? 

Design briefs are straightforward, and the information you provide will give your graphic designer an intimate look into your business. As a general rule, the more information you provide about the task you set, the better the outcome is likely to be. Your design brief should give your graphic designer everything they need to hit the ground running.

What should I include?

  • What the design task is;
  • What you intend to use it for - i.e. logo for your website, socials, business card, signage and vehicle graphics;
  • Who your audience or target market is;
  • The problem your product or service is solving;
  • Aesthetic design ideas if you have any;
  • Your top 2-3 competition;
  • Due dates;
  • Specific colours you would like … or prefer to avoid!

Take your project to the next level by working with Button Graphic Design, contact us now!

Tips for writing a design brief

1. Highlight the specifications of your project:

  • Do you have a brand style guide that must be followed?
  • What size do you need the finished design to be?
  • Will you require business cards? Flyers? Posters? Web banners? Car decals? Merchandise?
  • Do you need help creating a brand style guide?

Provide as many specifications as you can. The more details, the better. Chances are, if you leave some important details out for the sake of being concise, you’ll end up with more time-consuming back-and-forth later.

2. Identify your target audience

  • Give an in-depth breakdown of your target audience:
  • Do they own a business?
  • If you are selling a product, who is your client?
  • What’s their age range?
  • How do they identify? For example, if you are selling baby clothes, it’s important your designer knows this to create a design that will appeal to your primary demographic.

Try to paint a customer profile so vivid that your graphic designer can practically see the faces of your clientele.

3. Set a budget

One of your top goals should be to maximize the amount of money you intend on putting into your project. Setting a budget lets your graphic designer know what they can and can’t do. Having a budget in place also lets your graphic designer know if you can afford their time and creativity.

4. Create a corporate profile

Identify as many details about your business as possible:

  • How long have you been in operation?
  • What’s the size of your business?
  • What’s your reputation?
  • What are you hoping to achieve from the design task you are providing?

The best design briefs get into the nitty-gritty when it comes to in-depth details about your business. Make sure you leave the sales pitch at the door. You’re not trying to sell your business in your design brief; you’re making sure your graphic designer understands every aspect of your business so they can sell it visually.

5. Provide a deadline

As with any project, you should set a realistic deadline for work completion. Consider each step and give your graphic designer plenty of leeway to finish the project without feeling rushed (that way they’ll deliver a higher quality end product). Naturally, you should avoid rush jobs if possible. But if you do need a project done quickly, be upfront with your expectations. That way your graphic designer will know what they’re signing up for, and can allocate the time needed to do a good job alongside current workload.

Creating a graphic design brief also helps you focus on your task details, eliminating missed components or improving others, crystallising your request and saving you time and money. It helps your graphic designer do their job and exceed your expectation. What’s not to love?  

File colours and format guide - print and digital

Blog by Dawn Button, Button Graphic Design

Business cards to billboards, website banners to vehicle graphics - there’s a file format for every use and using the correct one is essential! There can be confusion over what is the appropriate file type to use, so here’s a brief guide to help you choose the right one for the job.


RGB is used for screens - computer, phone, tablet, TV, projectors etc. Any image optimised for a screen uses RGB; website/app/social media images and graphics should always be RGB. Because desktop printers mix colour using CMYK, you can sometimes get an unexpected or bad print job from an RGB image.

CMYK - Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black (‘K’ to avoid confusion with Blue). Also referred to as four-colour process printing, CMYK is used on most professionally printed materials such as business cards, magazines and brochures. CMYK is used by the majority of home and commercial printers, and reproduces quality images in print.

SPOT or PANTONE are used by professional print shops everywhere. They’re a set of universal colours created by the printing industry to help designers, print shops and customers get an exact colour when printed. Every Pantone colour has a number to it referenced in a swatch. Spot colours are perfect for a limited number of guaranteed colours on products, merchandise and clothing, but they can’t be blended.

File formats

There are two major types of images: raster and vector. Raster images are made up of pixels, such as digital photographs and scans. Text does not work well in raster format, especially when enlarged. All raster files need to be very high resolution to look good when enlarged. Vector images are created using geometric shapes. This means that you can enlarge them to pretty much any size without losing any sharpness, clarity or detail.

EPS For print. Encapsulated Postscript files are the preferred format for sending vector graphics to professional print, and the quality is great at any size.

PDF - For print or digital. Share and print high-quality electronic documents. The cmyk PDF may also be used for professional printing.

JPG For digital. Everyone knows jpg! Send photos through messages, email or display them on the web, screens or your social media channels.

PNG - For digital. Quality graphic with a transparent background, making a PNG ideal to overlay a photo or colour online or in a presentation.

Ideal logo design … and the pitfalls of getting it wrong

Blog by Dawn Button, Button Graphic Design

Recently Button Graphic Design have been getting requests for creating logos, which is wonderful for a creative. We get to research competition, isolate the client’s demographic target market (the art of deduction is part of what we do), and ascertain what appeals to our client and their market. Then we play with typography and graphics and work with our client to a solution that evokes the essence of their company offerings and identifies them to the public, enabling them to stand out and help grow their business. 

 Commendably, most of these requests are from new businesses, keen to succeed and trying to get it right from the outset. I read a lot of group shouts on social media where start-ups request a recommendation for a logo designer, and I’m astonished by the number of referrals suggesting they get a cheap one on crowd-sourcing sites, without the basic understanding that a personally designed, tailored, premium logo will only cost a small amount more from a reputable graphic designer. 

 Of course you need to save money as a start-up. But not at the expense of your business credibility right from the get go. 

 This is your brand. Your identity. Your public face. Your logo. Just get a cheap one. 

What could possibly go wrong? 

 Actually, quite a lot. 

 Firstly, you need a logo that doesn’t belong to someone else, a design that hasn’t been ripped off another designer’s website or worst-case scenario, has been trademarked then ‘repurposed’ this way. Infringement can result in expensive legal consequences if the holder of a trademark pursues successful action. 

 You need to know that the colours will look the same regardless of use – you don’t want your beautiful gold online logo to turn a muddy brown when you get it printed. Or your stunning handwritten logo illegible on a business card, because you authorised it at full screen resolution and it doesn’t scale. 

 Then you’ll require the logo in a number of different formats for print and digital use, large-scale and small. I’ve lost track of the number of logos businesses have provided for large-scale print and they’re tiny jpgs, only suitable for social media. When I ask for the PDF or .eps for print, the customer looks blankly at me and informs me that’s all they have, and they’re flummoxed when I explain what a logo pack is and what they need to look fabulous at any size of print. 

 It’s not ideal at all for the business, and quite frankly, it’s unethical of their logo designer, regardless of cost. 

 It’s the first element of your business or service potential clients will see, and they’ll form an opinion on you, your company and your professionalism based on a split-second glance, without even realising it. It’s a primal human instinct, it’s part of why we survived, it’s what marketers globally utilise to sell you stuff, and it’s an essential weapon in your marketing arsenal, far too important to marginalise and ‘just get it done cheap’.

Please feel free to ask for advice or a quote if you need a logo (professionally!) designed or redesigned.

The welcome resurgence of heritage design

Blog by Dawn Button, Button Graphic Design

Old is the new new

As a graphic designer of considerable experience  (cough, cough), two of my lifelong passions are typography and illustration throughout the ages, from Neanderthal cave art to beautiful, hand-drawn, gilded images in ancient scripts, signwriters’ work of old, car logos, book covers … you get the idea! I love old safe and bottle labels, signage from ancient Rome, creative typography from the humble beginnings of print, posters for travel by sea, Victorian swag and Dickensian flourish.

The complexity of labels and signs from the past few centuries have always been firm favourites, so I was delighted to discover a fast-growing business interest in this style of vintage design, in complete contrast to the corporate, sleek and minimalist current trend. Heritage styling lends itself particularly well to logos, labels and signage; and by an amazing coincidence, that’s what I design!

Heritage design is complex but clearly legible, beautifully detailed, and immediately stands out in a crowded market for a vast range of businesses and clubs. It speaks about who you are before a customer even makes contact, conveying solidity, class and timelessness modern design often fails to achieve on first glance.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of the simplicity of a san serif font as a single identity, but when everyone else has the same branding, how will you stand out? Could the answer simply be by choosing to go with something you love that identifies you as a business or service, rather than follow the crowd?

I love producing heritage-style logos, signs and decals. Please feel free to contact me to have a chat about your project.

So, you’re a graphic designer, cool! What’s that?

Blog by Dawn Button - Button Graphic Design 

I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been asked that question!

Graphic design is everywhere you look, from websites to adverts, packaging to tee shirts. All businesses utilise print and digital design to attract their audience and promote their product or service. No matter how large or small the brand is or what they’re promoting, behind every visible campaign is a graphic designer. 

The heart of graphic design is creating visual concepts to communicate ideas that inspire, inform and engage. A good designer works with a client, establishing their need, vibe and business demographic, and is creative enough to interpret this and make it a visually appealing reality to attract customers. We utilise creativity in art, photography and typography in addition to applying our marketing, copywriting, proofreading, time management and communication skills. Simply put, graphic designers make a business look awesome. We rock.

“Creativity is intelligence having fun.”  Albert Einstein

I’ve been given hastily scribbled notes and created an entire brand identity, turned scant typed A4s into a visually appealing promotional program, and a ten-word email into a poster. Our interpretation skills are second to none, and we are driven to pursue excellence as one of the most important aspects of a graphic designer, right behind creativity, is attention to detail; it’s as essential a skill as listening. It’s who we are. 

Some people like to have a go at their own design and a plethora of programs abound to help to make business or service branding look OK, but they offer the same template suite to all, so it can end up looking very similar to hundreds of others. Interestingly, and despite the laborious time spent on their creation, people are rarely happy with ‘nice’ and often end up turning to a graphic designer for help anyway. They want awesome; they want to stand out, knowing average just doesn’t cut it in a competitive economy like ours.

Bad design shouts at you. Good design is the silent seller.”  Shane Meendering

For example, you might think creating a logo for your business identity is easy, but it’s far from it when you consider balancing the art in a name and how many formats and sizes may be required for the uses a logo has to perform, from clothing to vehicle signage, business cards to website banners. And, while good design is appealing and instantly memorable, we’ve all seen the bad variety! Far less frustrating and time consuming to get this most iconic of details created for you by a graphic designer, who has the expertise to pull it all together and ensure your message comes across loud and clear, across every aspect of your brand. 

The maelstrom of 2020, from a graphic designer’s new business perspective

Blog by Dawn Button - Button Graphic Design

Wow, this year has been a whirlwind, both professionally and personally. The past five months have been the most challenging, but most rewarding yet, full of new adventures, adaptability, growth and change. Why, you might ask? 

 2020. We’ve witnessed the horrors of bushfires, floods, human brutality, inept politicians and media manipulation. COVID-19 became our reality; our entire way of life modified to accommodate it, all the time constantly under siege by social media opinion. We witnessed the very best in people, and the very worst. 

When I moved from Oxford in the UK to Australia in 2002, I left behind a prestigious career in a very high-profile studio, and in emigrating, completely underestimated how my role there defined who I thought I was. It took a lot of self-realisation and personal evolution to become the resilient chick I am today – an annoyingly pedantic, glass-half-full-kind of gal.

I’ve been a senior graphic designer for just over two decades and for nine of these years I was working with an amazing marketing team in an elite private school. In May this year, our entire team and other admin were unexpectedly made redundant, right at the onset of a national state of emergency and global crisis. I fell into freefall mode and an emotional rollercoaster became my reality. I had taken pride in my job and had  been well-paid for it, and beyond a doubt, without that income my family would suffer. But … what an opportunity!

What should I do next, unshackled to my corporate desk, as I now was? I needed an income, pronto. Everything would be OK, I reasoned, because everything always works out for the best. The universe will provide, after all, it reflects only what you put out, right? 

I determined to remain positive, decided my redundancy was a blessing and resolutely opted to return to being a freelance graphic designer, which I had abandoned in 2011 to take the incredibly busy, full-time role of graphic designer at the school. I already knew how to set up an Aussie business, market it and run it successfully, after all, I did it in 2002. Things surely can’t have changed that much, hey? 

How unbelievably naive!

I bought a fast computer, a great printer, new office furniture and a wizard monitor. I discovered Adobe Creative sells as a monthly subscription now, you can’t buy their software and activate it using an electronic key any more, then use that same software for eons.  I bought URLs, registered my business, obtained insurance. I designed my business identity and website in my new office as COVID-19 rampaged through Asia, Europe and the Americas, and Australia entered, vacated and re-entered various stages of lockdown. 

I tried to maintain focus on what I wanted to achieve with a small voice parked in the corner of my mind whispering, “You’re going to make it work.” I will. I have to. 

That oft said phrase, ‘back in the day,’ really resonates. When I started my business originally, it required stationery, flyers, a couple of well-placed adverts and a website. Then, I designed my website myself using Dreamweaver, learned html to reduce the heavy coding, added carefully chosen titles for the pages, a favicon to look cool, metatags and keywords and bang! there was my easily-findable online presence. SEO - search engine optimisation - involved submitting the site to Google and a couple of other choice search engines or if you left it, their bots would obligingly trawl organically over a few weeks and do the work for you. So easy. 

Imagine my delight to discover Dreamweaver was almost unrecognisable after so many years! After a few failed attempts, I abandoned it, adapted and instead used a CMS to design my website (and I’m pretty happy with the result). But then I discovered that my familiar SEO ‘back in the day’ was a diminutive waif compared to the unwieldy, behemoth industry it has now become. For your website to rank and be seen is imperative in the online jungle, and believe me, it is a jungle, complete with lurking predators waiting to pounce on the unsuspecting. 

With fascination, I embarked on a tsunami of digital discovery. I learned SEO now requires constant feeding on multiple channels. Back-linking is an absolute must and you have to write a diary of events and/or air your professional opinion – a blog, if you will - to an unsuspecting public frequently, to become something more than a mere designer, as to be read online is to rank and be seen. You must be seen! 

A plethora of companies vie for your SEO business and promise the world, while not really having the depth of knowledge even you do about it. They thrive purely because it’s such a misunderstood, misinterpreted field of expertise. Random fact, only one in five SEO optimisation companies will actually deliver a significant improvement to your website presence. You therefore have a 20% chance of choosing unwisely and being one of the dreaded four, unless you do your homework. 

Phew. There’s barely time to work with all this pressure to maintain your business presence. 

But I’m loving this journey, despite its pitfalls and perils. The learning curve has been immense and rewarding, and I am hugely optimistic that the future will hold a successful freelance business and with it, much job satisfaction. If I can just crack that SEO ….