Creating consistently designs that are both relevant and innovative can some times be hard, but with a proper creative briefing it becomes way easier. Sun Tzu once said “A victorious army wins its victories before seeking battle“. And this is true in design too. The more time you will spend to understand the challenge at hand and the design problem you will need to solve, the closer you will get to a proper solution.

Even the humblest design assignment requires collecting basic information about the project’s purpose, the target audience and the competition. Higher stake campaigns demand even more extensive research, analysis and planning.

To that extend several data gathering methods exist and will give us insights on the attitudes and behaviours of the target group. Helping us effectively communicate our design with that group, and also avoid alienating them with wrong choices. Additionally they will help us understand the strategy of the competition’s products, brands and organizations and help us form a more effective campaign.

Part of the research may have been initiated by the person who assigned us the job, or the research department of the client’s company through the creative brief. Other facts we might have assessed through the preliminary interview with the client while helping them form an effective design brief. The creative brief along with our research will clarify the client’s objectives and goals, help us identify opportunities and make us aware on things that will impact and highly affect our design decisions.

So make sure that the creative brief and your initial research have given you a deep understanding of the following before start generating ideas:

Who is the audience?

Knowing the target audience is critical for developing visual communication the resonates. Focus groups, surveys, and opinion polls are several commonly used methods to collect insights about where our target audience leans and how it interprets the messages.

Various secondary data resources include public reference libraries, newspapers, books, trade periodicals, blogs, conference papers, official statistics, business reports, internet search etc.

In the end we should have been able to at least gather some key data for our target group, like gender, age, socio-economic demographics concerning them, education, income level and their lifestyle aspirations.

What is the communication objective?

In simpler words what we want our audience to think or feel from the design? Are we creating conviction or preference? Stimulating actions or behaviors? These communication objectives will affect almost every design decision, from the format we’ll use to the final typography.

Does the design need to coordinate with past design work?

Does the company has an already established visual identity or branding our design need to conform? If so we’ll need to study the company’s style guide and printed materials and ensure that our solution can work alongside their existing design and not against it. Incorporating these guidelines to our design solution, will strengthen the company’s branding, and we’ll not risk alienating or losing the existing client base.

Who are the competitors?

Knowing the competitions’ visual communication strengths and weakness, is essential in preparing our own campaign. It will help us focus on the successful ideas and also avoid using visual elements that might correlate our campaign with theirs. We might also figure ways that can make the competitors advantages irrelevant and obsolete and strengthen our brand’s position in the market.

What is our budget? How the final product will be delivered?

The overall project budget affects many important design decisions, like how many colours we’ll use in a print application, if we’ll use special inks or special papers. What quality photo material we’ll focus on acquiring etc. How the final product will be delivered is also of out-most importance both to determine budget costs, and also at design decision level. If the design will be used for print or for digital media, makes all the difference in the world. And also what kind of print or what kind of digital media we are aiming to deploy. Finally what are the dimension and specifications we’ll have to work with.


This preliminary research will help us identify the drivers that stimulate the target group to act on a design, but also the barriers that could impede the success of our design, and we’ll be able to move at the ideate stage. Trust me, the more information you acquire about the brand you are developing the more effective, relevant and strong you will make your visual message.

Featured Image: Licensed Stock Photo from Shutterstock

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