Key information design agencies would love from their clients

by Philippa Smart

Many times over the last twenty years, we’ve been commissioned to design new brands, literature, packaging, advertising and of course web sites. The brief could at best be described as ‘brief’ and it was always my mission to question, question, question.

Without me doing this, I could never have created and achieved the results we have for clients. The quality of the brief is paramount. Without the depth and background of what the business is trying to achieve how can this design gain tangible results? The return on investment for a design alert business is £225 for every £100 spent according to research by the Design Council. Design must be aligned to the company’s strategy – makes complete sense to me.

So this list is designed to help marketeers achieve a much better result in their dealings with design agencies.

  1. Business plan including vision and strategy.
  2. Marketing plan
  3. All existing marketing collateral
  4. Brand guidelines
  5. The purchasing procedure
  6. Contacts – who does what and full contact details
  7. A full written brief not a paragraph
  8. Any research or focus group feedback
  9. Product info and the product itself
  10. Budgets
  11. Examples of brands they aspire to and why
  12. Competitor analysis
  13. Holidays booked!
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Return on design investment and why everyone should measure it

Over the last fifteen years or so there has been a steadily increasing desire for design to prove its commercial value, to demonstrate to clients that their investment is tangibly worth it.

This has been driven by a number of factors: the recession of the early 1990s demanded that design stake its claim to straitened budgets; above the line advertising reaches fewer and fewer people, so companies are looking for other routes to achieve a return on marketing investment; and perhaps design is growing up as an industry – recognising itself, and being recognised by clients, as a commercial tool, not just an exercise in beautifying. Other areas of marketing communications already operate on a strictly commercial basis, so why shouldn’t design?

More clients are asking tough commercial questions of their design projects, measuring and assessing as they go. And switched on designers will talk in terms of business objectives right from the outset, maybe before the design brief is actually nailed down. But even so, measuring return on investment (ROI) is notoriously difficult. So why bother?

For designers, understanding the return delivered to clients can help in demonstrating the commercial benefits of using design services. This can establish designers as a credible business service, like the legal, marketing or advertising teams clients already employ.

For businesses, understanding how different investments profit the company is an obvious aid in planning and allocating budgets most effectively. An empirical ROI measure may also help to convince financiers to take a risk and release money for a design and development project.

Even if it is hard to achieve, attempting to gain some measure of ROI in design is of value to both consultancy and client because it creates a mutually supporting commercial framework.

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