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What is branding and how to develop a great design brief?

—  Lisa Yates is the design manager at Lava, an award-winning marketing agency in Lincoln. In an expert comment series for The Lincolnite, Lisa explains creating a brand is more than just having your logo on everything and using the same font.


The terms brand and branding are some of the most over-used words in the world of marketing. They are also two of the least understood concepts.

I don’t think there’s a day that goes by without someone talking to me about their brand or a piece of branding work that they really admire. More often than not though, that person isn’t actually talking about a brand. They’re talking about a corporate identity, a logo or a piece of design work that has caught their eye.

A brand isn’t just a logo or a website. It’s not a brochure or advertisement. A brand is a set of values. A brand is intangible. It’s how you feel about a product or service or rather it’s how that product, service or organisation makes you feel.

It’s not just that they have a particular font which is used across all their literature. It’s not just because they sponsor or stage a certain type of event or they have quirky names for their employees. It’s all of these things plus the way that act, the way the communicate as well as the way they look.

Quite often people don’t take the time to think about their brand values and this is a crucial part of creating something that will last the test of time and will see people ‘buy into’.

The most successful brands know what they’re about; how they want to be perceived; how they are going to interact with people; what marketing activity is right for them and what’s not.

Taking the time to think about what’s at the heart of an organisation and how it wants to be perceived should be something that happens very early on – even before a product or service has been launched.

When you know what you’re about then you can talk to a graphic designer about how you want to present yourself and what you want to communicate. You’ll find that by taking time out to think about exactly what lies at the heart of your organisation and why it’s different from your competitors and special, you’ll be able to give a designer a much better brief.

Average briefs result in average work. So, giving a designer a great brief will pay dividends.

How to develop a great design brief

Start by telling the designer as much as you can about your organisation and its products or services. Don’t assume they’ve heard of you before. Tell them what you want to achieve from having a new piece of literature, logo, website or exhibition stand created.

You also need to think carefully about the people you’re trying to reach. They may have a completely different view of your organisation and so it’s important to put yourself in their shoes.

Pull together examples of other design work that you really like and would like to emulate. This will give the designer a steer as what you’re after.

Finally, the dreaded question, the one that nobody knows the answer to or is too afraid to say: what’s the budget? Being honest and open about how much you’re prepared to invest will not mean you’re going to be ripped off. It will mean the designer can develop a solution that you can afford and works best for you and your brand.

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