Design checklist: What clients should provide their designer

Hello! I have updated this very popular post to include a free downloadable PDF of this checklist

Preparation is key to successful management of any project, and design projects are no different. The more preparation that both client and designer do right at the start, the more smoothly the work will go.

I find checklists can be very useful, so I’ve prepared a checklist of details that clients should provide their designer at the outset. To follow this list will ensure the client and designer are dealing professionally as well as creating an efficient workflow.

A budget

Knowing the client’s budget allows the designer to establish what they will be able to realistically achieve for the money, and to perhaps suggest a range of options.

A complete list of the client’s design requirements

The client must make clear at the beginning just how much design work they will require, e.g. layout for a business card, letterhead and envelopes OR logo design plus web design plus email marketing template. Occasionally unexpected new design needs emerge for the client when a job is well underway, but any “extras” which are requested after work has commenced will involve more time and money, and should be bound by a new contract.

I once had a prospective client say “We don’t know yet how many layouts we want, so can you just give us a rough quote estimate in the meantime?” How can a designer quote on an unknown quantity or scale of work? That would be like asking an architect to quote for designing your house but not telling him how many rooms you want. It’s impossible.

A clear outline of why the design work is necessary and what the client expects to achieve

Whether it’s a print campaign, posters for a conference stall or a multimedia presentation, every design job involves a goal to be fulfilled. It’s good for the client to think through precisely what that goal is when preparing to meet with the designer. Equally, it’s important for the designer to ask questions about the client’s objectives, because the designer’s job is primarily about meeting the client’s needs.

An outline of who the target market or audience is for the design work

This is very important information which will guide a designer in all aspects of the work they do. An advertisement or poster aimed at teenage boys will look vastly different to one designed to catch the attention of their parents. Look at a well-designed promotional campaign and you will easily be able to tell who it has been designed for. A client who has a detailed understanding of their target market will get the design which best suits their needs.

A deadline

Even if the work isn’t urgent, a deadline is important for effective time management. Unless the scale of the design work is small, it may be useful for the client and the designer to negotiate a series of deadlines for stages of work.

High quality images

If the client has an existing logo to be used in the design work, it should be provided in vector format. The most common vector formats are Postscript (.eps) and Illustrator (.ai). A vector format allows the logo to be made bigger or smaller without losing image quality and clarity. A .jpg file is not a vector format and may not represent a client’s logo at its best, depending on its size.

Any photographs provided by the client should have a high resolution. The best resolution for photographs is 300dpi (dots per inch). I always recommend this to my clients even if the photographs will go on the web. Although the final photo will be published on the web at the lower resolution of 72dpi, I prefer a higher resolution to begin with. This enables me to better optimise any photographs (where necessary) and there is greater scope for resizing.

Images and text in their final form

Any text, photographs, illustrations or other material provided by the client should be given to the designer before work commences. It can be a drain on time and resources if a designer is left waiting for these things halfway through a project. All materials provided by the client should be in their final form with no future revisions necessary. Any changes which have to be made after the design work has been done will cost time and money.

Ownership info for third party images and text

When the client is providing images or text sourced from someone else, it’s crucial to also provide information on the legal permissions which have been obtained for the use of the material (if any are required). If attribution is required, the details should be provided to the designer before any work commences. This also applies for any other material (e.g. music or video) obtained from a third party.

Samples of previous design work (where applicable)

If a client has a seasonal marketing campaign, or their corporate identity needs to be revised, it will help to provide past design samples to the current designer. It’s useful to discuss what worked or didn’t work for the client last time, particularly in terms of customer/audience response or the direction which the client and/or their organisation wishes to take in future.

This may seem like an extensive list but all of the above can easily be covered during the first meeting to discuss the design brief.

Download a free PDF version of this checklist

If you find this post helpful, be sure to look at my checklist for getting your website launched properly.

Is there anything you would add to this list?

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