Graphic designers are pretty much always in demand. Designers all seem to have a mother’s cousins best friend that needs a design project done. Whether it’s a logo project for a small business or a billboard for a multi-million-dollar conglomerate, design projects sometimes have a habit of falling from the sky – unfortunately, creativity doesn’t necessarily work the same way. So how do you keep creative while staying on track? With a project charter, or project brief.
Whether you call it a charter, a brief, or any one of the project management synonyms for it, developing one can stop your design from going completely catawampus or making your client question your taste. A charter can help focus and ground your design, and guide your creativity with everything from your mood board to the typography.
If you want to keep your design on the straight and narrow, but you’re not sure what goes into a project charter, follow along with the tips and tricks we’ve learned from both our project managers and designers.
Last Step / First Step
In the project life cycle, we like to this of the brief as the last step of project management and the first step in the design process. It is the last step of defining not just the parameters of the project, but also to clearly define any possible requirements. It is the foundation of any strong design. A strong charter needs to define the following.
When a project falls out of the sky, they are quite often from someone you have worked with in the past, you should have a decent idea of who the client is – that being said, they may be a completely new customer. With a new company, you should probably do a little digging and get to know the background, industry, and reason for being before you go anywhere else.
What exactly is your client looking to have created? Knowing exactly what your client needs will help streamline your process and prevent you from doing a ton of extra, and unnecessary work. Is your client looking to have an entire logo package? Do they need brand guidelines as well? Banners? Billboards?
Before you promise them the moon, you may want to (read: absolutely have to) agree on and set a budget for your project. Don’t rush off and spend weeks designing the perfect presentation or 50-page brochure and then only get paid for part of it. Know exactly what your project budget is and if the company would like more done, renegotiate, that way there are no arguments or hard feelings when it’s invoice time.
The Desired Outcome(s)
This is an important piece of the puzzle. What does success look like for your client? Are they looking to achieve brand recognition? Make more sales? Inspire people to some sort of action? The primary, secondary, and tertiary goals of the project will dictate everything from colour to font choice, so having a solid understanding will help everyone involved in the project.
If you’ve really done your research on the client, you should have a decent idea of who their target market is. If you can’t tell by researching the company or industry, make sure you ask the customer, no one will know their target market as well as they do. What is the general age range?
Are they male or female? Single, married, other? What problem are they looking to your client to solve? Answering these questions will help you really narrow down your designs.
Are these all of the pieces of the graphic project charter puzzle? Not necessarily, but they are the most integral parts. Once you have all of these questions thoroughly answered, you can hit the ground running and develop designs that will blow your client away!