Design checklist: What clients should provide their designer

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?

Did you like this post? Could you do me a favour and share it with someone else who might enjoy it too? Thanks!

Photo credit: kennymatic

40 Responses to Design checklist: What clients should provide their designer

  1. Excellent round-up, Tracey. All important.

    Another thing clients should provide is a certain level of understanding. They should appreciate that designers will be juggling many tasks at the same time, and they may need to wait a while before their requests can be carried out. Thankfully the majority of my clients are more than understanding.

    David Airey’s last blog post … Creative Edward de Bono quotes

  2. Very good article with some usefull tips. Not getting enough information from a client is a real pain in the ass. Also a bad preparation of a project sucks. It leads in most cases to doing more work then you should for what you get payed.

    I’ll keep this list in mind. Thanks a lot!

  3. I cannot emphasize enough that “content is key!!!!”

    Without the content we are just guessing as to what you need. How will we know how to style different bodies of text if we do not know what they read/look like?

    Nice read!

    Matt’s last blog post … Which Layout is for me?

  4. Excellent points. This should read all the clients in the world :)

    Janko’s last blog post … UPrinting contest – Win 250 business cards!

  5. David:
    That’s a very good point. It’s important for clients to anticipate a certain amount of lead time before their work can begin, and to be understanding of the designer’s workload.

    Santhos:
    Bad preparation at the start can certainly lead to losing control of the handling of a project. I’m glad this checklist will be useful for you.

    Matt:
    You’re spot on about content: also, if a designer is left waiting for days or weeks while image files are sourced and text is written, the delays can mean losing momentum for the creative process.

    Janko:
    Thanks for your great feedback.

  6. I have run into a lot of problems that this article deals with, especially with images, also the part about showing samples to the designers of what has or has not worked. It’s very hard to work with designers unless they understand what is involved, so communication is key.

  7. I agree… things need to be set out in the beginning otherwise you are asking for trouble. I learnt this by a small project I worked on at the beginning of my career where I got taken for a ride by a designer… I am a lot tougher now and a lot more succesful because of it.

  8. Susan Hand

    Excellent checklist and reminder for all of our clients so I just sent it off to twitterland! Thanks Tracey

  9. I agree with your blog and in fact we have the same strategies applied. Planning and designing goes hand-in-hand to develop a one of a kind project. It’s worthy to finance expensive project which was studied and planned well.

  10. Unfortunatelly, budget is the hardest to get out of the lips of a client. On the other hand it is really one of the most curicial. We always tell our clients the same example:

    You know your budget when you want to buy a car, you do your research based on that; you listen to the salesman’s offerings based on your budget and eventually you buy the best car for your money.

    If you want a Ferrari and only have $10.000 budget then you have only few options as a customer; you either give the money and never get the car, or you’ll get a stolen or crashed one.

  11. Great Article – unfortunately most (small) clients have no idea about the budget – or they wont tell you, which is bad for estimating the range..

  12. Byron:
    I don’t agree that it’s nonsensical to state that the best resolution for photographs is 300dpi. This is the best resolution for photographs, and the article you’ve linked to acknowledges this as well.

    You’re right that the dimensions must be discussed with your client ahead of time. Whether you’re working at A5 or A2, it’s still best to get photographs at a high resolution.

  13. Hi Tracey, high resolution yes. Everything depends on this. It’s the resolution that defines at what size an image can be printed at what dpi. But dpi does not equate to resolution.

    eg, to print A4 at 300dpi an image (uncompressed) needs to be 25mb in size or 2480px x 3508px.

    Printing A6 at 300dpi needs a 6mb file, 1240px x 1748px.

    So I stick to my “best resolution for photographs is 300dpi is nonsensical” statement. Client should be told to give images of at least xy resolution, depending on the job.

    Anyway…

  14. “This is the best resolution for photographs, and the article you’ve linked to acknowledges this as well”

    Umm – no it doesn’t.

  15. Byron:
    It does – look under the “So what should I do?” section.
    Thanks for your comments.

  16. Something else I recently encountered was to know what categories and subcategories are needed before the budget is signed off. I had a recent client who wanted me to make up mockups of every single page of the site before building it, and that was waaaaay too time consuming. I managed to talk them into seeing some sample pages and common templates, but that I really need those site categories and subcategories given to me so that I don’t have feature creep. Unfortunately, I had feature creep and it cost me 2 weeks of doing free work for the client. They were a valuable client to me in the long run, so I put up with it.

    Another thing is to understand which images they want modified such that backgrounds are cut out, or backgrounds out + stuck on a new background (like a gradient). I had no idea they would want me to chop out backgrounds on 70 images until the contract was already signed off. What a time consumer.

  17. This is a good start but for me this never quite works out the way it should, images come at different stages etc but this is a very good checklist as a starting point.

  18. Thank you for sharing your knowledge Tracey.

    I’m a brand new design student and I’ve found the topics of your blog really useful especially given that I’m learning online.

    I’m currently working on an assigment regarding client checklists and this information plus the comments from your other readers has been very helpful.

    Jade

  19. Asking the right types of question before beginning a project is absolutely important, regardless of how small or big the project might be. Asking the right questions and getting the right answers from the client, will help set the right directions, so that the designer can aim for a sound solution, instead of a hit or miss.

    Benga Creative

  20. Keith K

    good list!!

    May I use the list on my website?

  21. Hi Keith,
    I’m glad you like the checklist. It’s fine to publish my material on your site so long as I get credit as the author, and a link back to the original post at this site.

  22. Thanks Tracey for a very good and thorough checklist for designers! I had previous experience meeting with clients and ended up asking them more questions by email after the meeting. This really helps.

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