So you’re about to launch your first design contest? It’s an exciting time. You’ve done the hard work to get your business off the ground – and now it’s time to sit back and watch your vision come to life through design.

First-time clients often find themselves needing an amazing design, but are unsure where and how to start. In this article, we’ll help you write a creative brief that ensures success.

All successful design projects start with a great brief

The creative brief is your chance to attract the best designers to your contest. It’s also your first contact with potential designers, so you have to make it count. A designer will usually decide if they want to enter a contest based on the quality of the brief.

Writing a brief

The truth of the matter is, if you don’t take time with creating a brief, designers will less likely enter. A design brief should provide all the information a designer needs to come up with inspiration for a concept, and ultimately fulfill your expectations.

What makes a great brief?

Focus on the goals you want to achieve. Are you after a logo design or a brand identity? How and where will you be using your design? The majority of contests held on 99designs are logo-based, with the option of creating a full brand through Brand Identity Pack (BIP) contests.

Before you start writing your brief, it’s important to understand the purpose of a logo. A logo is a form of identification. It conveys a story or an idea, which makes it the most valuable asset of any company, individual or product. And this should be taken into consideration, especially when researching visual examples to give to the designers.

When creating a new contest, you don’t need to worry about questions as you will be provided with a ready-made brief. Everything should be addressed before starting a contest.

When a designer browses through the list of contests, they are encountered with the title and subtitle of a contest. This goes for all contest categories, and is not limited to just logo contests.

Titles & subtitles

Setting up your creative brief
Wondering how to catch a designer’s attention? Start with a good title.

Your title should always be simple, concise and understandable. Try not to be vague. For instance, “Create a simple and creative logo for a great cause” is a terrible title for a few reasons. Logos should always be simple and creative – that’s a fundamental design rule. Designers know this and regularly strive to follow this rule, so it’s unnecessary to write it in the title.

Another frequent problem is that the designer doesn’t know who the client is or what they do. For instance:

“I want to make this the best yet. Help me get there.“

The best what? Where do you want to go?
Are you a lawyer, florist, IT company?

Many designers excel in certain fields or have a passion for designing logos for a particular industry – pet services with cute animated styles, or a fun retro style. Letting them know who you are in the title will help them find you.

Here’s an example of a client that knows exactly what they want:

Title: Create an action design of a horse jumping out of a southern grandfather oak
Subtitle: We are a show jumping equestrian facility that travels the southeast show circuits…

It’s perfect! Designers know exactly where to start sketching ideas. However, don’t be discouraged. You’re not expected to be that precise. It’s up to the designer to guide and help you.

Here’s another good example:

Title: Builder by the bay.
Subtitle: General contractor, remodeling, residential

Designers know exactly who this client is. To make it even better, you should give them a hint at the style you’re after (if you know already):

Title: Builder by the bay, seeking vintage inspired logo.
Subtitle: General contractor, remodeling, residential

This will help you attract the type of designer you’re after.

Background information

When it comes to background information, you’ll be asked to enter the name for your logo, subtitle or slogan (if you have one), as well as a description of your organization and target audience:


Who are you? What do you do, provide or sell?

If a designer can’t understand who you are, this will reflect on the quality of design proposals.

Who are you trying to reach and attract with your product or services?

It’s the designer’s job to research your target audience and create concepts based on your feedback. The overall tone, color palette and design style for a kids clothing line differs from that of someone trying to reach medical professionals.

Visual style

The next step is to guide the designer in showing the overall style you like. Under “Visual Style”, you will be asked to select colors you prefer. Each color has an explanation of the psychology and meaning of each color. This is important for setting the right tone.

Style attributes

Do you want something modern? Minimal? Classic? Abstract? Literal?

Using the style attributes slider you can adjust the settings, highlighting your preferences. Then back this up with some visual references.

You can select from 99designers’ logos or (better yet) you can upload your own. A great tip is to select designs based on your industry. The Apple and Nike logos are great, but they don’t translate well if you own a veterinary clinic.

As a bonus, you should upload your own files (like a PDF) or link to a Pinterest board for more inspiration. These will be great guidelines for designers looking to define the style you’re after.

Another great tip is to always explain why you’ve chosen certain visuals as reference. Is the typography, style? Adding a few examples of designs you don’t like is equally important, and again let the designers know why. Perhaps you’re looking for a classic logo, and something abstract won’t do.

Following these simple steps will lead to a fantastic design.

Don’t forget the details!

Brand identity pack
Think beyond the logo. What does your brand look like? (by Zalo Estévez)

After you choose your logo, do you think you’ll need business cards, stationary or Facebook covers? The Brand Identity Pack is a great option that lets you continue working with your winning logo designer on the remaining deliverables.

Keep in mind: visual references are crucial here, of both likes and dislikes. Setting expectations and giving the designer as many details as possible is also critical.

Talk to a printer first

It’s a good idea to find a printer before launching a contest. They can talk to you about the different possibilities that printing has to offer. This is where budget plays a factor in deciding the look of your brand identity.

If opting for letterpress, foil printing, die cuts or any other printing method for business cards (or any other printed item), this needs to be stated in the brief with any special information or guides from the printer.

Each designer needs to know the extent of the project, so the design can translate well, regardless of where it will be used, and that each deliverable file is set up for print correctly (this is especially important when setting up files for die cuts).

Include printing specifications in your brief

A good idea is to also specify the country you’re from, as each country has their own sets of standards. For example US clients require documents set up in inches with a .025 in bleed, whilst UK, European and Australian CH need all documents in CMYK with a 3mm bleed. (Bleeds are part of document setup for printing – something your designer knows, and is aware of).

Any other specific info or guides you might have can also be handles in the notes section.


Remember, the more time you spend on your brief, the better the results will be.
Designers are here to help you find your style, but they need your input too, and with a little time and effort you’ll get the design you’ve always wanted.