Why a design agency should have a brand questionnaire

Matt Saunders is the co-director of Studio Raygun, a brand design agency based in Leeds, Yorkshire. Matt explains the importance of using a brand questionnaire to kick off design and branding projects.

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When our studio flung open its doors in January of 2014, we had big ambitions and lots of ideas. Similarly when working with our clients, we have plenty of creative ideas, many of which start off quite extravagant and impractical before being narrowed down into workable solutions.

But it took us some time to streamline this process; to go from top-down, big thinking, to solutions for actual problems. And one of the key ways in which we manage this now is by providing our design and brand clients with a questionnaire to kick things off.

The questions

Naturally, we start by asking some basic details about the company; it’s name, strapline, what the company does, but then we start the more probing questions, such as:

  • Why did you start this company?
  • What is the company’s geographical location, and is it important to the brand?
  • What is the idea behind the company name?
  • Where do you see yourself in the marketplace?
  • Are there any misconceptions about the company, brand or profession?

At first this may seem a little overwhelming, especially at the start of a project when you want to make it as easy as possible for the client. But we have found that clients enjoy answering these questions; not just because it provides a gentle ego massage (everybody loves to talk about themselves!) but because it genuinely makes them think about their business. From these few simple questions, new ideas can be born, and important questions about the current state of the business can be raised.

The process

Typically, this is not a guided process. We hand over a copy of the questionnaire to all stakeholders and they go away and complete the form in their own time. We then reconvene, as a group, and work through the questions. Often the stakeholders have not conferred on their responses, so the answers to these brand questions can be quite different which helps to diversify the discussion.

We discuss the answers and then try to “normalise” the results. This means working out a set of business objectives and then, finally, we have a reasonable amount of intelligence to go forward with the actual brand design.

The outcome

It’s important to remember that this is not a complete solution to undertaking a branding exercise. For us, however, it has proven to be an integral part of it. We always need to have discussions about the business and it’s customers before we put pen to paper, and the brand questionnaire provides a nice framework within which to hold this discussion.

This is a versatile process and can be applied to more than just brand development – it may be adapted to web development, print design, even content development, so the next time you undertake some work for a client consider tasking them with a short questionnaire to kickstart the process.