How to create a killer branding questionnaire

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Walking with your eyes closed is pretty tough, right?

Designing without adequate information is fraught with danger, too, and this is why every designer should develop a branding questionnaire.

So to help you create one that’s sure to improve your productivity and cut down on time wasted veering to a new course halfway through the design process, I’m sharing my branding questionnaire below. Feel free to incorporate the best elements into yours.

Is a questionnaire really that important?

When a prospective client first contacts you to talk about creating identity materials, send over your branding questionnaire as a first step.

Sidenote: Once you finish, read how 4 freelancers built recurring revenue models that changed their business. You'll love it.

Why? Three reasons:

  • it dramatically accelerates the development process
  • it always leads to a more effective solution for the client
  • it sells your services for you

What’s not to like?

The branding questionnaire helps clients organize their thoughts in regards to the branding process – it asks the who, what, how and why questions about the upcoming work.

  • Is it a refresh or a whole new brand?
  • Are their existing materials projecting the right information to the right audience?

The answers to these questions will inform the design conversation and ultimately become your design brief (which rocks, because writing briefs is probably not why you became a designer).

A quick side note before we jump in: don’t assume prospective clients know how to talk about branding and design. Many of them have zero previous experience working with a designer and come to the process with trepidation. Ask simple questions.

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Now let’s walk through my design questionnaire and talk about the three main sections.

1. About your client and his/her business

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Start with the basics, such as contact information and a current web address, if the business has one. With this information, you can start doing preliminary research on the company and begin generating ideas.

Next, ask for a description of the company – what it does, and what the history is. Many businesses have wonderful back stories, and tying these stories in with their branding materials can really help them get behind your design.

Finally, learn about their customer base.

  • Who are these people and what are their needs and values?
  • What is their perception of my client?
  • Who are the other players in the market?

This is where you get a basic understanding of their industry and start thinking about tone and hierarchy of messaging. How is the business currently speaking to its customers? Does that need to be re-evaluated?

2. About your client’s existing identity

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Now we really dig into specifics.

Ask for the current logo, if there is one, and also ask the client to supply some examples of logos that they like.

This is a super-quick shortcut to understanding what graphic styles might appeal to them – if they send a bunch of grunge-inspired logos, you’re probably not going to start with concepts based on spare white Helvetica. Well, maybe just one…

Here I get a little abstract and ask about words or feelings that might convey the brand promise of the business.

Sometimes I even include a question asking for a description of the brand as if it were a person – what that person wears, what music he/she likes, and so on.

Again, this document is meant to help BOTH you and your client visualize this brand. By taking these steps, everyone gets immersed in that vision.

3. ONE LAST, REALLY IMPORTANT QUESTION…

…what holds you back from hiring a graphic designer to develop your branding?

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Put yourself in your clients’ shoes. Understand that it may be stressful for them to think about hiring a designer.

In this section, be preemptive. As you can see, I’ve listed several possible objections and addressed them in a way that highlights my experience and reinforces my status as an expert at what I do.

Really, it all comes down to trust. If you lay out some reasons why prospective clients should trust you to be their designer, you’re that much closer to winning that project.

Final thoughts

Just to be clear: I don’t REQUIRE my clients to fill out the questionnaire. I just ask them to look at it and send back whatever information feels pertinent to them.

This isn’t the whole conversation, but it’s just a really good start. It lays the groundwork for DESIGNER TRUST, and that leads to a happy, long-term client relationship. Longtime clients start to believe you really “get” them. Every project going forward becomes more and more intuitive, and it all starts with this initial dose of information.

Then this happy client passes your name along to others, and the word spreads.

Do you use a branding questionnaire? If so, what are your most effective questions? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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About Rebecca Blaesing

Rebecca Blaesing is a freelance designer who lives and works in Maine and New York City. She specializes in branding design and loves logo work.

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Comments

  1. Thanks Rebecca. I think what you mentioned about asking simple questions is key. We designers have to put ourselves in our customers shoes, as not everyone understands ‘creative jargon’. I like some of your question ideas and the end piece about hiring a designer is a great idea… I’d like to borrow that idea if that’s OK. 😉

    • Rebecca Blaesing says:

      Thanks Mark!
      Yep, there’s that fine line with creative jargon – a little can lend credibility with clients, but too much will overwhelm them. And yes, borrow away – I’m glad you found some useful ideas in my questionnaire!
      Rebecca

  2. A great synopsis and reminder when embarking on such projects. Thanks! (I love the preemptive section 🙂

  3. Get them on the phone, if they don’t want to give their number or real name then they are shopping around and not serious. I also have them fill out a questionnaire that should not take longer than 5 min of their time. Clients do not have patience or time to do that for every inquiry they make. Make is short and sweet. You can also follow up your questions in future correspondence or meeting.

    • Rebecca Blaesing says:

      Thanks for posting, Sean!
      I agree – the questionnaire is just the start of the conversation, and a phone call or sit-down meeting is always the goal early on.
      Rebecca

  4. Hi Rebecca,

    This is absolutely awesome and precious material. Thank you VERY MUCH for sharing!
    I absolutely love it!
    You’re awesome.

  5. My branding questionnaire has always been structured around Simon Sinek’s ‘Golden Circle’ (what, how, why). I think it’s an effective way to get a client thinking about their brand (the ‘why’) as the center of their operations (the ‘how’) and their product (the ‘what’).

    I definitely agree with keeping it simple as I have found clients will ignore complex questions. I also think the ‘preemptive’ section is a great way to help sell your services, thanks for sharing!

    • Rebecca Blaesing says:

      Thank you for your comments, Saylor!
      First “Why”, then trust! I think the Golden Circle basis for your questionnaire is a great idea. Please do post examples if you like!
      Rebecca

  6. Very helpful ! thank you

  7. A good post for branding folks. We have this kind of questionnaire on our website. The only difference is that we collect personal details at part of the form.
    Question: We noticed that 97% clients do no answer on the colors. How do we help and encourage them?

    • Rebecca Blaesing says:

      That’s a great question, Tanvir – I wonder if it would help to include some swatches and allow people to check off ones that might fit their vision for the brand, or at least give you a starting point for further discussion. Selecting from an existing range of colors might be easier for some people than generating a list. Maybe I’ll try that in my questionnaire and see how it works!
      Rebecca

  8. Thanks for the good share Rebecca! I definitely like the last part – I’d never thought of that.

    I’ve got a branding questionnaire but I’ve found that clients aren’t too keen to complete this themselves. So I usually have an initial call with them and run through my questions on the phone taking notes. Afterwards I send them the completed questionnaire based on our chat and ask them if it covers everything we spoke about or if they would like to add/change anything. That way we get a feel for each other over the call and it clears up any vague answers.

    Although I’ve found that it’s a good idea to send them the questions beforehand so that they have some time to think about their answers and not feel caught off guard.

    Just my 2 cents 🙂

    • Rebecca Blaesing says:

      That’s a great method, Brigitte!
      I’ll have to try that – sending it back over to the client after that initial conversation, with any additional info that has come up during the call or meeting. Anything to add clarity!
      And I agree that sending the questionnaire over first is a good way to get the process started in any case. It takes pressure off of them if they can take their time with the questions.
      Thanks for the note!
      Rebecca

  9. How did you know I wanted to update my existing branding & design questionnaire? Yours is brilliant. I can see where you could not only have your clients fill it out themselves, but also have it be a mechanism to start a conversation with a new client about what THEIR ideas are about their branding and how it not only affects the way their customers think about them but whether they want to buy from them or not.

    The suggestion to have them provide you some logo samples of designs they like is something I’ve been successfully doing for a while too. It makes my clients feel like they have input into the design and I’m a design maniac making them bow down to my concepts.

    Thanks a bunch!

    • Rebecca Blaesing says:

      Thank you Colleen!
      Maybe we’re all doing some New Year’s cleanup on our branding questionnaires! I love to experiment with mine to see what gets the best reaction.
      And I like your thought about having the client feel like they’re in the design process WITH you – people can tell if you care about that or not!
      Rebecca

  10. One of my favorite questions is to ask what my client DOESN’T like. Often they can’t tell me exactly what they DO want, but they can quickly rattle off a handful of design choices they DON’T like.

    In this way, I can be sure not to use those elements (unless I have a really compelling argument) in my initial concepts…which, as we all know, can make or break a proof when they get hung up on the one tiny element they hate so much so that they ignore the rest of the piece.

    Great tips, and thanks for providing your actual questionnaire! Mine is now about to be improved!

    • Rebecca Blaesing says:

      Thanks April!
      I think I need to add a section for the DON’T LIKE category! I love that idea. 🙂
      Rebecca

  11. I started using a creative brief last year and no one actually fills it out. LOL. But it gets them thinking and sometimes leads to useful information. I have many of the same questions on mine but the last bit with the reasons for not hiring a designer, brilliant. I might add that. I’m in the process of creating one for my web clients … any suggestions on that?

    • Rebecca Blaesing says:

      Heather, as beneficial as this document is, I rarely see it thoroughly filled out, either! It does start some great conversations, though.
      Regarding your question: I do more print design and identity design than I do web, but I would imagine that there could be a lot of similarity in a web design version, especially in the parts where you ask for examples of what they do (and don’t) like. I’d put in a section about functionality and strategy for the site (without putting in too much tech language). Any ideas from other web designers out there?
      Thanks for the comment!

  12. Hi Rebecca,
    Thanks for sharing. I am new to this but have done a fe logo design projects myself. I also worked in a small ad agency few years back and thought that I can do this. My recent project brings me to reflection. I think this step was missing or somehow skipped that’s why I am researching right now on client questionnaire to carefully state the boundaries of the brand project and be more thoughtful and organize.

    More power to you!

    Sherwin Estrada

    • Thank you for the comment, Sherwin! I find that my clients enjoy talking about their responses to the questions since it helps them visualize and articulate their hopes for the work. A lot of them aren’t visual people, so this helps make them feel more comfortable with the whole process. I hope you’ll share your questionnaire when you have it done!
      Rebecca

  13. A great synopsis and reminder when embarking on such projects. Thanks! (I love the preemptive section 🙂

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