I've been writing a lot of briefs for designers recently and it made me stop and think. At no point are you ever taught "How to construct a brief". It's not on any curriculum, should it be? It's an imperative skill, being able to extract exactly what you want from a brief to an artist/designer, saving time, money and frustration on both sides of the brief.
So here are my top tips on writing a brief, (and this is how I do it, I am sure others have different ways).
1.Firstly make sure the project is suitable for the artist. (ie. there is no point giving the designer traditional floral to create, if the artist is a children's whimsy designer.) They specialise in that area for a reason.
2. Know what you want
( Yes, sometimes you don't know what you want, but you should know what you like and dislike, so use that as a starting point. I would generally have a collection of images that indicate my likes and dislikes, on perhaps scale, pattern, layout, style, composition, colours etc.) An image speaks a thousand words. Try to give the artist as much direction as possible, it will result in a better product for you and the artist.
Where possible give colours. ( Not giving colours, means that the artist has to spend unnecessary time collating colours which may not be used, or changed several times, time is money).
(If there is wording in the artwork, make sure that the phrases, fonts etc. have been checked with legal, before the artist starts the artwork. There is nothing worse than creating a beautiful piece of artwork, then it has to be scraped because the fonts/phrase don't check with legal, again waste of time and time is money).
5. Set a realistic time frame
(Today or tomorrow, is not realistic. Artists work better to a longer leadtime and in the end the finished product will be far superior).
6.Laying the artwork out
(The artist needs to know beforehand how the artwork needs to be laid out. For example, if it is in Illustrator, then the artwork might need to be grouped, or in named layers. It will same time in the long run).
(Seems straight forward, but a term in one country, may mean something else in another, so make sure the understanding is clear).
8.If in doubt ask!
(It's always a good idea once you have gone over the brief to get the artist to clarify that they understand it, by giving you a synopsis of the brief. It will set your mind at ease that they understand the brief and also gives the designer the opportunity to ask any further questions).
Of course someone else may do it differently, this is just my way!