1. Be clear in your own mind.
First up, make sure you know what the project is and what it is about. What are its purposes? What are its aims? Who is it targeted towards? Is it for internal church purposes? Or is it something which you'll be sending out into the community around you? What is the core message that you are wanting to communicate through this project? What, if any, are the secondary messages? If the answers to these questions are not clear in your own mind, and if you haven't communicated them clearly in your brief, then your designer will need to flex their mind-reading abilities, and that doesn't usually end well!
In short, know what you want!
2. Have all your content finalised before you send the brief through.
I'll let you in on a little secret... receiving a design brief without complete and finalised content is right up the top of every designer's pet peeve list. For the sake of their sanity (and your ongoing relationship with them!) make sure that all the content you want to appear in the completed product is confirmed and communicated to your designer before he or she makes a start on it.
Right from the outset, our designing process needs to consider the number, type and arrangement of the elements which need to be incorporated, or the amount of text that needs to be accommodated or the space required to include the church's contact details and website address and so on. Being asked to later slip two extra sentences in or include a newly devised subtitle can create a significant amount of extra work for your designer and will often add to the bottom line of the invoice they'll be sending you!
The design project is a collaboration between you and your designer.
3. Provide logo files in the correct file type.
Chances are that you'll want to include your logo in most of your projects. However, not all logo files are equal. For all non-digital (ie. print) projects your designer needs high resolution image files (320dpi+), otherwise the final printed product will turn out pixelated. So, as you prepare your project check that the logo files you have are hi-res. Sadly though, not all hi-res logos are equal either. If you send your designer a vector logo (.eps or .ai) they'll love you. If you send them a hi-res transparent or layered raster logo (.png or .psd) they might still talk to you. If you send them a hi-res raster logo (.jpg and some .pngs) then brace yourself.
If you don't know what any of that means or what type of files you have, just ask your designer. But make sure you ask them well ahead of when you expect them to commence work on the project.
4. Be directive...
You might think that designers operate best when they have completely free aesthetic reign. However, that is not always, or even usually, true. The design project is a collaboration between you and your designer. You want an end product that corresponds with the answers to the questions we asked back in Tip #1 and which is also an appropriate reflection of your church's identity. We want to give you an end product which looks good, communicates effectively and with which you are happy. So, if you have a particular concept in mind, or ideas about the visual aesthetic you are after, or suggestions about the type of photo you'd like us to try out - tell us!
5. Don't be too directive.
There is a difference between giving us some helpful direction and expecting us to produce nothing less than the exact finished product that you can see in your mind's eye. Be prepared to not hold your ideas and suggestions too tightly and be ready to be a little flexible. Of course, every first draft that a designer will send you is just that, a draft. They'll be looking for you to give them specific feedback so they can improve it for you. But keep in mind that they are trained professionals and if they gently suggest an alternative to what you have in mind, there is probably a very a good reason for it!
No requests for comic sans. Ever.