What is a Design Brief?

It’s a term we throw around the studio all the time and something we won’t start a project without! But for many clients, they want to know: What is a design brief?

Briefs come in all shapes and sizes and as a designer, it is best practice to for us to understand the project at hand before we get to work on the design concept.

So, what is a design brief? A design brief articulates the desired results and the businesses, persons or organisations need for the design. Rather than focusing on aesthetics, a design brief is what outlines your project goals and objectives. As a client, it is essential to the success of your project that the brief clarifies that we have understood you and your project requirements correctly. Below are a few points we like to give our clients to follow in order to build your design brief:

1. Know who you are as a business.

  • New or established business
  • Product/service offering
  • Point of difference
  • Key brand themes and objectives
  • Business scope

2. Clearly define your project objective.

  • What is the purpose of the project?
  • Is it to educate your audience on a new product/service?
  • Is it to develop a new business brand?
  • Is it to create a website that is easy to navigate for clients and clearly defines your service offerings?

3. What are the design considerations?

  • Market influences, such as customers & competitors
  • Other design materials
  • Is it a new or existing business?
  • What is the context of the design?
  • How will the design be delivered? ie; print or digital
  • Inspiring brands, websites and campaigns
  • Most important message to be communicated to your market

4. Know your target market.

  • Who are they?
  • Where are they located?
  • What is their buying motivations?

5. What is your project timeframe?

  • Project schedule & stages

6. How will the success of the project be measured?

  • Sales growth
  • New clients
  • Repeat clients
  • Increased brand awareness
  • Internal management structures

7. Project specifications and scope

  • Print requirements
  • Digital requirements
  • Copywriting requirements
  • Photography requirements

When we develop design briefs for projects, we pull information collected from conversations and discussions that we’ve had with our clients about the project using the points above. With each of our briefs we encourage clients to correct us if we have mis-heard or mis-understood anything so that we have a clear understanding of the project before we get started on the creative and design component of the project.

When developing a design brief, we will supply this to the client with a mood board (read more about what is a mood board here. A mood board is visual reference of found images for the client to review in conjunction with the design brief.

We will continually refer back to your mood board and design brief as we work on your project to ensure the project doesn’t run off course.

If you have any questions regarding your design brief, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Abby’s Japanese Adventure

I don’t think I’ve ever disguised my love of Japan…I love it’s food and culture. Recently I was lucky enough to return for the third time to see the sights, taste the delights and enjoy some cultural inspiration.

My first trip to Japan was to visit our Head Bear Handler Clare, whilst she was working there way back in 2005. This is where I got my first taste of Japan and love of travel. We experienced great food, explored cities, remote towns and even climbed Mount Fuji…It was a truly great trip and a place I had always wanted to return to. I was lucky enough to get back there again last year for my honeymoon, where I experienced the beautiful nature and powdery soft snow in Niseko. Again, I felt I wanted to go back, so we booked in another trip back to Niseko and explored the beautiful cities of Hiroshima, Osaka, Kyoto and Tokyo.

Again, I have come back truly excited and inspired by their weird and somewhat wacky designs and visual communication tools that Japan uses as part of their advertising and marketing of products. I love their use of characters and animation and how widely used Hello Kitty is used throughout the regions of Japan.

As always, we like to keep you up-to-date with what we do in and out of the studio, so I thought I’d share a few holiday snaps! See below:









Google Helps Users Find Mobile ‘Friendly’ Sites

I don’t know about you, but I find it pretty frustrating when I find a website that I want to check out on my phone, only to find that I have to ‘zoom in’ and ‘expand’ to read the site content because it’s not optimised for ‘hand-held’ devices.

Lately, we’ve been encouraging clients to build or update their website to be responsive – this means the site is set up to be mobile and tablet ‘friendly’. Now, whilst this is great for user experience and location based searches, it has now become even more beneficial to businesses with Google now promoting sites as ‘Mobile Friendly’ to it’s users accessing the search engine from their phones.

See below an example when searching our own Neon Zoo website:

Neon Zoo website design mobile friendly for google searching

To ensure the ‘Googlebot’ reads your site as optimised, you can check out their latest Google Webmaster blog here to for their handy tips and tricks. Google notes that this is the first step in promoting optimised sites and will look at ranking those sites that are optimised above those that aren’t in future site ranking criteria.

Whilst having an optimised site is beneficial for businesses and their site ranking, it also makes web browsing a better user experience for clients and consumers.



Hip-hip-hooray!!! It’s our 7th Birthday!

Neon Zoo celebrates it's 7th Birthday

We’re very excited to share with you our Birthday today, marking 7 years since we decided to make a ‘go of it’ from our Bar Beach sunroom and start the ‘ZOO’.

Whilst we are little older and wiser, we are still ‘keen as mustard’ about all things design. In the past few years our studio has grown and we now have our loveable and indispensable ‘Zoo Keeper’ Alexa, working to keep us organised.

We would like to say a big THANK YOU to all our friends, family, clients and suppliers for all of your continuing support. Happy Birthday to us!

Design Feedback #101

Recently we have taken on a few new clients, some of which have never been down the path of engaging a designer before. Understandably a lot of them don’t know what is helpful to us when giving feedback on our designs. So that we can better service our clients, we wanted to put together a blog on Design Feedback #101 and develop some guidelines that our clients can follow in order to give us constructive feedback and help the project run a lot smoother.

1. Know what you want from the start.
All projects, big and small should start with a design brief. As designers, we are paid to solve business problems articulated in this brief. When looking at a design concept, remember to refer back to the objectives highlighted in your design brief to see that the design meets them.

2. Remember design is about trying to communicate a message i.e it’s not always about you?
When looking at your designs, try and look at it from the perspective of your clients, as well your own perspective as a business owner. It’s often to good to review the design brief and confirm that the design meets the project goals and objectives.

3. Can’t articulate what your trying to say?
No problem, show us an example. If we haven’t got the tone of blue right or the font isn’t quite what you imagined, show us a picture of something that is closer to what you are after so that we can better understand your feedback.

4. No need to tippy toe
At Neon Zoo honesty is the best policy, if you don’t like something….tell us. We still have feelings though, so let us know when we’ve done something you love!

5. Try and be specific
Although words such as warm, friendly and professional can be used to describe a design, sometimes you need to break it right done and talk about the nitty gritty. Try and be specific about elements you like and dislike.

 Below are some more prompts of helpful feedback that might help you to get started. 

– I’d prefer you to use title case in my business name
– That font is too traditional, can you try something more modern.
These colours are too bright, can you tone them done a little
– I like the icon, but could you do it in green tones instead?
– Can you make the logomark 50% bigger?

– I really like the font you have used, can you try it with the logo mark of the second concept?

Remember if in doubt, talk to us we’re a friendly bunch!

Tips on how to give your designer constructive feedback

Logo vs Branding

At Neon Zoo, we are firm believers that whilst businesses need a logo, great businesses need a brand.

When we work with businesses and organisations, we develop a design brief. This helps us to identify and articulate your key objectives, business goals and target market. When developing a brand, we are  communicating your promise to your customer. It tells them who you are and what they can expect from your products and services.

At the core of your brand is your logo. From this, your website, packaging, stationery and marketing material should encompass your logo and work together to form and communicate your brand. Whilst the logo is a key element, it is just the beginning when forming your brand strategy. Without a consistent and strategic brand, your customers will not be clear on your service offering, quality and standards nor be able to engage in an emotional connection.

Below is a simple synopsis of a logo vs a brand:

A Logo is…
An identifiable symbol or mark that can be easily reproduced as a visual representation of a business or organisation. It often includes colours, shapes and the name of the business.

A brand is…
What is communicated to your audience on top of your logo. It is your service, positioning, messages, visual design, marketing and presence of the product or service to a target market.

Whilst a logo is important, it should not be the only design element to be stamped across all print and digital communication material. For example, if you have a marketing brochure and your logo is stamped all over it, how will anyone know it is yours if your logo is removed. Visual tools that can assist with brand development are brand patterns, colour palettes, positioning statements and language, mascots, icons and photographs.

blog by Newcastle graphic design studio, logo versus branding

Why Re-Brand?

why businesses should re-brand blog

When looking at a businesses values there are several key factors to consider. One of these factor includes tangible vs intangible assets. Tangible assets can include property, equipment and machinery while intangible assets can include intellectual property, customer goodwill and loyalty and brand value and recognition.

Creating brand value is what we aim to achieve with all of our clients ensuring that there is a return on investment.

When clients come to us looking to re-brand their business and the first question we always ask them is, WHY?
Undertaking a task like this requires rational thought and strategy behind it so that we can add value to the businesses identity.

Generally, there are two reasons for a company to re-brand:
1) A company or business is being ‘Reactive’ to various influences in or around their business. This can be, but not limited to:

  • Company restructuring or mergers
  • Negative feedback on services or products
  • Responding to competitior influences
  • Trademarking issues / renewals

2) A company or business is being ‘Proactive’ with their brand and creating influence and change rather than reacting to it. This can be, but not limited to:

  • Business growth
  • New product/service
  • New audience
  • Relevancy

With each of these scenarios, we need to refocus what the core values of the company are and ensure that they are being clearly articulated both verbally and visually.

A common misconception about rebranding is that there needs to be a considerable change made to the brand mark. Often the changes are made to the brand extension by introducing a character or mascot, key communication statements or brand heirachy through sub brands.

Below are few examples of clients that we have re-branded for various reasons:


LEFT: Previous Interrelate Character Illustrations.
RIGHT: Rebranded Character Development by Neon Zoo.

Interrelate Before & After Character Brand re-Design


LEFT: Previous ‘100+ Answers About Puberty’ Book Designs.
RIGHT: Rebranded ‘100+ Questions Kids Have About Puberty’ Book Designs by Neon Zoo.


Interrelate 100+ Books before and after


TOP: Previous Eye Specialists Broadmeadow Logo.
BOTTOM: Logo Re-design by Neon Zoo.

Neon Zoo Newcastle re-design

LEFT: Previous Eye Specialists Broadmeadow Brochure.
RIGHT: Branding and brochure Re-design by Neon Zoo.

Neon Zoo Newcastle re-design

LEFT: Previous Cessnock Hostel Limited Logo.
RIGHT: “Finding Yellow” Brand rejuvenation including Naming, Logo and Branding designed by Neon Zoo.

Newcatsle Branding Design Logo Design Neon Zoo

If you feel your company is changing shape and you need to be ‘Reactive’ or Proactive’ with your business branding, get in touch and give us a call (02) 4009 1376



Cheap Tricks Thursday: What is Responsive Website Design?

Responsive website design is a relatively new design process coined by Ethan Marcotte. This design trend allows users to engage in an optimal viewing experience across desktop, tablet and mobile devices. As the term describes, a website is designed so that it responds and adapts to the format and device in which it is being viewed on, i.e the website adjusts in size and layout according to the device it is being viewed on.

We often get asked by our clients what the primary reasons for building a responsive site is as it is more expensive to develop than a non-responsive site. Here are a few reasons to design and build a responsive website and why it is worth the investment:

  • Responsive design allows your site and therefore your business or organisation to become mobile. It is one thing to have a great, user-friendly desktop site, but if this doesn’t translate when viewed on a mobile device, you could potentially be loosing valuable customer engagement.
  • You can avoid duplicate content. Google hates duplicate content, so rather than developing two sites; a desktop and mobile site, you can maintain your site and content within the one framework making it easier for Google to ‘crawl’ for your content. This only works to benefit your sites SEO (search engine optimisation) as you can promote social sharing via the one URL.
  • It gives your customers a better user experience. Rather than making your customers zoom in to read your website content when accessing it on a mobile device, responsive design reformats the information to display to the actual screen size of the device.
  • Responsive design ensures your site has a competitive advantage within your industry. As a relatively new concept, many published websites haven’t adopted the responsive design process. As tablet and mobile users increase, more and more sites will adapt to the responsive method and invest in their websites future.
  • Google favours mobile-optimised sites when delivering results for searches made on hand held devices. This is highlighted when searches are requested for local services. For example, if you are located in Newcastle this would promote your site ahead of non-local competitors (another reason to keep your Google Places page up-to-date).

Example of Responsive Website Design:

What is responsive website design an explanation by Neon Zoo

Example of a Non-Responsive Website Design:

The difference between responsive and unresponsive website design


If you’d like to talk to us about making your website responsive, please contact us.

What is responsive website design

My Wedding and Honeymoon

Some of you may already know that I recently had a holiday to celebrate my marriage to my partner Luke (which explains the recent name change)! We had a great day celebrating with all of our friends and family and were lucky enough to take off for a few weeks for our honeymoon. As always, travel inspires us here at the ZOO, so we always enjoy sharing our happy snaps with you.

Abby & Luke getting married

Photo courtesy of David Moore Photography.

Abby snowboarding in Niseko, Japan

A great day snowboarding in Grand Hirafu Village, Niseko Japan. You can see Mt Yoti behind me!

Abby snowboarding in Niseko, Japan

Me slowly making my way down the mountain…

Abby & Luke ski holiday, Japan

Luke and I on the chair lift making our way up the mountain for first tracks.

Abby's honeymoon in the Philippines

Ahh… After Japan, we decided to go to the Philippines for some sun and relaxation.

Snorkelling in the Phillipines


The snorkelling and scuba there is amazing.

Drinking out of a coconut in the philipines

Island life… drinking out of a coconut – Yum!

Suset in the Philippines

And last but not least… the sunsets were amazing.

Sadly all good things do come to an end, so I’m now back in the studio and ready to take on new projects at the ZOO!

Back to Basics: Why have a logo?

For us it seems like a ‘no brainer’ that every business should have an logo, so we thought we should go back to basics and outline the benefits of having a logo design for your business.

1. Credibility
For many start up or small businesses, a logo helps to legitimise your business. It shows that you have a professional image and that you are credible…to both clients and business affiliates.

2. Adds Value
By developing a logo for your business, you are adding value and investing in your business. A logo is often seen as an identity for which a business can market itself off. By having this professional identity, you are more attractive to clients, consumers and potential investors.

3. Attracts Clients
Many people shop and purchase visually. Whether a service or product meets a particular aesthetic, looks approachable and reliable can all influence the purchasing decision. By having a logo, you have a visual cue which your clients can relate to.

4. Create a Brand
A logo is the cornerstone of any brand, it helps you to communicate who you are and what you do through a visual icon. A brand is built by culture, values, products and services, it is marketed visually and creates something tangible that your clients and customers can relate to.

5. Be Memorable
According to HubSpot  90% 0f information transmitted to the brain is visual. By having a visual identity such as a logo, this allows your business identity to be more memorable.

6. Differentiate yourself
Often businesses will offer the same product and/or services. A logo helps businesses to visually communicate their ‘difference’, reflect business culture and show the quality and level of service provided.

If you would like to discuss a logo solution for your business or if you would like to take the next step and make your logo a brand, get in touch with us at Neon Zoo.