First, establish the person that you will be speaking with during the whole process. Find out if it is easier to speak with them over the phone, by e-mail, an instant messenger of some sort like AOL or Skype , or in person. Ideally for the whole process, it would be best to have meetings with your client in person. It is easier to gather all the information needed and understand how they work a bit clearer. Also, you can see the client's reaction immediately to the samples you show them. Plus, it is easier to state your reasoning behind your concept or persuade them to make a better decision, which might get lost in translation through e-mail. Since not everyone can meet in person, it is important to know the contact information for anyone you are expected to discuss your ideas.
It is important that you find out the background information on the company, because you do not want to be heading in one direction than find out that is not how they perceive themselves or want to be perceive. Find out their history and a summary of what their company is all about. What services do they provide? I like to find out what is their website and if they have tag line or some sort of slogan. If it is a logo redesign ask them why they would like to revise their logo. Their answers can be they want to update it or it possibly be that they never liked it.
Who is their target market?
This will give you a better idea if you should create a very fancy and cutting edge look or a more conservative look. Ask what is their demographic and who is their ideal customer. It is best to find out who are their competitors. I created a logo for a pest control company and they provided me with who their main competitors are. I researched them and saw what they created and steered away from any of their ideas. I had one idea that I had to scratch which I thought was a good idea, until I did my research and saw it was done before.
After all the information about their company is gathered, it is time to find out how they want their corporate identity to look like. Try to find out what the logo would like to say about the company, because designing a logo for an accounting firm will not be the same for creating a logo for a heavy metal rock band. What can also help, is finding out what logos appeal to them and if they would like a similar but original look. It is very useful to find out what colors they would like to have. The client is going to get a black and white version off the bat, but they will need a color version for the web and printed items. A logo should look good in black and white as well as in color. A determining factor for the amount of colors the logo has to do with printing costs. Even though printing 4 colors can be rather inexpensive, printing stationaries, business cards, and other identity collateral can become costly if the company has many employees. Knowing the meanings behind colors can help on your quest whether or not they provide you with colors. Another question that I ask or have the client fill out, will they be need a stationary and business card. Sometimes a company wants a logo and not the whole corporate identity package. If there is any additional details that may not have been asked or mentioned, have that written down.
If you are having a meeting with your client or taking all of their information over the phone, make sure that the client has a copy. Tell your client to keep this for their records. This design brief is only a guideline, the concept and execution is where the fun begins. I hope this was useful and if there is anything that you think should be added, do not hesitate to comment.