When I'm accepting a design brief from someone it is important that I understand exactly what the client is looking for. One of my favourite questions to ask is what other brands/ websites do you like? Even if they are unrelated to what the client is branding it still gives me a visual clue about their tastes and their idea of good design.
My other favourite question is what do you not like? When I asked this client both these questions unusually the response included a number of things to avoid due to their prevalence in the sector. I realised these were the icons I would have turned to first and ideas that I have in fact used for other clients in previous work.
But I love a challenge and both the client and I are very pleased with the outcome.