How to write a Design Brief
Starting the design process to right way
Writing a design brief is one of – if not - the most important step in your design project. Whether it is for a web, interaction, print, illustrative work, the brief pulls together all the information for the project. It is as useful for yourself as for your designer. A good design brief sets out the expectations, project goals and influences in the design – in effect, making sure you get the most out process and get the best design at the end.
The below questions will help you write your own design brief. Designers will have questions specific to the type of project you are hiring them for – but these are a great start to get the ball rolling.
By providing as much information as possible, you ensure that the design project will be slick, and the end product as effective as possible.
Don’t be overwhelmed by the list below, you will already have most of the information to hand. Whether it is in your marketing plan, business plan, campaign research etc. The design brief will pull all the information into one place.
What is your business?
You are the best person to educate your designer about your industry area, company and products. A designer is, of course, enthusiastic to find out all about you – but the history and passion you bring will make the project even more effective.
- What does your company do?
- Describe your business in three words.
- Who are your main competitors?
- What makes you different?
Who is the project aimed at?
The demographics of the audience are very important. A designer will use this information to inform all their design choices, from the large, like what solution is best for your business, to the smaller details like font choice.
- What are the key demographics that the project is aimed at.
- Including age, sex, profession, likes, dislikes.
- What motivates your customers to interact with your product/service?
What are your project goals and expected outcomes?
By setting out the expectations and aspirations at the start, it sets the tone of the project. Think both business and personal goals you want to achieve.
- Why are you hiring a designer? What is the main objective of the project?
- How will the project contribute to your business aims?
- For example, will it be aimed at a new audience, sell a new product or change a perception.
Do you have any assets you’d like to include?
This covers anything that the designer will need to create the design. From your logo to any images you want to integrate. If you need images for the design, speak with your designer as they can advise on the best places to find stock or on how to commission a photographer or illustrator if needed. It is very important that you either use open source images or own the copyright to all the images and assets that you use.
- Do you have any brand assets – logo, branding guidelines etc.
- Do you have any images you would like to use? Photographs, illustrations, diagrams?
- Do you have and text you’d like to include?
- If you need image assets, who will provide these? If you want to select your own, your designer can recommend the best places to find what you need. Do we need to commission a photographer or use stock sources? Designers are very skilled in art directing and have a network of people they can recommend if you need assets creating.
Specifying all you know about the project will ensure that everything produced will be the right size and dimensions.
- What size do you need the design?
- How will the design be used? In print, on the web, in large format?
- What are the deliverables? For example a branding, brochure or website.
- What file formats do you need the design in?
- Any other specifications that will be important for the designer to know.
Any design precedents?
This gives a great opportunity to explain to the designer ideas you already have. From my own experience, verbal references can be interpreted a number of ways. To have a collection of visual references that you like really helps to start the design process off in the right direction. Best ways to collate any images include making a mood board with Pinterest or Google Drive.
- Have you seen anything you like the look of? Why do you think these are effective?
- What has your company used previously? Were these effective and deliver the results you wanted?
- Is there anything you dislike? This is as important as the references you like as it rules out specific design directions right at the start. Don’t like pink, say so.
What is the budget?
Talking about money can be intimidating, especially at the start of your working relationship, but honestly it makes for a better design project. A good designer can adapt their costs to include more or less elements in the project to adapt your budget. That said, if the budget were too low a designer can happily advise on a more suitable budget.
If you have never commissioned a designer before, not to worry, they can advise and give an outline of their costs.
But remember the idiom, ‘you get what you pay for’. Quality design will help your business in more ways can you can think, so please set aside a good budget when commissioning design work.
What are the project timeframes?
If you have a hard deadline or a soft launch date include this. The designer will be able to see if they have the available time in the schedule and advise on expected completion dates based on their knowledge.
Great design takes time and a number of different processes. Giving your project plenty of time will get you the best results from the work.
Key contact information
It is really important that a designer is able to contact you and talk over the scope of the work.
- Who is the key decision maker in the project? For example, is it you, your team or your boss?
- What is your phone number and other contact information?
A .doc of the questionnaire I provide to my own clients can be found here. Feel free to download and fill it out over a nice cup of tea.
What's next in the process?
Once you've gone over the questions above, personally, I'd make a cup of tea and jump on a call to talk over everything, ask a few questions and generally say hi.
All the information gathered would then be used to form a part of a project proposal. This pulls together all the information about the project, predicted timeframes, costs and a note on potential creative directions the project can take.
Do you want to ask a question or talk about a project? Email us and email@example.com.