What Is a Design Brief?

Posted on March 16, 2022 | Updated on March 16, 2022

Imagine you have a client in need of a beautifully designed brochure. So you find a designer and communicate a rundown of the project’s requirements. Once you receive the design, you find it’s nothing like what you imagined. 

The size is incorrect, and the design doesn’t reflect the target audience or the brand’s personality. In your mind, you may be wondering what went wrong. Unfortunately, situations like this happen more often than not. 

Typically, this situation occurs when the project manager doesn’t provide specifications — and there’s no mutual understanding of the design and color scheme.

However, you can avoid this scenario entirely by providing a design brief. Design briefs are the resources a designer needs for creative execution.

Before discussing how to create a design brief, here is a quick overview of what a design brief is.

What Is a Design Brief?

A design brief is a document with specifics detailing the core requirements of a design project. In a design brief, you’ll notice it covers goals, scope and strategy. Overall, it defines what the designer needs to do within the project timeline and budget constraints. 

Think of a design brief as a blueprint, guiding designers through the overall process from conception to completion.

During a design brief, stakeholders should come to a full agreement on the project’s deliverables, budget, and timeline. Providing an outline of the project confirms everything before the work begins. Essentially, a design brief will save everyone time and money and establish trust throughout the design process.

Having a well-defined brief establishes a direction for the designer and helps them focus on the right tasks to deliver the best work overall.

Who Writes the Design Brief?

On top of wondering what a design brief is, you may also be questioning who writes one. When a client partners with a design agency, they need to write it out. Design briefs are the kickoff for any design project. It should provide an overview of the company, its problems, and expectations.

While the client creates the design brief, the designer should collaborate. Many clients have an idea of how the project should look and the problems it solves. Yet, they may not be familiar with the design process.

In that case, designers will work with the client when finalizing the design brief and establishing the right goals.

What Is in a Design Brief?

An effective design brief needs to be clear and straightforward. Only relevant information should be in a creative brief to provide a good overview of the project. Design briefs will vary depending on the project, but here’s what it includes:

  • Company overview: This section is a brief overview of the company, industry, market and needs. It helps the designer understand who the project is for when creating the solution.
  • Project overview and scope: This part of the design brief explains what the design team will work on for the client.
  • Target Audience: Provides relevant information about the audience, such as demographics, behaviors, habits and more. 
  • Competitors: This section notes competitors, what makes the company unique and customers’ expectations.
  • Project goals: This part focuses on the desired outcomes and solutions.
  • Project timeline: This is the project’s schedule that keeps track of tasks in the expected amount of time.
  • Project budget: This includes an estimated budget for the project’s tasks.

Now that you know the foundation of a design brief, here are the simple steps of creating one.

How to Create a Design Brief

1. Include the Company Overview

Kick off the design brief by laying out the overview of the company’s information. In the outline, you can include basic background information about the company’s size, stage and industry.

In addition to these details, you might also include the brand’s identity, core values, key differentiators and unique selling points. Other information should consist of the company’s point of contact and their contact details. 

The overview section is key because it positions the project’s initial requirements. 

2. Establish the Scope

Once you cover the information about the business, you should include details of what the project entails. This is the project scope, and it provides clear expectations of the overall project. 

For instance, the project may be for a new logo creation. In this example, both parties will agree on the project’s scope and the intentions of the design. 

It’s important to detail the specifics in this part of the design brief. So if the project involves creating a new logo, describe the design expectations in this section. 

3. Define the Target Audience

In design, it always matters who the product is for and not just what you’re creating. Start by defining the target audience by including basic information about age and gender.

Then consider including other relevant details, like hobbies and interests. Answer questions such as when and how they will be using the product. Insert your ideal customer and build a persona around them. 

The overall goal of this section is to outline their traits and problems to solve for the audience.

Here are the following questions to answer when building your persona:

  • Who is the customer of the product or service?
  • How do they use this product?
  • What do they currently have?
  • What are the key pain points your product or service is trying to solve?
  • How does the product or service benefit the customer?
  • Why would they purchase this product?
  • What are customers looking for in a product like yours?

4. List Competitor Information

Every product creation comes with the territory of competing with other companies. So it’s always a good idea to have a basic understanding of the market’s landscape. If you know what makes you different, this drives you to create unique products and stand out from the competition.

Furthermore, this information allows the design team to decide which angle they want to deliver and what will resemble the brand’s identity. 

In this stage, a mood board will offer designers inspiration and an organization of ideas to present to the client.

5. Set Goals

One of the purposes of a design brief is to understand what problem the design team will be solving. For instance, this project could be for a new landing page that attracts more leads. Whatever the case may be, the project’s purpose should be in this section of the design brief.

Setting goals of the design project establishes direction and focus. So if the company needs a landing page, the objective should be to optimize it and test out the placements to attain a higher click-through rate.

6. Establish a Timeline

This part of the design brief establishes expectations for how long each project task will take. This section is important as it gives the design team an estimate of when to finish the project. When laying out a detailed timeline, you will list deadlines for each deliverable. From there, you should set up specific dates. That way, this will keep the designer on track. 

7. Set the Budget

The project’s budget is one of the most important aspects of the design brief. Both parties should agree on the budget as it dictates what work will occur. Furthermore, you should provide a breakdown of services with a budget included for each one.

Create a Design Brief for Project Success

Once you’ve finished creating the design brief and received approval from stakeholders, the designers can now work on the project. Creating a design brief may not be a small task, but it sure helps project success. Remember, the purpose of the design brief is to avoid future hiccups during the design process. Additionally, it sets expectations and serves as a resource between you and the design team to keep things running smoothly.

Related Posts

About The Author

Eleanor Hecks is the Editor-in-Chief of Designerly Magazine, an online publication dedicated to providing in-depth content from the design and marketing industries. When she's not designing or writing code, you can find her exploring the outdoors with her husband and dog in their RV, burning calories at a local Zumba class, or curled up with a good book with her cats Gem and Cali.

You can find more of Eleanor's work at www.eleanorhecks.com.

Leave a Comment