How to Write the Perfect Design Brief
If a design project is really going to tick all the boxes, then everyone working on it needs to be on the same page from day one. And there’s one surefire way of ensuring that all creatives have the same goal in mind: a clear, comprehensive design brief.
A well-written design brief will clearly outline the goals of the project, giving everyone involved all the information they need to create a successful project that meets expectations - or even surpasses them.
In this article, we’ll talk you through all you need to know about the art of writing a good design brief, giving you the inside scoop on what goes into the best design briefs and why they’re so important in creative project planning.
Read on for a complete guide to the all-powerful design brief.
What is a design brief?
In its simplest form, a design brief is a thorough description of a design project. It should outline what the project is, why it’s needed and what the intended outcome of the project might be.
Design briefs often detail proposed solutions to previously identified issues that customers might be facing and will also give design teams data and information on the specific target demographics that their design should appeal to.
Creatives are often faced with design projects that lack clear direction, and that’s usually down to the fact that the design brief has been overlooked at an early stage.
Having a good design brief ensures clarity, and that helps to reduce the likelihood of endless revisions as the project progresses. This, of course, saves time and money (along with designers’ sanity!).
Projects that lack a good design brief, on the other hand, are far more open to common issues like scope creep and miscommunication. A lack of direction can also dramatically increase the risk of the project overrunning or overstretching budgets as more and more changes are requested.
In our experience, the brief is one of the most important parts of the design process. It's always worth spending time focusing on the brief to ensure it's as clear and detailed as possible.
The benefits of a design brief
There are many benefits to creating a good design brief within the initial stages of the project planning process. Let’s take a look at some of the key reasons to prioritize a design brief in your next project.
7 things to include in your design brief
Design briefs vary from project to project, with some requiring far more detail than others. However, there are a few elements that should be included in every design brief, as without them, design teams simply won’t have the information they need to be able to create a solution that really works for everyone.
Here are seven things to include in your next design brief.
Overview of the project
Design briefs begin with a comprehensive overview of the project itself.
Don’t be afraid to go into detail here, as this will be used to introduce designers and stakeholders to the project at hand.
The overview will explain what the project is and what it’s for. You might want to include details such as branding information or a guide to color schemes at this point.
Description of your company
If you’re working with external designers and creatives, be aware that they may not have a thorough understanding of your company and what it does.
We always recommend that design briefs include a brief yet informative description of the company that the design is intended for. Make sure those who read it can quickly grasp what your company does and which problems it intends to solve.
Information about your customers
Every company has a number of different customer groups. It’s likely that your project will target a specific group or a combination of groups. Ensure that your design brief is clear about who the project is intended for.
Explain who these customers are, what their pain points are and which of their specific issues your project intends to address. Provide data on these customers, along with as much information as you have, that might give your designers a better idea of how they think.
Objective of the project
Design projects vary quite significantly in their objectives, which is why the objective of the project is a must-have in any design brief. Simply explain why the project is being started and what the reasoning is behind it.
Bear in mind that the success of any project should be measured against its initial objectives, so this is your chance to make sure the final product really does what you need it to do.
Scope of the project
The scope section will allow you to outline the boundaries of the project. This is hugely important, as any vagueness around scope leaves the project vulnerable to scope creep as it progresses.
Be clear about deadlines and the deliverables of your project here so that any scope creep can be nipped in the bud in the early stages.
Think about when the final product will be needed by, and set your final deadline based around this date.
Being clear about your project timeline is crucial in ensuring effective design project management, and it really will help your design teams understand what they’re dealing with.
Remember to be realistic about timings, as you won’t want your creatives to feel rushed or demotivated by unrealistic expectations.
If necessary, involve designers in conversations around deadlines to ensure that your goals are achievable before announcing them to the whole team.
It’s likely that you have a set budget for your design project, so you’ll want to include details on this in the design brief. Be clear about what is expected and how much cash your design team has to play with, bearing in mind the stated scope of the project.
Design projects are vulnerable to unexpected costs, often as a result of last-minute changes. Make sure you have a contingency for these, just in case the project does come up against an issue or two as it approaches deadline day.
Our top tips for writing a design brief
Writing a design brief is easy. Writing one that really works for your team and provides them with every little nugget of information that they need, however, can be far more difficult. Take a look at the top tips from our experts to learn how to create the perfect design brief.
Define your problem
Clarity is everything when you’re writing any brief. And in design briefs, it couldn't be more important.
Define the problem as clearly as you can, bringing in data and other information that might support your findings. You’ll want your design team to understand the problem your company is facing just as well as you do.
Be as specific as possible
If you leave anything open to interpretation, you need to be ready for a number of different responses to your statements. And this can cause havoc in design projects, where cohesive work really is everything. For this reason, we always recommend being specific when drafting a design brief.
Once your brief is ready, wait a while and read through it to check for any areas that might seem vague. If anything isn’t crystal clear, take the time to clarify these points before sharing the brief with your team.
Use recent data to estimate timeframes
Estimating a realistic timeframe for a design project is sometimes easier said than done.
Often, design projects involve a number of different professionals, and in many cases these team members might be external, or based remotely. This can really throw a spanner in the works of timeframe estimations, but it’s important to be as accurate as possible.
It’s a good idea to check back over data on recent projects, to give yourself a good idea of how long you can expect different elements of a project to take.
Recent data, particularly if you’re working with the same design team, will provide you with the information you need to make informed approximations on timeframe - and that should put you in a good place to set those all-important project deadlines.
Involve design teams from day one
Work on design briefs shouldn’t be undertaken in isolation. Communication is key in any project, and this starts right from the briefing stage.
If your project is complex, or you’re unclear about anything from timeframes to what might be possible within your budget, it’s a good idea to start the conversation with your designers early on.
Use project management software for design agencies to communicate with your design teams on upcoming projects, and start inviting designers and creatives to meetings to discuss project goals before a brief is finalized. The more information you can gather at this stage, the more successful your brief (and therefore your final product) is likely to be.
Hello Ivy is the design project management software you need to create design projects that do everything they need to - and more. With Hello Ivy, your teams can really excel on delivering projects that meet the brief and surpass the expectations of target audiences.
The project management tool has been created exclusively for design teams. Combining everything from projects, tasks, design files, feedback loops and communication, Hello Ivy puts everything design teams need in a single, easily accessible place, and that gives them the power to create truly outstanding products.