11 simple steps on how to write a design brief correctly

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 26 April 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A design brief is a foundational document for a project with the purpose of communicating its expectations, ideas and specifications. It creates the foundation of a design project and ensures clear communication for all tasks involved. Having a well-thought-out design brief can help a project run smoothly and efficiently. In this article, we discuss how to write a design brief and why having one is important.

How to write a design brief correctly

Here are the steps you can follow to write a design brief:

1. Pick a platform

An important factor of a design brief is that multiple parties have access to it. The design brief is the document used to set out the direction and overall scope of the project. Therefore, writing it on an accessible platform helps improve the efficiency of communication between everyone involved. Common platforms for design briefs often encourage collaboration by document sharing. These platforms mean that stakeholders don't have to use email to change or update information.

2. Start with important information

The introductory section lays out important information such as the project name, the client or company name, the project owner and stakeholders. You might also include key contact details of everyone involved and what each person is responsible for. Having this information at the beginning of the document allows for easy reference whenever anyone needs to ask a question. They can easily find out who is best the best person to answer their query, speeding up communication and project progress.

3. Confirm overall timelines

Confirming project timelines from the beginning can make sure deadlines remain in focus and are met. Starting the document with timelines clarifies the details about which tasks are to happen and when. Everyone involved in the project needs to be aware of the completion date and this is made clear in the design brief. Having an overarching timeline helps you organise your calendar and, if necessary, rearrange other tasks.

Related: Project management skills and how to improve them

4. Create a business overview

A business overview indicates to stakeholders the necessary context of the project. In this section, you can lay out any relevant information about the business such as the company's size and the industry it operates in. This is also an excellent moment to discuss the brand and core values. Providing context at the start of the document can inspire and set the tone for everyone reading it. For example, if the company has a strong, well-known brand, this might inspire a particular design for the finished product.

5. Set the project scope

In this section, you can lay out the scope of the project. The scope describes the 'what' and 'why' of a project - the reason behind it happening. Start with the overall scope and bring in specific details to give a thorough description of what the project sets out to achieve. For example, if you need printed illustrations, you can mention the general look and design of the images and the fact that they are images for print use rather than for online use. This information might change how the designers approach the tasks, the file types and sizes and the colours used.

Related: 6 essential graphic designer skills

6. Understanding competitors

A section about competitors can help you identify what makes your product and service unique compared to those offered by other companies. When you see who you're competing with, it can inspire new and fresh ideas that might set you apart. This knowledge can also help the design team create something that truly reflects the company's brand and identity.

In addition, knowing what makes competitors' products or services stand out can strike inspiration among the design team. Gathering background information about a popular competitor can provide new insights into why consumers choose to purchase. This can lead to a stronger campaign as it gives you a deeper understanding of why people buy.

7. Set objectives

This is an important step in the design brief. Setting clear and measurable goals and objectives can help a team meet deadlines on time. Strong objectives are concrete success measures when working towards a goal. For example, an objective might be reaching 100,000 people via a social media campaign. An unambiguous aim from the beginning can help ensure that the right number of people are in the best roles for the project. Bigger objectives might need more people, so the hiring strategy could change based on the design brief.

Read more: How to develop SMART goals

8. Decide on the target audience

A clear description of the target audience in the design brief can improve the chances of success in the project as it can help narrow the focus of designs. This section describes who the target audience is, what they like, where they live, how they spend their time and other relevant factors about them. Knowing this, designers can create a campaign that applies to this particular audience.

When writing this section, you might want to think about building a customer persona. This is an imaginary person who represents the wider audience you want to target. This is a chance to dive into any challenges they have that you want to solve through the campaign.

9. Confirm the budget

Understanding the budget, if there is one, is a critical part of the process. Ensuring all parties involved know what constraints and expectations they have from the beginning can save time further down the line. It can also increase the chances of success for the project: the correct designs happen using the best materials sourced within budget. It can be useful to check if the budget is both flexible and realistic. Sometimes unexpected costs can happen. Creating some buffer to prepare for unplanned expenditure might prevent the project going over budget if it does happen.

10. Confirm what success looks like

Aligning on the deliverables of a project and confirming what success looks like is a pivotal part of the design brief. This is the section that ties everything together, so it can be worth spending time to get it right. Even minor misunderstandings can cause delays or unexpected costs.

Try to be as specific as possible here. For example, specify the file format in which to save the designs or how many marketing flyers to print. It can be helpful to ensure that each metric includes numbers to help indicate whether the goal is successful. This section can be referred to when designers are submitting their work.

11. Add any other relevant information

This may vary for each project. If there is anything else to include, this is a good place for such information. For example, you might want to give priority to some features or creative ideas over others or name the person who has final approval of the overall project. It can also be a place to add useful links to help the designers, such as a link to the company website or their social media platforms.

Why is a design brief important?

A design brief documents all the important aspects of a project and communicates your requirements to designers. It defines what the client wants, what the designer needs to do and what success looks like. In many ways, it guides the project towards success and details any boundaries that might exist.

A strong design brief helps you make sure there is a complete agreement between everyone involved. This is important because it aligns expectations and clarifies all parties' understanding of what the goals and objectives are. The information written in a design brief varies for each project, but it might include an overview and scope, what the timelines are, any information about the target audience and the budget.

Tips on creating a design brief

Here are some tips for creating a design brief:

  • Make sure it's accessible to all parties involved. This might involve granting document access to all stakeholders and using a platform that encourages collaboration.

  • Keep it up to date. If there are any changes to the design brief, it's important to update it as soon as possible.

  • Communicate any changes quickly. This is particularly important if it's a big change such as, for example, a budget increase. This also realigns expectations and ensures everyone is continuing to work towards the same goal.

  • We consider a finished design brief to be complete after the project is complete. The design brief can evolve many times throughout a project. When all parties involved know this, their involvement in the document is maintained until the project completes.

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