May 29, 2016

Writing better design briefs

The design brief is the starting point and the bedrock of your project. It states what you’re hoping to achieve and sets the parameters of what you expect your designers to do. It is important to spend enough time constructing your brief – probably in collaboration with your agency – because a good brief will not only guide you through the creative process, it will also allow you to evaluate how successful your project has been once it is completed.

By talking to your designers, as well as the people inside your business, you can make sure that the work you are commissioning fits with the wider aims of the organisation, and ensure that your design consultancy understands those aims.

Is playing it safe with your design the biggest risk of all?

The brief should contain background information about your business, the market you are in, and what you need to achieve. The competition is important too. What’s the landscape of your market? What are competitors doing and is it successful?

Information like this will help you and your design consultancy to present your organisation distinctively, while remaining sensitive to the nature of the sector you work in.

Setting all this down in writing at the outset doesn’t mean that a design brief has to be carved in stone. It provides a foundation for a project on which further discussion can be based. Adjustments can be agreed between the client and consultancy as the project progresses.

When you are in the process of agreeing (or changing) aspects of the brief, make sure it is clear what you expect from the consultancy so everyone communicates effectively. You may, for example, like to have a formal written response to your discussions, or you might be happy for the designers to carry on and simply call you with any questions.

All design is communication, so the brief needs to contain information about the audience you are trying to communicate with. This is especially important since most of us instinctively judge a piece of work on how we respond to it instead of thinking about how the intended audience might respond to it.

There are lots of other things that go into making a good brief, including direction on any constraints to the project, such as brand guidelines, legal requirements or related existing projects. Information about available budgets and timeframes is also vital. The clearer all these parameters are for everyone, the more smoothly the project is likely to run.

The value of a good brief can scarcely be overstated. If everyone knows why the project is being undertaken, what it is trying to achieve, and what the design consultancy is going to do, the results will benefit enormously. Not only that, but by referring back to the aims of the brief after the project is completed you will be able to determine whether your investment was worthwhile.

Briefing Checklist

Our six-point checklist for writing a great brief. Impress your designer and get a better outcome. Everyone’s a winner.

1. Set the scene

Introduce your business. Who are you and what you do? What is your history, how long have you been going? Do you have a website or any other relevant information to help designers get a good grasp of your business?

2. Detail the project

Give as much information as you can about the background to the project. How has the project come about, what is it designed to do, how does it fit with other activities of your business? Importantly, what are the objectives of the project? Give an idea of budget.

3. The marketplace

Describe the market you’re in, the current landscape and what you want to achieve in that market place? Do you have any market research that would be valuable to the designer? Importantly, who is your target audience? Who are your competitors? What do they do well?

4. Delivering

What are the deliverables? A brand, a brochure, brand guidelines? Think about all of the elements you need from the project? Are there any specifications or sizes the designer needs adhere to?

5. Measuring

It’s good to outline what impact you want to make with the project. How do you see the project influencing your organisation? Do you have targets? These can be numbers or goals.

6. Good timing

Do you have any key milestones and deadlines? This is important to establish how achievable your project is.

Once you’ve written your brief, remember to send a copy to Altogether.