Imagine you’ve got a great DIY project happening at home. Things are going along perfectly until you realize that you forgot to consider a very key element. Suddenly, everything grinds to a halt until you can take care of the problem. At home, that’s something you can deal with. When it happens amid a design problem and impacts a client, the results can be ugly.
Appropriate planning ensures that things like this don’t happen. At home, this may mean writing lists before diving into a project. At work, you need a design brief to ensure that every important item is considered, and dealt with appropriately.
Here, we’ll provide a clear explanation of a design brief and why you should never execute a project without one. After that, we will provide the ten steps you should follow to create a brief for every design project.
What is a Design Brief?
A design brief is a project management document that details the important elements of your project. There is no universally accepted form of this document. However, most contain many same elements such as project scope, details about the intended audience, budget information, and deadlines.
Why is a Brief Necessary For Every Project?
When you present a design brief to your client, it helps start the project off in the most productive way possible. It ensures that you and your client are on the same page. You’ll also be able to confirm things at the start, thus avoiding any conflicts in the future.
Later, if the project unfolds you and your team can rely on the design brief to ensure you are progressing in the right direction. You will know which tasks to prioritize, and it guarantees you don’t miss any important steps. By deciding to go through with the design brief, you also ensure client discipline.
Follow these 10 steps to create your design brief
#1. Provide clear information about the client
Start the brief off by including pertinent details about the client. Be sure to add information such as their niche, size of their business, and how long they’ve been operating.
Next, you can move onto details about their branding, company mission, and what makes them stand out from other businesses in the same niche. Finally, include all relevant contact information.
This section will be very helpful to members of your project team who may need to reference this information throughout the project. It also assures the client that you truly understand them.
#2. Define the project scope in clear terms
Project scope is the clear definition of exactly what your design project will entail and sometimes what it will not. For example, you may be redesigning an old logo or creating a website for a newly launched line of products. Whatever you are doing, it is imperative that you and the client are in complete agreement, and that the scope is included in your design brief.
It’s crucial to be very specific here. For example, if you are designing a landing page, you may need to make it clear that you are only providing front-end design and not completing any back-end development. Leaving out little things can lead to dreaded scope creep.
#3. Clarify the end products
When the project is complete, what physical or digital products will you have provided to your client? Just like it’s important to verify the services you will be providing, it’s also significant to outline the deliverables in very clear terms.
For example, you might agree to design a new logo and give the client files of that logo in three different sizes. At the same time, you may need to clarify that you will not be offering any printed items.
#4. Add relevant details about competitors as related to the project
When companies contract out Design Services, one of their goals is often to outpace their competitors in some way. Because of that, it’s a good idea to have some understanding of whom they’re competing against, and what those are bringing to the table.
This will help you to better understand how your client is positioned in comparison. You will also be able to see what makes your client unique. Then, you can detail how you’re going to use that to create a design that will help them stand out.
#5. Create a description of the target audience
Nobody knows their customers better than your client. Ideally, they will have a clear customer Persona to provide to you. If they do not, you may need to construct one out of the information that you do have. Without this information, it’s difficult to understand preferences, let alone the problem the target audience is trying to solve.
You may need to ask your clients I’m leaving questions to get them to share useful information about their customer base. For example, what are the demographics of your customers? Why are they buying your products? What kinds of frustrations are they currently experiencing?
#6. Detail the project’s goals
You’ve gone over the products that you’ll be providing to your client. Now, it’s time to clarify the project goals. Essentially, you want to know what the client wants to see or experience to deem the project a success.
Keep in mind that this is not the same as the project deliverables. This is the business goal(s) that the final product will help them accomplish. For example, a better logo might improve brand awareness. A new set of landing pages might increase sales of a particular product by 20% or more.
Finally, while it is important to list the project goals, be aware that there are business impacts that are likely to be outside your control. The purpose of listing goals is to increase understanding. It should not be taken as your guarantee that your design work will result in any particular outcome, other than delivering the products as agreed to.
#7. List of any existing assets
Assets are files, manuals, design guides, and other materials that will be made available to you during the project. These are items that will give you some guidance in terms of what branding standards are and help ensure that you are not working entirely from scratch.
For example, you may be given access to the client’s digital assets library that has copies of logos, color schemes, letterhead, and headshots of company executives. You can then use those in your project with the understanding that everything in that library is up to branding standards.
#8. Outline the budget
No project should start until both you and the client have agreed on the budget. A portion of your design brief should be dedicated to giving a breakdown of the specific services you are providing and the cost of each.
Also, consider adding in some conditions that allow you to seek additional compensation should they change the scope of the project, or if you run into issues that are beyond your control. For large projects, it may be helpful to agree on the budget being held in escrow and funds being released as different milestones are accomplished.
#9. Set important deadlines
This step is mostly for larger projects where there may be multiple deliverables that require approval before moving onto the next stage. Your design brief should detail every meaningful deadline, who is responsible for ensuring it is met, and the stakeholder who is responsible for signing off on it. Here’s an example:
Initial prototypes completed by October 23rd, delivered by Jonathon Miller, tested and approved by Alice Jones on or before November 15th.
People on all sides of the transaction must have a role in determining what the deadlines should be. This way, nobody feels as if they are pressured to deliver something in an unreasonable amount of time or wait too long for an important deliverable.
#10. Write a summary statement
Your direct project contact will want to know all the details you include in the design brief. However, there may be other stakeholders who want a more abridged version.
Help them out, and expedite the approval process by adding a brief summary paragraph or two at the end of the document. This should repeat the key points covered and will likely help expedite any approval process that is in place.
Final Thoughts: Use Design Briefs For Better Outcomes
With a well-written design brief, you can truly avoid some of the biggest issues that impact design projects. This document will ensure that you and your client are on the same page. It can act as a roadmap for members of your team.
Most importantly, it can help you provide the best possible service to your valued clients. While there is no official format for a design brief, you may find it helpful to create a template that you can use to produce briefs as easily as possible. This will help automate the process while also ensuring that nothing important is overlooked.
About the Author!
Jessica Fender is a copywriter and blogger at PapersOwl with a background in marketing and sales. She enjoys sharing her experience with like-minded professionals who aim to provide customers with high-quality services.