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How to create a design brief

Last updated

27 April 2023

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Before you start any design project, you need a clear picture of where you intend to go with that project. Creating a design brief can help ensure everyone in the design team is on the same page regarding your target audience, the design process, and notable elements of the design. It can also help keep your project on track. 

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What is a design brief?

A design brief is a document laying out the essentials of your design project. 

It may include elements like:

  • A basic overview, including any core details for delivering an effective project result

  • The project goals and objectives 

  • The project’s target audience

  • Any specific design requirements

  • The project budget

  • The project’s schedule, including critical deadlines

A well-written design brief can simplify design decisions and streamline the entire process. 

Design brief vs. creative brief: The key difference

Project management documents can vary depending on the type of design project. 

A creative brief is an overview of the project as a whole: Its goals, objectives, and key messaging. 

A design brief lays out the visual elements of the project, including notes about goals and imagery. 

A comprehensive design brief may include some of the elements of the creative brief. 

Who should write a design brief?

Typically, the design team and client collaborate to put the brief together. 

The client may have design ideas or previous designs to include in the creative brief. The designer can use the design brief to ensure they have a solid understanding of all project elements. 

A design brief is an excellent start to any design project, whether you're planning a relatively simple design or a larger, more complex project. 

How to write a design brief: Key elements to include

Several key elements make up any quality design brief. Ensuring your brief has these components ensures you're well-prepared for your upcoming project. 

Project scope and overview

As you create your design brief, clearly lay out the project scope. 

In some cases, scope creep can be a serious problem. Professional designers encounter clients who try to convince them to do extra work or complete other tasks, despite being outside the original project's scope. 

Defining the scope at outset puts designers in a better position to negotiate if the client tries to add to the project. 

Design goals 

It's critical to lay out clear project goals in your design brief.

What specific goal is the client hoping to accomplish with this project? 

For example: 

  • A web design project might aim to attract potential customers to the website.

  • A game design project might aim to create a compelling game that players can’t wait to try, with fantastic graphics and an easy-to-use interface. 

Understanding the goals of the design project can make it easier for designers and clients to ensure they’re on the same page. 

Budget and timeline

Clients often have highly specific project budgets. Designers need to understand that budget to determine how it compares to their hourly rate and the appropriate tools for the project. 

It's also important to note how a budget may impact deliverables since it determines what clients can afford. If the client has tight budget constraints, the designer can help them develop alternative solutions that may better fit their overall budget and needs. 

The design brief should also include a timeline for completing various project elements. 

It may need to include critical milestones that layout when you need to deliver pieces of the project and an overall timeline that defines when you should complete the project. 

Competitor analysis

In today's market, a successful project needs to include an analysis of what the client's competitors are already accomplishing within the industry. 

You may want to include a close look at relevant details like: 

  • Competitors' project scopes

  • What project elements their customers appreciate most

  • The client's place in the market, compared to those competitors

Competitor analysis templates

Target audience

A solid design brief will closely examine the project's target audience. This can impact the type of project and how the designer approaches it. 

For example, it may need to include things like the target audience's: 

  • Age range

  • Geographic location

  • Psychographics

  • Interests

Creating a comprehensive audience persona can help the designer with many key project details. 

Deliverables

A vital part of the design brief is laying out how the end deliverables will look. 

It may include things like:

  • Access to documents related to the design or design process

  • The overall project scope, including the specific products the designer needs to deliver

  • Information about edits or alterations

Laying out the project deliverables can make it easier for designers to keep up with their responsibilities as they work on the project. 

Design brief templates

You can choose from plenty of design brief templates as you work toward creating your own.

Smartsheet

Smartsheet has a quick design brief template that includes all the basic details in one easy form. It offers a quick, one-page glance at the project's key details, making it easy for designers to learn more about their clients' objectives and stay on track.

The Smartsheet template is ideal for a quick look at a design project and clearly lays out many essential elements. Still, it may not offer the in-depth look some designers want as they proceed with a design project. 

Hello Bonsai

Hello Bonsai offers a free standard graphic design brief template that lays out the details of the graphic design process and what elements the project will likely need to have. You need to sign up with an account with Hello Bonsai to access this template. 

The brief template is ideal for graphic designers. It contains many standard contract terms and clauses, making it easier to ensure you have a clear contract with all relevant details. 

UX Design

UX Design created a design brief template focused on the overall user experience. Its layout focuses on the project's goals, including KPIs, UX metrics, and relevant benchmarks. It also asks critical questions about the project's target audience. 

This template focuses on the overall user experience with a design project. It may be ideal for designs that focus heavily on how users interact with content, such as gaming. 

A design brief can make a big difference for clients and designers as it keeps everyone on the same page. Therefore, you should create a design brief focusing on your requirements.

FAQs

How long is a design brief?

A design brief is usually just 1–2 pages long. Its purpose is to quickly clarify the details of a creative project. 

Why is it called a design brief?

A design brief provides the design agency or designer with a "brief" look at the work they must do on a specific project. It offers a quick overview of the project details, which designers can refer back to as they work. 

What are the types of design briefs?

You can choose from many types of design briefs, depending on the project you're completing.

For example, design briefs can include:

  • Simple design briefs for basic designs

  • Building design briefs for building projects

  • Graphic design briefs for virtual deliverables

  • UX design briefs, focusing on user experience and how the designer can enhance it

  • Web design briefs, which lay out the basic design of a website

  • Logo design briefs, which can give designers an idea of elements and a client’s vision

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