How to Write a Design Brief

Every successful design project begins with a design brief. They enable designers to make good decisions that will translate into the project goals being met. However, it’ can be difficult to write a good brief if you’re not familiar with the process.

This guide will show you how to write one, what goes into a great design brief and why a creative project needs one.


What is a brief?

An effective brief captures the key information about the project, including the design problem, objectives and project KPIs, target audience, scope of the project, and more. It acts as a contract between the client and the design agency and helps to ensure that everyone is on the same page about the creative project and it can be used as a benchmark for project sign off.

Many design decisions are based on the specifications of the brief. It talks in depth about the design problem so that everyone involved can understand how best to meet the project objectives. For this reason, a good design brief can help transform your good ideas into great ones and guarantees you better results.


The importance of writing a creative brief

Briefs are the cornerstone of the design process. They’re your roadmap to communicate your vision to the design team. By writing one, you are giving all the stakeholders involved in the project a mental template on which to base their decisions. It serves as a vital project management tool to bring your design agency and stakeholders on the same page. Without a design brief, designers will have to rely on phone calls or emails to communicate crucial aspects of the project and potential scope creep can impact the overall budget and deadline.

For almost all design-based projects, design briefs are essential. In addition to web design and product design, design briefs have also proven useful in a wide range of other design fields. It essentially functions as a roadmap or a blueprint, informing design decisions and guiding your project’s workflow from conception to completion.

A brief will ensure the agency handling your project understands everything upfront about your business, from the project focus to your brand guidelines.

Here are some tips on how to write an effective design brief so you can get started.


What to include in your brief

Before beginning a project, any company should create a brief for the designer – whether that designer is in-house or freelance.

No two briefs are alike, but as a starting point you should aim to include as much information as possible that would help the design team meet your project needs and objectives. You can also include research, images or mood boards as points of reference.


1. Project overview

Every project is unique, you need a comprehensive overview that will bring the design team up to speed on your business. It should outline the scope of the project, your objectives, any previous design work, known successes and failures, past case studies, key contact information,  project budget and timelines.

2. Project objectives

The next thing to include in your brief is the project objectives. Project objectives help to understand what results you are looking for.

For example:

  • Are you looking to increase brand awareness?
  • Are you looking to gain new customers, retain existing ones, or venture into a different market?
  • What are your expected outcomes on the business performance, including any KPI’s you’d like to achieve?

Apart from conveying your project goals, it’s best to provide any more information about the reasons why your business isn’t achieving the objectives in its current state. The design team can refer back to the brief from the start right through to the end of the project to ensure they align to the project goals and are better placed to tackle the design problem.

3. Existing challenges your business faces

The business ecosystem is marred by many challenges, some of which a new design approach or a rebrand can fix. Your challenges may include things like:

  • Not making enough sales despite aggressive marketing campaigns.
  • Not connecting with the target audience despite heavy social media presence.
  • Lack of customer loyalty evidenced by significant sales or social media subscription fluctuations.

The designers need to understand the root of the problem before they embark on the project. This we’ll help them to make better design decisions.

4. Your target market

The goal of every design project is to appeal to the target audience and get them to take action. Therefore, you need to define who your ideal customer is, their demographics, behaviours and any preferences. Really get to know them, and consider if there are any fonts, colours, styles, phrases or tones that would appeal to them.

5. Your unique selling point

Marketers do it all the time; they focus on a product’s unique selling point(USP). What many people don’t know is that design is as important in depicting the USP as much as marketing is.

6. Benefits of using the product

Knowing what makes your product valuable to the target market is important especially since they will need to tailor the design to convince and retain first-time users of the brand, product or service.

A new product or service will likely have several features and benefits that the target audience will enjoy if they decide to purchase it. Make sure you highlight the benefits of your product or service so they want to try it out.

7. Project-specific information

There are a lot of intricacies that every design project needs to address from a unique angle. Product-specific information captures the information that makes the design work unique and makes it easier to tailor the work to each product.

8. Project deliverables

Project deliverables are the individual items you want to be produced as a result of a process. For example, within a branding project, this could be an eCommerce website design, brochure, marketing materials, product launch material or a redesign of packaging etc.

The most important question is: ‘What deliverables do I expect at the end of the project or at each milestone?

9. Set the tone

In any creative project, from graphic design to copywriting, tone is essential. Provide an adjective list describing how you want your brand or your client to be perceived. These words define the overall personality that should be conveyed. Keeping this section in mind often will help you ensure that your work aligns with those traits.

10. Edit and edit again

Make a second pass through your creative brief once you’ve completed all sections. A creative brief should be kept as simple as possible, and you probably will include far too much information and unnecessary details the first few times you write one.

Ask yourself these questions as you read each section:

  • Does it make sense?
  • Is it relevant to the section’s primary objective?
  • How straightforward and simple is it?

In summary

A design brief is a tool that communicates your vision and project goals to the design team. It will ensure that you get the best results from every project. Don’t forget to include in your brief; the project overview, project objectives, target market, existing challenges, USP, product benefits, and project-specific information.


Need help with a design brief template?

If you need help with creating a brief or bringing to life a new project, get in touch to discuss how we can help. A well-written design brief will help your business grow organically and sustainably. We can provide or help you create such a brief.

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