Design Briefs: How to Write an Effective Design Brief (With Proven Samples)

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When you’re hiring a designer for your brand, you want to ensure they can truly bring your vision to life.

The problem is that if you don’t accurately convey your ideas to that designer or design team, you might end up with something completely misaligned from your vision.

After all, the designer can only work with the information you give them. If you don’t provide them with everything they need, they’ll be left to fill in the blanks with their own creativity.

Sometimes that might be fine. But if you can envision what your project should look like, it can be frustrating when that’s not what you end up with.

That’s where the design brief comes in.

In this article, you’ll learn what a design brief is and everything you need to know about creating a design brief for your next project.

What is a design brief?

A design brief is a document that companies can use when hiring a graphic designer. It’s where you’ll communicate, clearly and precisely, what you’re looking for in the project, design work, or campaign.

Let’s say your company is planning a full rebrand of your website.

You’ve got a pretty good idea of what you want and what your goals are, and you’ve identified a few designers you think might be the right fit.

You would send those designers a design brief, in which you’ll share the following information: 

  • A synopsis or rundown of your business
  • The goals and objectives of the project
  • An overview of your target audience
  • Specific details on the project
  • Any specific brand identity information
  • Necessary deliverables
  • Your project budget
  • The project schedule and deadline

Some situations where a company would frequently prepare a design brief for a project would include a brand redesign, a new website, or a new digital marketing campaign.

The purpose of the design brief is to make sure both parties understand what the final product should look like. Without this understanding, you may be envisioning one outcome while your designer is picturing something entirely different.

Not only can the design brief tell your designer aesthetically what you’re looking for, but it will give them relevant information about your audience and your goals for the design. They’ll need this information to get the job done.

Here’s a great example of a design brief:

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If you have specific elements that you want the designer to include, be sure to tell them that.

The designer’s job is to come up with a creative solution to the problem you’ve delivered to them. For any elements where you haven’t given them specific instructions, they’ll come to their own conclusions.

When you’re looking for designers to take on your next graphic design project, it’s best to be proactive and send the design brief along with your initial contact. By sending it right away, the designer can more accurately tell you what it will take to get the project done.

Plus, you’ll save yourself the back and forth emails of your design agency having to ask several follow-up questions, only to find out they don’t have the capacity for the project or that they can’t meet your budget.

Remember, before you can write an effective design brief, you need to have an in-depth understanding of your project goals and target audience. If you don’t confidently know that information, then it will be impossible for you to communicate it to your designer accurately.

How do you write an effective design brief for logos and websites?

Now that you know what a design brief is, let’s talk about how to write an effective one for your next logo or web design project.

If you’ve never written a design brief before, it can seem a bit daunting. After all, how are you supposed to convey everything a designer will need to know about your company and your project in just one brief?

Don’t worry — We’re going to ease those concerns in this section.

Who should write the brief?

The person writing your design brief should have a thorough understanding of your company as well as the current project.

The person writing the brief will ideally be the person working first-hand with the designer, so it makes sense to have a marketing executive or manager in charge. For a small business, especially in the case of a sole proprietor, it might also be the business owner or shop owner writing the brief.

What to include in the brief?

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The first section of your design brief should be an overview of your business. Don’t assume your designer knows any of the ins and outs of your company.

Talk about the history of your company. If you’re the founder, talk about what inspired you to start your business and what your initial goals were.

This section should also cover an overview of what your business does. What goods and services do you offer? How do you make money? Finally, include your company’s overall mission and goals. Here you can talk about what makes your company unique.

After you give a brief overview of your company, you’ll want to hone in on the project in question:

  • What is the goal of this project?
  • What is the timeframe?
  • Who is the target audience for the design?
  • Will there be iterations? How many?

And, ultimately, “What is the design/campaign objective?”

In some cases, this might be obvious. For example, it’s easy to determine the ultimate goal of a marketing campaign to sell a particular product. In that situation, your design brief might say something like, “Our objective is to promote our 50% off sale on luxury watches.”

But in the case of a broader project (such as a rebrand or a new website), you should still know what the goal is.

For example, let’s say you’re hiring a designer to redesign your company’s website. When you go to write your design brief, you might struggle to put into words the objective of your new website design.

To complete this part, consider the thoughts that led you to want a new website. Maybe you worried that your website looked dated. Or perhaps your old website wasn’t converting at the rate you thought it should.

In these situations, there’s a particular problem that you’re hoping to solve or address within your current design project. Since more than one-third of people will leave a website if they think the layout is unattractive, there’s definitely a problem there to solve. That’s something you can include in your design brief.

After you’ve given an overview of your business and of the project you’re hiring a designer for, it’s time to talk about your target audience.

Your target audience will vary depending on the project. The target audience for your company as a whole might not be the audience for every marketing campaign.

You might own a clothing company that creates clothing for men, women, and children. But maybe the current marketing campaign you’re working on is explicitly directed toward women. That’s what you would include in your design brief.

When it comes to explaining your target market, try to be as specific as you can. Don’t just say that your target audience is women. Try to answer the following questions about the women you’re targeting.

  • How old are they?
  • What do they do for a living?
  • How much do they earn?
  • Where do they live? What region? City or country?
  • Are they married?
  • Do they have children?
  • What are their hobbies and interests?

Don’t cut corners on this part. Nearly three-quarters of customers say they expect companies to understand them and their needs, but only half do. Nailing this part can set you apart from a lot of other companies out there.

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Another component you can include in your design brief to help your designer is the competitive landscape. Point out what your competition is doing and how you want to use that information for your project.

For example, maybe you want to convey a different tone from your competition to ensure your marketing materials stand out.

Talking about your competition can also allow you to find any holes that currently exist in the market. Maybe there’s an important selling point for your product or company that no competitor has mentioned in their branding. That might be something for you to emphasize in your branding.

If you have any specific branding aesthetic guidelines you want to communicate to your designer, this is the place to do it. These guidelines could include everything big and small — Particular colors, fonts, photos, etc.

Finally, be sure to include the logistical details of your project in your design brief. First of all, this includes your timeline. This information is vital information for the designer and will help them to determine if they can take on the project.

Depending on what you’re asking for, most designers will take between 11 and 40 hours to build your website — But that’s just for the site. The whole process will take longer and you have to give designers time to find room in their schedules.

This section of your brief should also include your project budget. Often the budget is the most significant sticking point when forming a client-designer relationship. If a designer is out of your price range, including your budget in your design brief is a way to figure that out quickly.

Proven design brief examples

Now that you know what a design brief is and how to create one, let’s break down a few examples that you can use as inspiration.

One thing you’ll notice about the examples we’ll cover is that each of them uses a unique design for their brief, conveying their brand voice to a design agency.

And despite the different designs each company chose to use, you’ll see that each of the design briefs includes much of the vital information we covered above.

Design brief example #1: Sea of Roses Vineyard

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Let’s start with this design brief from a vineyard. You can see the brief starts with information about the company, before diving into specific information about their goals for the particular project.

The company goes into an incredible amount of detail about who they are targeting with this ad. They give their avatars names and specify what they do for a living, how old they are, and what their hobbies are.

Design brief example #2: Quaker

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Here’s an example of a design brief from Quaker Oatmeal. They start off by identifying their problem, which is that people don’t take time for breakfast. They’ve got a lot on their plate, so they grab breakfast on the go. They then dive into their objective: to increase sales.

Quaker identifies a lot of evidence to show why their sales are going down, and how that is detrimental to both the company and the consumers that are skipping breakfast.

Rather than getting into specifics about their target audience, Quaker instead believes their market to by anyone who is skipping breakfast because they are busy (aka “the perpetually overbooked”).

Conclusion

Armed with this information, you can now ensure that every design project comes out just as you hoped. You now know that it’s not just about having a vision — It’s about conveying that vision to your designer.

Your design brief is the communication vehicle you’ll use to make sure that you and your designer are on the same page.

Throughout your design brief, you’ll share critical information about your company’s history and mission, your current project goals, and who you are targeting with the project. Not only that, but you can give your design agency some direction about your aesthetic needs.

By following the design brief process you learned in this article, you’ll be sure to reach all of your goals with your next marketing campaign or brand website.

Posted by Jason Bayless