How to Write a Design Brief: A Guide for Non-Designers
A well-crafted design brief is half the job done in any creative project. Not sure what to include in your designer briefing? We’re here to help!
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If you’ve ever struggled with endless phone calls, or communicating your idea to a graphic designer, this is for you. Learn how to create a professional design brief that will make the creative process run smoothly.
As a design service producing multiple design projects for hundreds of clients every day, we know a thing or two about design briefs.
A well-written design brief is a huge step in making a design project successful. Not only does it reduce the amount of time needed for research tasks and client-design communication back and forth; it can also mean that the final result is achieved more quickly.
So, what is a design brief and what can it look like?
A designer brief is a document that gives instructions for a creative project. It can be as simple as an email, or a detailed creative brief including design elements, such as a color palette, fonts, or icons. There are also many design brief templates you can grab online.
As an unlimited graphic design company, we get thousands of design requests daily. Now you can imagine that endless email chains would quickly become impossible to manage.
So, we’ve created a custom platform that allows anyone to create a high-quality designer brief in a few clicks. The requests are then reviewed by our project managers and handed over to designers whose skills, style, and experience best fit the brief.
However, this simple 5-step brief can be applied to virtually any design project including, social media graphics, ads, flyers, and even more complex requests, such as a logo or a website.
Simply follow these simple steps to create the ideal graphic design brief!
Step 1: Provide a project overview
In this section you have to answer the following questions:
- Who are you and what do you do?
- Who are your clients?
- What do you want to achieve with this project?
Although an overly detailed design brief is better than a sparse one, it is important to keep to the point. Instead of sharing your entire backstory with the designer, give them specific goals and objectives, or highlight design problems you want them to solve.
For example: you run a marketing and design agency that helps micro businesses and startups launch. You need social media graphics for a tech startup that wants to grow its social media following.
This is very useful for the designer. They immediately know the industry they’re working in and what the end-goal is: in this case, building hype about the brand.
Once we get into the project specifics, you’ll have more time to expand on any details you want. This part is really just to give your designer a sense of who they are working with.
Step 2: Discuss the budget and project timeline
Before you write up a graphic design brief, you should have already had a meeting with your designer to discuss the budget and schedule of your project: when do you need the designs and how much revisions might cost.
Nonetheless, it is a good idea to include this information in your brief as well. Be sure to check out our updated list of graphic design prices to help you set your project budget.
Revisions and scope creep (additional tasks that come up as you go) are an integral part of the design process. It’s crucial to know the impact on your project budget beforehand, so that both you and your designer know what you’re getting into.
However, remember that a design brief is not a contract. It’s a tool to help with communication and enable a more effective design process.
Step 3: Specify the type of project
It’s obvious that the starting point of a logo design and that of a business card will be totally different. Yes, both require an understanding of your brand. However, the former requires a brand design brief, while with the latter the designer can simply create the required marketing collateral following your brand guidelines.
Step 4: Choose a project and define the project scope
It’s always better to write specific briefs for each individual project you have. You might need designs for the same brand and target audience. Still, creating a separate graphic design brief for each project will enable the designer to work more effectively.
If you’re creating a design brief from scratch, remember to precisely define the scope of the project. This means being as specific as possible about what actually needs to be done. For example:
- Design a new website from scratch (shows that you don’t have any previous work that can be recycled or used as inspiration)
- Create business cards for a conference (shows it’s a one-off thing, so these might not be materials you will use in the future, therefore the design can be a little more adventurous)
- Create signage for several shops (shows that the project requires several subcategories - signage fit for different interiors and exteriors).
Step 5: Adding project specifications
If you’re worried about not knowing how to write a design brief - this is the part where things might get tricky.
A great design brief includes as many details as possible. And yet, you should avoid being too prescriptive. Similarly, while you can have a clear idea of what you (dis)like, remember that graphic designers are professionals and leave some room to rely on their expertise to guide you.
Here are few of the most vital project specifications to include in a creative brief for designers.
This might come as a surprise, but your “professional logo design” is not the only request of that name your designer is working on now. The best way to name projects is the Company NameType or ProjectSpecific detail. The detail can refer to either the style (abstract, illustration, monochrome, minimalist) or something like “redesign” if you’re working from an existing design.
This will also help you find the project easily after it’s delivered, whether in an app like ours, or an email chain.
In case you already have a brand guide in place, it is critical that your designer has access to it. Even if the design project is for something beyond the day-to-day, like a specific marketing or product launch campaign, a brand guide will help them understand your brand in practical design terms.
For example, you might tell them that you’re a young, innovative company, but knowing that you use specific shades of orange and purple to reflect this, is something else entirely.
This is especially important for a website design brief. If a website has a totally different look and feel than the rest of your assets, it will be virtually impossible to create brand recognition with your clients.
Describe your brand and industry
This is a moment for you to expand beyond the brand guide and the initial points, and tell your designer what your business is about. Make sure to let them know about the intended target audience or ideal customer.
A short backstory might be helpful, but try to stick to things that are really relevant to the design project at hand.
Another key point you’ll want to cover is your competition. It’s absolutely necessary for a designer to know what are the industry standards, but also how you can stand out from the rest.
A useful tip we can share is to use simple, everyday language. Don’t try to get fancy with complex terminology you don’t understand. State your needs and intentions clearly, and if you’re in doubt - ask the designer for guidance or explanations!
Include design inspiration
Including designs you like, and better yet explaining why you like them, in the final designer brief is a surefire way to make the design process quicker.
Compiling a big folder with designs you like is helpful, but telling the designer what exactly you like about each one is even better.
Going back to a website design brief (since it is one of the most complex projects), here are some things that you might share:
- Example of a good layout: do you like the way information is grouped, or visuals or both
- Examples of motion design: from parallax scrolling to animated details, this is a great way to keep your design projects on track and avoid fruitless and often expensive wandering with something as complex as animation
- Examples of logo use: a logo is usually on your website in some form, but there are different ways to do it (bottom of page, top of page, different on every page, etc.)
- Examples of stock photography: what kind of style and feel you like; with people or without; very corporate or more laid back.
You must include all the text you want in your design in the brief. It might look like “adding just another sentence” to you, but further along in the project, this can disturb the balance of the whole design, and require a complete do-over.
Next, a diligent designer will read your text and make sure there are no typos or mistakes. But remember, it’s not the designers job to proofread your text. If you spot mistakes in your copy once the design is delivered, a designer has every right to charge you extra for additional revisions.
Make a design request in a few clicks!
We hope this answers questions like “what is a design brief” and “what to include in a designer brief”.
Is creating a good design brief time consuming? It often is. Not only do you have to collect graphics you can use as reference points, you also must take time to write actionable and detailed instructions.
While grabbing a design brief template from the web is definitely an option, bear in mind that these may not always be perfectly suited to your project (e.g. a logo will require way more explanation than a simple social media graphic).
But there’s a much simpler alternative!
Try our unlimited graphic design service today, with a risk-free guarantee! You can make all your design requests through our custom app. Just follow the steps and fill in the required information. We’ll assign the task to one of the dozens of pros on our design team.
Keen to learn more about it? Book a free consultation and tell us about your design needs!
Having lived and studied in London and Berlin, I'm back in native Serbia, working remotely and writing short stories and plays in my free time. With previous experience in the nonprofit sector, I'm currently writing about the universal language of good graphic design. I make mix CDs and my playlists are almost exclusively 1960s.