A Guide for Non-Designers toWriting a Design Brief

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How Can Non-Designers Write a Design Brief

How to Write a Design Brief: A Guide for Non-Designers

Design services
March 9, 2021
7 minutes


If you’ve ever struggled with communicating your idea to a graphic designer, then use this guide as a checklist on how to do it right.

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 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.

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We’ll be using the process on our graphic design app to show you how to write the perfect design brief.

Step 1: Provide a project overview

In this section you have to answer the following questions:

  1. Who are you and what do you do?
  2. Who are your clients?
  3. 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 data or highlight design problems you want them to solve.

For example: you run a marketing 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: 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 building a brand identity from scratch is one thing, and using an existing brand guide to create collateral is another completely.

In our design app, you’ll notice that illustration design is a separate project. This refers to illustrations with a wider purpose or more complex illustration projects. Of course, oftentimes a logo or web design will require a skilled illustrator to take part.

how to write a design brief 1.png

Step 3: Choose a project and define the project scope

It’s always better to write specific briefs for each individual project you have. They might belong to the same brand and be meant for the same target audience; but, creating a separate brief for each will enable the designer to work more effectively and it will provide you with the needed space to create a specific set of expectations for each design project.

If you’re creating a design brief from scratch, remember to precisely define the project scope. 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).

how to write a design brief 2.png

Step 4: Adding project specifications

And now it’s time to actually write! Similar to design brief templates you can grab online, our own design process involves a simple form clients fill out through our custom app.

But to help anyone in—and outside of ManyPixels write a good design brief, we’ll take you through each of the substeps.

how to write a design brief 3.png

Naming your project

This might come as a surprise, but your “professional logo design” is not the only request of that name your dedicated designer is working on now. The best way to name projects is the Company Name_Type or Project_Specific 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 the one we have or in email communication.

project naming.png Digital Synopsis

Include your brand guidelines

In case you already have a brand guide in place, it is critical that your dedicated 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 in website design. 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.

Include design inspiration

Including designs you like, and better yet explaining why you like them, in the final design brief is a great way to ensure you’ll be able to give the final approval for the design in as little time as possible.

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 website design (since it is one of the most complex projects), here are some things that you might share with your designer:

  • 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 has to be present 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.

Include text

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.

Step 5: Discuss budget and schedule

Before you write up a 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. Platforms like Upwork and Fiverr are quite effective in case of dispute management since the conversation happens through the platforms.

However, in many cases, people don’t follow-up a meeting with a written record. By the time your designer starts working on the project, it’s possible that they might forget the exact deadline or expected project deliverables agreed upon.

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 budget beforehand, so that both you and your designer know what you’re getting into.

Of course, this will greatly depend on the design service you choose. For example, if you go with an on-demand design service like ManyPixels, you’ll get unlimited revisions for all your design projects at a flat monthly rate!

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Further reading

Instructing a designer when you have no experience yourself isn’t easy. Don’t try to impress with complex terminology you don’t really understand. Use simple language and let your designer know what you think.

Include everything and anything that is useful and directly related to your project. Too little, and the designer might not know which direction to take. Too much, and you’ll leave the designer endlessly exploring different design routes.

Finally, if you’re looking for some further reading on the basics of design, we have you covered! Check out our articles about the importance of graphic design and skills every graphic designer needs to have.

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Danica Popovic

March 9, 2021

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.