How to write a good design brief?April 7, 2017
Once you have found the perfect agency for you and you agreed with them to build your project, you need to start thinking about your design brief. The design brief is the first step you will go through with your designer or design agency to help you define your project and to give them the best idea of what you expect from them.
What is a design brief?
A design brief is a communication tool between you and the designer / design agency that will contain all the information regarding your project. The design brief is probably the most intense phase of work for you during the project. It determines the foundation on which your project will be built, giving all the information that will allow your designer to understand precisely what will be the perfect fit for your design requirements and how you can get the most out of your investment. The design brief is the first step in creating a partnership between your designer and you so take your time in your research and preparation as your designer needs to share the same values as you do and have empathy with your project and a clear understanding of your needs.
How is a design brief made?
In some cases a design brief can be pre-prepared by your designer as a working document which will guide you through all the information needed by your designer. It can be the best way for you if you are new to working with designers as it should guide you through all the different steps you need to consider and you are less likely to get lost or confused by the information you need to give. Another way to prepare a design brief is by producing a less formal document that will give general instructions however it is good to give a detailed plan of your project as it makes you think about your project needs and end goals in detail. For some design agencies, having a written brief is not enough as written design briefs can seem a bit impersonal, so some designers will ask to conduct an interview too. This leads to a more comprehensive understanding for both parties but we would suggest you take notes and document them too for future reference for all parties to be 100% clear on. This is also a good way for you to build a relationship with your designer and ask them any questions you might have on the uncoiling of your project. It is probably the most effective way to prepare a design brief as your project will not only rely on the design brief facts but also on the chemistry between you and your designer or design agency. Many designers and design agencies will conduct an interview workshop which will include all the relevant points in your project and help you ultimately prepare your written design brief in full. In the end, whatever form your design brief will have, the main point is for it to be clear, relevant and precise.
What are the benefits of using a design brief?
Using a design brief helps you save time and money. It helps to ensure that all stakeholders involved in the project agree on the terms and conditions and end goals. It also helps build stronger relationship between you and your designer or design agency so all expectations are clear from the beginning and it prevents miscommunication and misunderstanding that could lead to the revision of your project multiple times. The goal of a design brief is not only to give information to the designer but to prevent possible worries or stressful situations during the project.
What information should be in a design brief?
Summary of your business
A summary of your business is the first thing you should put in a design brief. It doesn’t need to be very long but it should outline the missions and values your business embraces.
The information should include your business type (non-profit organization, sole trader, market sector, and even location …) and some relevant information of your history, counting your previous works and case studies. This part should also include the type of products or services you offer and a study of your main competitors in the industry. Who are they? What are their offerings? What are they good at? In what areas are they better than you? However, feel free to add anything that you find relevant to your project.
You need to explain what you want with your project. What you should do in this part is to write a short paragraph describing your project’s main deliverables. So for example do you want a new brand identity, a new website or both? What competencies and tools would be required to create it?
There are lots of possibilities when it comes to creating brand identities and websites but each designer or design agency can offer different solutions that can generate similar end results. Each designer probably uses different tools depending on the project requirements so be sure to research those tools they use and be sure they fit with your design project requirements.
Some design agencies offer a large variety of services outside brand and logo design and website development. You need to know what type of services you require. For example, do you need the designer or design agency to provide you with digital marketing materials? Do you need vehicle or display design? Do you want them to take care of your social media and SEO? Will you need your design to be printed on business cards or brochures? That’s why you need to know what you want to use the design project for. So, your chosen designer should make sure that your design will work on the front page of your website as well as printed on your business cards and wherever else needed.
Your initial concepts
When presenting your personal ideas or own design concepts for your project to the designer, there’s a few things that you need to think about. Once you have your brand identity the first information that the agency will ask you is if you already have a logo that you want to improve on or if you want the design to be an entirely new creation.
The agency will also ask what image does your company want to portray in new design. If you already have a logo, what message is it sending to your customers? Do you want to keep that information with the new design? What image of the company do you want the people to have the first time they see your logo? The design you end up with should be the best fit possible. That’s why it’s important to make sure that you get a design that corresponds to your industry, that is relevant to your customers and that gives a clear message of what your company represents. It means that you should have established the initial ideas that you have for your project. They don’t need to be advanced or fully developed, as you will be working on them closely with the company and it will also let space for the designer’s creativity. Although the first general idea would be a good base to begin with. You will need to use a tone that correspond with your audience too. For example, if your company targets teenagers, you won’t use the same tone as if you are targeting women between the ages of 40 and 50.
Your strategy should be consistent throughout the project. To make sure of this, you need to give clear-cut information to the agency. You can start with the colour palette that you want for the design (pastel colours, vibrant colours etc.) and a first choice of typefaces that you like. Give some keywords that would correspond to the logo to help it create the right message. It would also be a good idea to send some benchmarks to the agency. Pick some design examples that you like and some that you dislike and explain briefly why you picked them. It can be just general inspirations the of style or the images that the design gives to you, how it makes you feel, it’s always a good place to start.
For the creation of the website, you need to explain clearly what is the current situation of your site. Do you already have a website that you want to improve or do you need a completely new one? Those two situations would ask completely different work of agency.
Then, you need to think of what functionality will be necessary on your website. Do you need a blog part? Would an e-commerce area be necessary? You must determine what is your call of action, meaning what do you want people to do on your website. Do you want them to sign up for your newsletter? Complete forms? Read your blog articles? There are lots of possibilities, that’s why you need to prioritise.
It is also necessary for you to tackle the technical issue on the design brief. In fact, if you don’t have a website yet, you should consider what could be your website’s domain name and where you want it to be hosted. The agency could probably offer to host your website but you need to be aware of all your possibilities.
Digital marketing / Social media
Most agencies, as part of their services, will offer you to take care of your digital marketing campaign. For that, they will ask how much do you use social media and if you are interested in developing your social media presence.
If you think that this part of their service could be valuable to you, you should pick some social media platform that your audience can be engaged the most with. They could offer to take care of your SEO for you, but in that case, there is some information you need to be able to give them. Do you already have a set of prior keywords? Do you have tools to measure the results? These are all important information.
Objectives and goals
Specifying your objectives and goals to the agency is important as it will help them choose the right direction for you. You need to ask yourself the right questions: What problem do you want to fix? What opportunities are you hoping to get with this project?
When you have decided that your design and/or website needed some changes, you probably had an idea of what results you would like to get. Your goals can be very varied but it’s important to know how to prioritise them and what matters to you. Here are a few examples of what your goals could be:
- Change your brand image
- Increase your brand awareness
- Engage more with your customers through your website
- Encourage enquires
- Drain traffic to your website
- Earn more money out of your website
All these objectives will allow you to know what results are expected from this project and consequently, what direction you want to take the company in the future.
When you go to an agency, they will expect you to know who your target audience is. For that, you need to do your research first. Study and create profiles of your customers.
You can get some demographic information first (gender, age group, professional situation etc.) but you also need to get some psychographic information as well (what are their consumption habits? are they faithful customers?). These are all information that could be useful to the agency as you want your new design to be relevant to your main customer group. Once you know who your main customers are, you’ll need to determine if the target audience coincide with your current customers. If not, you might need to change your company’s image with a design that would be better fitted to your future target. Also, to help in the construction of your website, another important piece of information could be the features that attracts the most your target audience. Do they spend time reading blog articles? Do they use social media? Do they shop online? All this information can help you refine your brand strategy.
When you present your project to the agency, it will help them quantify the work they need to do and present you with a cost for it. That’s why you need to establish a budget as you should know if your project is realistic and if it will cover the design and every other service that you are considering.
It can seem delicate to give a budget to the agency at the beginning but it doesn’t mean that you will pay for the project up front. You need to give this information as it will allow the agency to know how far they can go with the project and what materials are affordable. You need to be flexible with the budget as some changes might come along in the project. But having a budget is a good place to start.
You also need to provide the design agency with a schedule for the construction of your project. You will need to establish if you have specific deadlines for the design, the launch of a product, or a specific event that you would need the design to be ready for. The best thing to do would be to determine different milestones through the project and your final deadline. The designer now has a deadline to work towards which will help both parties.
- Who will project manage?
One important piece of information that you should provide the agency is the contact details of the person in your business that will manage the project. It is important that there is a clear line of communication used as their will be a lot of back and forth between your business and the designer. Having the right contacts can make the process go much faster and smoother, ideally the project manager from your side should be the person making the final decisions on the design project.
You would also need to provide the agency with any assets that could be beneficial to them. The type of content can be varied depending on your project and the material that you have but photos, graphic images, videos, and company’s tagline can be very useful to the delivery of your design projects outcome.
Stock photography is necessary for the creation of your project so if you don’t have any, dedicating a part of your budget to it can be a good idea. In fact, having content of your products and services before going to the agency can save you time and money.
Once you have written down the answers to all the previous categories, you should ask around in your company what people think of it. Your colleagues may perceive the company’s current image differently or have new ideas to add to the design brief. And it’s also good to get their true opinion about the brief, is it clear enough? Is your project easy to understand? Have you thought of everything?
Once you design brief is completed and presented to the designer it is important that the conversation stays open between you throughout the project as you will have to take your designers advice into consideration and also give your honest feedback to them.
In conclusion, you need your brief to be clear and inspiring at the same time. Those two factors go together. You would like the agency to be motivated and excited by your project. Also for the brief to be presented it in the best possible way. If the brief is clear and precise, then the agency will be able to concentrate all its time on the creative aspects.
The quality of the design is linked to the quality of the design brief that you provided at the start. It should establish a strong base for your project and it will evolve as your project progresses, your budget might change, also your schedule and the services you need but what matters the most is that your design brief is the best place to start.