Write a design brief

Before you design a product, it’s best to determine exactly what’s required. Here’s how you do it.

A client asks you to design a new website. They give you some rough details, you start scribbling ideas then jump into photoshop to play with shapes, colours, fonts, layouts etc.

Stop right there. You’re wasting your time.

How are you supposed to design anything when you don’t have a detailed understanding of what’s required? It’s possible the client hasn’t thought about these things either.

This is why you need a design brief.

A design brief ensures your client puts some thought into explaining what it is they want. It also means you, the designer, know exactly what is expected and what direction you need to take with the project. If you are designing a product for yourself, you are the client, in which case a design brief is twice as important!

I have used the following design brief template for various print and online projects. While these ten headings should be the starting point for any design brief, they can be adapted to suit the individual needs of the project.

Background

Find out the background of the product, including its name, any key contacts/stakeholders involved in its development, critical timelines and budget.

Evaluation

If there’s an existing version of the product, evaluate its successes and failures. Why is a new version of the product being developed?

Business Objectives

List the business objectives of the product. What does the product aim to achieve?

Target Audience

Profile the target audience and describe some of their key tasks when using the product.

Marketing and Promotion

List the key messages of the product. Outline strategies for promotion.

Content

Describe the product’s content in terms of source, structure, format and the process/frequency of updates.

Design

Describe preferences for the design of the product (colour, style, format etc.) Refer to examples if required.

Functionality

Detail any specific functional requirements of the product (notably for online products).

Looking Ahead

Outline any future strategies or changes for the product.

Comments

If required, add any extra comments that may not have been covered above.

A brief that includes this information will give you the detail and direction to design a product that best meets the needs and expectations of the client.

Do you prepare a brief before commencing a design project? What are your essentials for a design brief?