The Value of the Design Brief

Recently, I met with a start-up business. As we discussed the scope of work and began putting the design brief together, it became clear that the company was not yet in position to engage my services to carry out the design vision. The impetus for the project was not clear, there was a lack of articulation of how the product would benefit the audience, and no budget had been allocated. We discovered all of this when discussing the client’s response to my design brief questions.

The design or creative brief, is used by designers for getting to know their clients in order to deliver successful solutions. It requires a collaborative effort between both parties and helps define the project goals, ensures that appropriate issues are addressed and establishes reasonable criteria before the design process actually begins. As part of my process, it helps me understand my client and communicates to them that I understand their goals and concerns. It also sets the stage for the designer-client relationship.

The design brief process forces evaluation of a company’s readiness to begin a project and allows the designer to ascertain if the proposed project is worth taking on.

There are no standard briefs, but there are standard inquiries, such as:

    Who are the company’s current and desired customers?
    How does the company benefit its customers?
    What is the company’s current position in the marketplace and where does it want to be in five years?
    What is the company’s competition and how is it different?
    How do existing customers perceive the company?
    What is the image the company wants to express?
    What does the company hope to achieve through the design(s)?
    How will the design be used?
    What are the obstacles the company is experiencing that need to be overcome?
    What are the budget, need date and specific deliverables?

By honestly answering these types of questions, the company will have broken ground for an effective design solution and provided its designer with something to build on. The more thorough and articluate the brief, the better the design solutions that result from it. A formal briefing process is crucial to the outcome and well worth the time the company takes in considering, evaluating and responding.

The design brief

  • Sets the stage for the designer-client relationship
  • Serves as a point of accountability for both the designer and the client,
  • Functions as a reminder of the purpose of the design
  • Builds trust between the the client and the designer
  • Is a hallmark of professionalism

If you’re working with a designer who has not created a design brief, I recommend that you pause the design process and take a step backward to go forward. In other words, get these questions answered and the brief created so that you can move forward to a successful design solution.