Top 10 tips for writing a good graphic design brief

Written January 12, 2012 • Steve Perry

Design briefs are an essential part of the design process. In fact, they mark the beginning of the design process, helping designers understand the business problem they are required to solve and businesses clarify what they need from a design project. Altogether they are vital to achieving an effective design solution says Peter L Phillips who’s spent 30 years as a corporate design director, learning the business benefits of writing a design brief.

A lot of clients say to me ‘We don’t have time to do a brief. How long does the brief take?’ And my answer is simply, it saves double the time that you spend on doing it. —Peter L Phillips

Top 10 tips

Here are Peter’s top 10 tips for writing an effective, time saving, design brief

  1. Prepare a design brief in advance of design concept development. This process will save time and ensure more effective design results.
  2. Ensure your brief includes business objectives, desired outcomes and a clearly articulated design strategy.
  3. Get the most out of your design brief. For designers they become a key way of understanding the business problem to be solved and the audience they are targeting. For business partners, design briefs offer an opportunity to clarify their actual need for a design project, and give a quantifiable means to measure return on investment. Above all, design briefs provide an opportunity to ensure that all stakeholders are in unanimous agreement with the approach and process to be followed in developing an effective design solution.
  4. Assume nothing. Many design projects go wrong because someone ‘assumes’ someone else knows what they know. All parties involved must be able to ask as many questions as necessary when developing the design brief. Design briefs are produced to ensure absolute clarity, understanding, and agreement from all stakeholders.
  5. Write up your design brief to avoid comments such as, ‘Don’t you remember I told you…’, or, ‘I don’t recall saying that’, which often lead to confrontations which may delay the successful completion of design projects.
  6. Remember partnership means working with people, not working for them. Accountability means accepting responsibility for outcomes. The commissioner and the designer must be partners – working with each other – and both accepting accountability.
  7. Don’t have a standard design brief. Design briefs should vary according to the discipline involved. For example, a design brief for a new product design will include many areas that are not necessary for a graphic design project for a piece of literature. Practitioners in each design discipline will develop their own list of essential ingredients for each design brief.
  8. Always include an appendix of some sort to include competitive samples, and other inspirational materials useful to a design team.
  9. Archive all your design briefs. Many projects undertaken later will have similar objectives, and you can save time by referencing past briefs for projects.
  10. Send a copy of the design brief to all parties involved. This will help when reviewing the final solution for implementation.

Source: Design Council

Resources

Other helpful documents (all of which open in a new browser window)
How to write a design brief
Reasons for a design brief
Finding and working with a designer
The power of branding