What is a design brief for your project and how to create it?

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29 Feb
18 Jan

Starting a design project is more than just a burst of inspiration. It’s a complex process that requires careful planning, clear communication, and the right resources. At the core of this work lies the project brief — a key piece of communication that bridges the gap between vision and reality.

To many, a design brief may seem just another formality. However, in reality, it stands as one of the simplest and most effective ways to guarantee that your expectations match the final results delivered by a designer or an agency. Today, we’ll cover all the essentials and provide practical tips on how to articulate your vision and requirements clearly. So, let’s get to it!

What is a design brief?

A design brief is a foundational document that outlines the goals, target audience, scope, and any specific requirements or limitations of your project. Typically, it’s crafted at the very beginning of a website creation, setting the stage for what’s to come. A design brief ensures that everyone involved in the project shares a unified understanding of what needs to be achieved.

Design briefs provide crucial clarity and direction

Why do you need a design brief?

A design brief is super important. It’s where you jot down everything about your project — the stuff you like, the colors you want, what your competitors are doing, and what you definitely don’t want to see. With this document, your designers and team are on the same page and can get started on the right point.

Running a project often relies on communication methods like phone calls, lengthy email threads, and scattered messages, which can result in misunderstandings. The design brief can help organize this process by collecting all critical information in one place. Simply put, it clearly laid out thoughts, ideas, and expectations for outlining the elements designers and agencies can work with. 

A design brief keeps everyone from thinking and guessing.

Who is responsible for writing a design brief?

Determining who is responsible for writing a design brief varies based on the project and organizational structure. The most common example is when a company reaches out to a design studio with a clear idea in mind. The client has their vision on “paper,” the big picture of what they want and the problem they’re aiming to solve. Here, the designers’ role is to follow these guidelines closely, but if certain ideas are unattainable or impractical, they might suggest tweaking and refining some points.

The approach can differ when we look at the client side. For small companies, often the owner takes the initiative to draft the brief personally. They know their business inside out and can articulate their needs precisely. On the other hand, larger companies usually have a marketing department or a dedicated team responsible for creating this document. They bring their collective expertise and understanding of a business’s broader goals to the table.

A design brief blends the opinions of each team member

There are times when an agency might approach a potential client with a business proposal. In such cases, the design studio often prepares an initial brief as part of the pitch. This document serves as a starting point for discussions, showcasing the agency’s understanding of the client’s needs and how to address them.

For larger and more complex projects, the responsibility is typically shared. The client lays down their preferences and overall vision while the agency digs into the technical and practical aspects. They’ll choose the best technologies and frameworks, define how to implement the ideas and find the most effective ways to achieve the desired outcomes. Together, they refine a brief, making sure all goals and expectations are spot-on.

What should you include in a design brief?

Regardless of who prepares a design brief, you should understand the critical questions that need addressing. Once they are fleshed out, you can confidently start looking for a UI/UX design team. To help you with this task, we’ve listed the most common questions to ponder and include in a design brief.

Essential questions form an impactful design brief

What does your company do?

When creating a design brief, the first thing to jot down is a few words about the company. This seemingly basic information, which at first glance might not appear directly related to design, is actually important for designers. It gives them a peek into your world — your ethos, style, and audience.

Are you all about eco-friendly products? Do you offer cutting-edge tech solutions? Or perhaps you are the cozy neighborhood cafe everyone loves? Finding the right answers helps a design team to understand what you do and who you are.

What are your goals?

To maximize the project’s future success, it’s worth outlining the objectives you want to achieve. Are you aiming to increase brand awareness, launch a new product, or maybe revamp a website for a better user experience? This part of the brief sets the foundation for the work that follows and guides designers on what the final outcome looks like for you.

The goal is to define how your brand is perceived in the digital space.

What are your target market and audience?

In a design brief, it’s vital to spell out who your project is for. Start with demographics of the target audience, as well as their likes, dislikes, habits, and desires. Are you catering to young parents, busy professionals, or college students? This answer helps the design team create something that will speak exactly to your visitors’ needs and preferences.

What are your competitors?

While working on the competitors section, you list who’s playing the game with you. For designers, this information helps to keep your brand visible and fresh without hitting similar style choices or accidentally copying others.

At the same time, it’s about observing what’s working well for competitors. If certain strategies or styles hit the mark, why not use them? This way, you find that sweet spot that makes your brand distinct.

What is your budget and timeline?

Metrics are equally important, and when creating a design brief, budget and timeline are priorities. By understanding the financial scope of a project, the design team can get a feel for how grand or modest it should be. With this practice, you specify the limits upfront and avoid conflicts during the work process.

The timeline is equally important. Plan the deadline in a way that each phase of the project gets the attention it deserves. Whether working with a tight timeframe or a more flexible one, being clear helps in running the project without any last-minute rushes or compromises in quality.

What deliverables do you expect?

The deliverables part sets out the outcomes you’re looking for. Are you expecting a complete website redesign, a series of social media graphics, or perhaps an entire branding package, including logos and letterheads? Being specific helps the design team understand the amount of work required. Upon that, at the end of the project, you’ll receive exactly what you envisioned — no surprises, no misunderstandings.

Do you have any references?

Show examples of styles or vibes you like, such as a website layout, branding style, or social media campaign. These references help the design team understand what you’re aiming for. Moreover, different illustrations from Dribbble, Awwwards, or Behance platforms can be an inspiration for creating unique and customized designs that will catch your eye.

Show the design team what catches your eye, and they’ll turn those inspirations into reality.

What assets have already been done?

Sometimes, before you start working with a design agency, you already have some work done. These might include the logo, brand color palette, existing marketing materials, or even a partially designed website. By sharing these assets with the design team, you’re giving them a head start to build upon or creatively play around with elements, depending on your goals and preferences.

Who are the stakeholders and contributors?

It’s important to identify the people power behind your project. These are stakeholders and contributors, who could be team members from your company, external partners, or specific client groups with a vested interest in the product.

Having this info laid out helps your design team know who to contact for insights, approvals, or a quick thumbs-up. It keeps the communication clear and makes sure no one’s caught off guard by a surprise opinion or a last-minute “I thought we were doing it this way” moment.

Is there any other relevant information?

There’s always room for the “anything else” category — those bits and pieces of information that don’t neatly fit into the other sections but are still important. Here, you can include any additional thoughts, constraints, or aspirations that feel relevant to the project. These may be requirements to adhere to or certain industry trends that you want to embrace or avoid. Here, you can share various insights by interacting with the design team in all-out conversation. 

Tips to create your first design brief

While a design brief might seem a bit daunting at first, with the right approach, you can effectively nail it. Here, we’ll share some key tips to help you develop a compelling document that will guide your project from concept to completion. 

A design brief should keep things simple and easy to follow
  • Keep it real and straightforward. Your design brief should be clear, concise, and on point. Think about what you’d say if you had five minutes to explain your project — that’s the level of clarity you’re aiming for.
  • Remember that details are your friends. The more specific you are about what you want (and don’t want), the easier it is for designers to hit the mark.
  • Include examples or inspirations. Show the design team a bunch of references you like. It can give them a visual understanding of your goals and spark ideas that line up with your vision.
  • Leave some room for creativity. Give your designers a playground within boundaries. After all, you’re hiring them for their design chops, so let them have a chance to shine.

Creating your first design brief is all about balance — where clear instructions meet creative freedom. Get this right, and you’re on your way to seeing your vision come to life!

Tick the last box

Wrapping up our exploration of design briefs, keep in mind that a well-crafted document is your best ally in the design process. It’s the foundation upon which creative ideas are built and transformed into reality. So take these tips, tailor them to your needs, and watch as your project succeeds just the way you imagined it.

And remember, you can always share your visions with Halo Lab designers and experience a productive, stress-free, and fun collaboration. Creating a design brief is no small task, but the effort pays off when it’s done right, and our team can help you with this! Contact us to get started on your specific project and turn catchy ideas into reality.

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