Writing a Design Brief with Essential Elements



Having identified what a brief is and why it is necessary, the next point is to ensure that all of the essentials are included. Here is a list of the most important information to be included when writing a design brief with essential elements:

The project overview and background.

Why we are here and what events have brought us to this point – a change in direction, a need to review the brand, falling sales, increasing sales, a new venture…

Remember, the more information available, the more creative and focused the solution will be.

Category review.

What industry ‘category’ is your business involved in?

On the face of it this may sound like an overly simple question but your company’s activities might fall into more than one category by design or straddle two by default, for example Hotel and Conference Facility or Fast Food and Childrens Entertainment. At this point it would be worth including information about your main competition and how they promote their business.

Try and include as much information as is available on how your current strategies/products/services compare.

Target audience review.

One of the most important and, equally, the least detailed factors of most design briefs is how the target audience is described. For a design team to truly understand who they are aiming to connect with, it’s essential that audiences are described in as much detail as is possible. If nothing else this exercise should provide you with confidence in knowing that you truly understand your target market.

Company profile.

Depending on the size and complexity of your company, compiling this information might take some considerable time and effort on the part of the author. However, please do percevere. This information is invaluable to the design teams overall understanding of what makes you (corporately) tick. Don’t forget that, once you’ve developed this part of the brief you can use it in future documents so never consider it to be more hassle than it is worth.

Business objectives and design strategy.

For a design solution to be truly effective, it must truly answer the brief! This section is probably the most important of the entire brief. It is here that you’ll need to define exactly what the primary aim of the project is and what effect it should have on your business objectives.

Now is the time to expand on the information offered in the ‘overview and background’ section whilst formulating the action plan and strategy for approaching the design process. For all intents and purposes it will become the “contract” under which we will all be working.

Project scope, timeline and budget.

So that everyone concerned understands all of the various aspects of the project, this detail is critical to developing a ‘road map’ to success. Projects will often require different levels of involvement – the ‘routine’ jobs with historically proven scope, time lines and budgets may only vary if a review is required. Other more complex or “phase” structured projects will have ‘deliverables’ for each phase and so must be defined in advance.

With production organised it is then very easy to allot a budget for that particular phase, and so on.

Avoiding scope creep.

The single most compelling reason why it is essential that project scope, timeline and budget are the list of ‘Essentials Elements’ MUST be addressed in advance of production starting is so that we can all steer clear of the dreaded‘scope creep’.

Unless there is a properly structured schedule that covers the agreed production for the agreed budget, there will always be the potential for the project to, quite literally, ‘creep’ out of its projected time line and aportioned budget.


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