How To Write a Powerful Design Brief

By | Inspiration

How To Write a Powerful Design Brief And Get The Best Possible Results From Your Designer


A good design brief can make a world of difference to your project. If you’ve ever commissioned a designer to work on a project and been disappointed with the end result there’s a very good chance that the primary reason was a poorly prepared brief.


A solid design brief sits at the core of any design project, no matter how large or small. Without it, design projects are at risk of veering wildly off course and producing results that are unsuitable for the clients needs, wasting time and money for both the client and the designer.

In this article I’ll explain exactly what a design brief is, why it’s so worthwhile investing time in one and the essential details that need to be included to make it as effective as possible.

The article is aimed at both clients and designers.
For clients it should help you write your own design briefs and also ensure that you understand why your designer is bombarding you with questions!
For designers this should help you to formulate a great briefing template that will make it simple to extract all the most essential information from your clients.

What is a design brief?
A brief is a document agreed between the client and the designer that sets out the scope of the design project. It should outline the background of the business, the problem that the design needs to solve, the available budget and any relevant expectations that the client has. A well written design brief will will help the client to focus their thoughts on the exact nature of their problem and will help the designer to asses how the problem could be solved and how much time it is likely to take. It also helps to uncover any potential problems early on so that these can be discussed and costed before the work commences.

The brief doesn’t have to be set in stone, and can evolve as the project progresses, but the fact that it is a shared resource ensures that any changes are clearly documented and agreed by both parties.

A good design brief will take a lot of careful thought and time to prepare, but can save a huge amount of time, and money in the long run, so it really is an essential investment.

In an ideal world, the client will already have a design brief prepared when they first approach a designer. In reality, this is quite rare, and in most cases clients will have just a very rough idea of what they need. This means that it’s usually down to the designer to walk the client through the brief writing process. I find that the best way to do this is by sending the client a design brief form – like a questionnaire – that they can fill in in their own time and send back. This usually provides enough information for me to prepare a quote and, if necessary, a more detailed design proposal.

What sort of information needs to go into a great design brief?
For a design brief to be truly effective, it doesn’t just need good questions, but good answers. That may seem like an obvious statement, but it’s really important that clients understands that they need to spend some time considering the questions carefully and give detailed, well thought out answers.

Here are the essential sections that should feature in your design brief and some suggested questions. The notes in italics are hints at how the question should be answered.
A note for designers – this is for a generic design brief, but if you already know that the client needs a brochure or maybe brand development then it’s worthwhile tailoring the brief to suit their project to ensure that you get exactly the information you need.


Business Background

– What industry does the business operate in?

– What does the business do?

– Who are your customers? Gender, age, occupation, interests, income, attitudes, views, lifestyle, geography – try to paint as detailed a picture as possible

– Who are your competitors?

– What makes your business different from your competitors?

– What are your weaknesses as a business? What could you do better?

– What are your objectives – short term and long term?

– What’s your business ethos? What guiding principles does your business stand by?

– What’s your market position? If you’re struggling with this one it sometimes helps to give a generic example that everyone understands, like supermarkets – are you an Asda or a Waitrose for example?

– What existing marketing materials do you have? For example, do you have a set of brand guidelines? Provide as many relevant samples as you can and where possible annotate them to explain why they were successful or why they didn’t work.


Project Objectives

– Describe what you need. Start with the problem that needs to be solved and explain what possible solutions you have in mind. i.e. Our sales figures are not reaching their targets, we believe this is because customers are not aware of the services our business offers. We therefore need a leaflet to de designed to promote these services to our current customers.

– What do you hope this project will achieve? i.e. We hope that this will raise awareness of our service offering and encourage customers to buy more of our products and therefore increase sales

– What message are you trying to communicate and why?

– How will you use the work that is designed?

– How will you measure its success?


Target Audience

– Who will the work be aimed at?

– Is this audience familiar with your business already or will you be new to them?

– What experience do you have with this audience – what have they responded well or badly to in the past?


Design Constraints

– Does the work need to fit with any existing designs? If so, please provide some examples.

– Are there any specific requirements that the designer should be aware of? i.e. It needs to fit into an envelope of a certain size; It needs to have a certain size space for a dealer stamp etc


Creative Direction

– What sort of mood or tone should the work have? Serious, playful, formal, friendly, technical, edgy etc? 

– Do you have a benchmark in mind – some examples of work that you you feel are relevant or especially effective?

– Are there any styles or creative routes that you particularly don’t want to see?


Copy and Images

– What copy (text) will be included in the design? Who will be responsible for providing this?

– What images need to be included in the design? Will these be supplied by the client or will they need to be sourced by the designer? Logos should be included here.



– What size and format does the work need to be?

– Will the work be printed or used only on screen?



– What budget are you prepared to invest in the project? This is not so that the designer can charge as much as possible, this is to allow the designer to asses how much time they can afford to commit to the project and whether it will be worthwhile for them to complete.  

– Does this amount include printing costs? If not, what is your budget for printing (if relevant)



– When is the final artwork needed by? The designer can then work backwards and propose a schedule that includes research, development, drafts and revisions. 



– Who will be responsible for liaising with with the designer throughout the project? Whenever possible, always make sure there is just one person responsible for this. If several people have direct contact with the designer this can cause confusion and waste valuable time. 

– How can they be contacted? Phone, email etc



– What do you expect to receive from the designer at the end of the project? Print-ready PDF files, customisable templates, web-ready images etc


If you follow those guideline when you next prepare a design brief, whether you’re a designer or a client, you’ll give yourself the best possible chance of a successful and effective end result.

(Taken from