What is a design brief?

A design brief can be regarded as the starting point of any creative process; it provides guidance on what is expected and the overall deliverables. As such, it can be said that starting a project without a design brief is a bit like building a house without a clear plan or blueprint. A design brief seeks to reduce the chances of mistakes, corrections or the redoing of certain aspects of the project. Moreover, a collective review and discussion of the design brief aids in providing further clarity where needed. Understanding that creatives have different approaches to each project that they take on, a design brief must not dictate the process, but rather, merely outline what the creative should achieve so as to allow for a more organic and creative exploration of the project.

A design brief is an element of the marketing strategy, which is a set of rules that govern the marketing plans and activities. Based on the marketing direction, a marketing plan will be conceptualised, which will inform the subsequent design brief for the various marketing activities. The unfortunate truth is that some companies and people tend to downplay the role of marketing within an organisation, as it is often amongst the first function to be subjected to a budget cut amid financial strain. This was the case for many companies recently due to the unprecedented global conditions of 2020. Budget cuts and business failures became everyday things in 2020, as many economies were adversely impacted. The financial impact on the Euro and forex market was also evident, as a decline in business activity led to the deterioration of several sectors and economies.

Elements of a design brief

Design briefs are not all the same, however, there are some key components that are found in any good design brief. These includes objectives and goals of the new design, budget and schedule, target audience, scope of the project, available and required materials, overall style and look, as well as any restrictions or things that should not be done.

When interpreting a design brief, careful attention should be paid to each and every listed element. The starting point is to read through it thoroughly, more than once. Thereafter, follow it up with a phone call or meeting with the client for further discussion and to iron out any concerns. At this stage, asking as many questions as you deem necessary is advised. You can then break the design brief even further down and explore the different elements that fall under each key component. For example, when it comes to the target audience, consider their age, where they live, their average earnings, what they do for fun, etc. Doing this will provide a better picture and understanding of who the project is for and what their motivations are. The budget is also a crucial element, as everything that you do hinges on it. It is not uncommon for clients to have high expectations and demands but a minimal budget, which needs to be politely relayed to them at this point so that they can either increase the budget or tone down their expectations and deliverables.

About the Author

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Mirko Humbert

Mirko Humbert is the editor-in-chief and main author of Designer Daily and Typography Daily. He is also a graphic designer and the founder of WP Expert.