What Is a Design Brief and How to Write One? + Template

Use This Template

Designing something from scratch can be hard, but it’s harder if you don’t build and fill out a design brief with your client. This simple but powerful document will help you understand your customer better, be transparent from the start, and cut the rework rate by at least 20%. Let’s get into what is a design brief, the different types, and how to write an effective one.

Types of Design Briefs

Design briefs will be different depending on what it is being designed. Even though they share some characteristics, they’ll adapt to the work that needs to be done. Here are some of the most common ones if you want to explore them in more detail:

  • Logo Design Brief
  • Graphic Design Brief
  • Website Design Brief

What is a Creative Design Brief

A design brief is simply a document that defines the details and specifications of an upcoming design project. It should include the project’s overview (name, background, goals, etc.), determine responsibilities and stakeholders as well as the visual direction of the project.

It might seem inconsequential to spend time going through the briefing process, but doing so has many (not so) hidden benefits: building one will dramatically decrease back and forth emails between client and team, and increase transparency since everyone will be on the same page, and improve the quality of the work delivered.

The purpose of building a creative brief is not just to look professional in front of clients and bosses, it is a way to generate a collaborative environment between the ones that are involved in the project and to give everyone a sense of ownership from the get-go.

No matter what tool you use to build it (HolaBrief is a great option), take into account the principles that were outlined above - collaboration, clarity, simplicity -  and everything will take care of itself.

What Makes a Good Design Brief Document

Design briefs that are effective share these 3 traits:

  • They ask the right questions

Good design briefs are all about extracting the right information for clients and stakeholders so that the project starts on the right foot. If the document misses some crucial point, the entire endeavor can be in danger of failing.

  • They are simple

Good design briefs are comprehensive enough to recollect relevant information but simple enough not to overwhelm the client and the team. Just like the famous quote: “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” We can rephrase it by saying: Design briefs should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

  • They hold everyone accountable

The final characteristic of good briefs is that they assign responsibilities to the different stakeholders, define specific milestones and hold everyone accountable, from the creative taking care of the design to the client giving feedback and attending the meetings.

How to Write a Visual Design Brief - Outline and What to Include

Writing a design brief can be intimidating if it’s your first time doing it but don’t worry, in this section you learn its basic outline, and what are the must-have elements and sections of an effective design creative brief document.

Project Overview

The first section should include the project’s name, its general purpose, and some background of the company (vision, mission, values) as well as the project (a short description of what the project is about).

Don’t underestimate this step, it’s the backbone of every design creative brief. If there are people that didn’t participate in the discovery session or were not involved from the beginning, this section will serve as an introduction to the client as well as a general overview of the project.

Needs and Objectives

99% of the time, clients - internal and external - come to design teams because they have a need and a problem that needs to be solved. This can be that their logo is not communicating the values of the company, that their landing page is not converting very well, or that they need to achieve Q3’s quota and their street poster is not grabbing enough attention.

It is your job to uncover these needs and collaboratively build an objective for the new design. Although it might not be possible every time, it’s good practice to include some attainable and measurable metrics, for example, increasing the conversion rate of their landing page by 20%.

Stakeholders and Responsibilities

From a creative’s point of view, not knowing who represents the client and who is in charge of leading the project is very confusing - especially if the project involves several people and multiple deliverables.

On the side of the client, knowing who he/she should speak to and who is responsible for the design brings peace of mind and improves the customer experience. That’s why it’s important to clarify who are the stakeholders and the responsibility that each of them share.

Milestones and Deliverables

This is one of the most powerful sections of the design brief. The idea here is to agree on what  will be the deliverables and which are going to be the steps to arrive there. Since it’s very hard to get a design right the first time, scheduling feedback sessions before the final delivery date is recommended.

For a new website design project, the team could write down the following milestones:

  1. Briefing session
  2. Low fidelity wireframe
  3. High fidelity wireframe
  4. Code it on Webflow
  5. Production

Specifications

This section’s objective is to get clear on the specifications of the new design. If it’s a website, get clear on which pages should be built, if they require a specific technology, which sections should the home page include, and so on. If you and your team are designing a logo, different specifications will be needed.

With HolaBrief, you can create documents that include any specifications that you need and desire, it’s just a matter of giving it a try for free!

Visual Direction

The final section is the one in charge of giving the project a visual and creative direction. Your client (almost always) knows how the final work should look and feel. So, to avoid re-designing your project all over again, it’s great to understand what they already have in mind.

Moodboards are a great tool so that your client can copy and paste images they like and brands they are a fan of. Let them be creative and help them open up, if they don’t do it now, they will do it later if they don’t like what you’ve provided.

Build and Download Proven Design Brief Samples

I know, building a design creative brief from scratch sounds like lots of work and, to be honest, it is. Also, you run the risk of not asking the right questions or forgetting some important section, which can determine the eventual success of your project.

That’s exactly the reason why we built HolaBrief and created already proven templates that you can use and modify to your liking. It’s just a matter of choosing one brief sample, adding or eliminating exercises, and sending it to your client ( even better is sending it to your client with the right online briefing tool, without them needing to create an account to access it!).

So I recommend giving HolaBrief a try, creating a free account, and start delighting your clients from now on!

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Ready to create standout work in less time?

Join 1000s of agencies using HolaBrief to set up their projects for success.