Why a Strong Design Brief is Crucial for Project Success

Explore a design brief's critical role in ensuring successful project outcomes, detailing the essential elements and steps involved in crafting an effective design brief

Why a Strong Design Brief is Crucial for Project Success - Clay

You've probably heard the term 'design brief' thrown out several times, but you may need clarification on what that even means! If you plan to work with a designer on any content, especially web design, you must create one. It's a blueprint and a handful of supporting documentation and information to guide the design process. It has even been said that "Designing without a design brief is like playing charades."

What is a Design Brief?

A design brief is a document created by a client or employer and given to a designer outlining the requirements for a design project. It usually includes information about the project's background, purpose, goals and objectives, target audience, and timeline. The brief serves as an agreement between both parties and should be clear and concise to ensure everyone understands what is expected of them.

A well-written design brief helps ensure the project runs smoothly, saves time, and produces successful results. Providing detailed instructions in advance of the project's beginning and design thinking process allows designers to get started quickly with minimal confusion or misinterpretation.

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The Importance of a Design Brief: Why You Need a Design Brief

Design briefs are essential documents in any successful design project. A well-crafted brief ensures the design team has the information necessary to create a successful product or service. It outlines the project's goals, objectives, and expectations, as well as any constraints that may be present.

Providing clear direction and expectations for the project lets designers quickly understand what is needed and how best to approach it. Design briefs also allow collaboration between stakeholders to ensure everyone is on the same page before beginning work. Ultimately, a design brief helps keep design projects on track, organized, and within the project budget by helping to create a realistic timeline for completion.

Who Should Create a Design Brief?

Design briefs are an essential tool for any design project. They provide a roadmap to the design team and ensure everyone involved in the project is on the same side regarding objectives, timelines, budgets, and other vital details. As such, it's important that whoever writes a design brief has a clear understanding of what needs to be accomplished.

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Ideally, this should be someone familiar with both the design process and the client's or organization's goals. It could include designers and those from marketing or product teams who know their target audience and what they're trying to accomplish with their designs. In addition, stakeholders from various areas of the business should also be consulted when creating a design brief to ensure all perspectives are considered.

How Do You Write Design Briefs?

5 Key Things to Include in a Design Brief

A design brief should include a clear description of the design project, its goal and objectives, the target audience and their needs and preferences, a timeline, an indication of the budget, and any special considerations.

The design brief should also include examples of similar work done in the past and any specific requirements from the client, such as required fonts or color palettes. A good design brief will provide the design team with all the information they need to create a successful design that meets all the criteria set out in the brief. Additionally, a designer must be able to communicate effectively with their client, so a detailed but concise brief outlining the project expectations can help ensure both parties are on the same page throughout the process.

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Step 1: Determine the Goals and Objectives of the Design

Of course, with a clear goal or objective, there is more merit in making a design. It's essential to state the design goal and what you hope the design work will accomplish. This way, the designer or web design agency will know what role this design fills in the grand scheme.

For example, you might need a new website design to portray a new brand image. Getting a new design is probably a good idea if you've got a new logo, slogans, or color palette. Ensure you're clear with your designer on the project's purpose.

Step 2: Communicate the Project Budget and Timeline Requirements

Another thing that needs to be clarified in your design brief is when you need the design back and how much it'll cost the designer. Of course, this applies to all types of work across all industries. Still, without this information, it'll be hard for a designer to know if it's a good fit or whether to prioritize this over another upcoming project.

To make sure everything is crystal clear in the design brief, you can write out a dollar amount for each deliverable separately. This can make it very clear whether a designer is over-charging for something or the client is underpaying. Both parties must agree on the budget and timeline of the design project, as it could become a major point of contention otherwise.

Source: Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Step 3: Include Details About Your Target Audience

This tip may be less evident than the first two, and, likely, you should have realized that this is part of creating a design brief. However, it's not a good idea to wait until the end of the project to bring up that your design will be primarily shown to people over 60 years old! It's best to present them with subtle and straightforward designs, whereas something flashy might appeal to a younger audience. If you wish to appeal to those with a regular 40-hour-a-week job, you might want something that catches their attention quickly. After all, they could look away at any second.

Regardless of who you intend to get in front of, each of these cases is a particular design problem. The designer can create an effective design. In any case, it's just that they need to know your audience to know which direction to take it!

Step 4: Get Clear About the Scope of the Design Project

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A great step in writing a creative brief is to make sure it's obvious what you expect to receive. This means listing all deliverables, which can be done as an itemized list with a budget associated with each piece or separately from the budget.

Regardless, it's imperative to include some indication so that the design decisions the designer or design agency makes fit your new project scope. It would be a shame for the designers to waste hours working on print files when all you needed were the web designs.

Likewise, it'd be terrible if you got the design back and loved it but realized later that you were missing files crucial to implementing the designs. In either case, the problem can usually be avoided by ensuring both parties are totally sure what is included in the design brief and what isn't.

Step 5: Include a 'Big Picture' Idea of how the Ideal Design Would Look

Finally, to ensure that every design you commission looks great, give your designers a good idea of what you want the design to look like. Now, I know you can't draw the designs exactly as needed. If you could do that, you wouldn't need a designer!

Think of it like a producer singing a tune to give the idea to the recording artist. You know how it should look; the designer knows how to make it look that way.

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Step 6: Beware of Competition

No company is an island, and it's essential to comprehend your competition. When you have a detailed knowledge of the rival brands, it paves the way for fresh and captivating designs that will pop out amongst the rest.

Designers should study their competitors' past triumphant design strategies and failed attempts to accurately decide which direction to take when formulating their next creative brief. By thoroughly comprehending your client’s opponents, you can make much better design choices going forward!

Some Design Brief Templates

A Simple Design Brief Template

Source: Smartsheet

If you need help with how to start creating your brief, look at design brief examples or start with a good design brief template. This helps you get from knowing you need a brief to take action on creating one!

A Customizable Design Brief Template

Here's an example of website design brief templates in Google Docs!

Source: Smartsheet

With this comprehensive design brief template, clients and designers can work seamlessly together to collectively create an organized document that encompasses the project requirements. This customizable template contains all pertinent information, such as client details, objectives, target audience specifics, desired style/tone of message deliverable format, and scheduling budgeting - everything you need in one place!

Acting as a living contract between parties involved — from conception to completion stages — this versatile design brief solution offers an excellent way to keep track of essential elements associated with your creative endeavor.


Design briefs are essential in the design project, providing important guidance and direction to designers. They help ensure that the expected outcome of a project is precisely articulated and clearly understood by all stakeholders. By keeping track of goals, objectives, audience, resources, and other relevant elements, a design brief helps keep projects organized and on track. The importance of design briefs can not be overstated, as they provide clarity and structure that pave the way for successful design outcomes.

About Clay

Clay is a UI/UX design & branding agency in San Francisco. We team up with startups and leading brands to create transformative digital experience. Clients: Facebook, Slack, Google, Amazon, Credit Karma, Zenefits, etc.

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About Clay

Clay is a UI/UX design & branding agency in San Francisco. We team up with startups and leading brands to create transformative digital experience. Clients: Facebook, Slack, Google, Amazon, Credit Karma, Zenefits, etc.

Learn more

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