How to create a design brief in 7 steps

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Summary

If you want to set yourself up for success on your next design project, it’s imperative that you start with a design brief. A design brief creates a structured road map for your project and helps facilitate better communication for everyone involved.

In this guide, we cover what a design brief is, the benefits of creating one, how to write a design brief, and the elements you should always include. Plus, check out an example design brief template to get you started.

What is a design brief?

A design brief is a document that outlines the core details and expectations of a design project for a brand. This document should be an easy-to-understand plan of how the project will be executed. An effective design brief aligns the company and designer’s goals so everyone is satisfied with the final deliverable. 

Any company that utilizes design resources can benefit from having designers create a brief prior to their project—whether those designers are in-house or freelance. For the purpose of this article, we'll use client and company interchangeably to represent the party commissioning the design project.

[inline illustration] what is a design brief (abstract)

A design brief starts by explaining why a new design is necessary. This includes how the design will benefit the target audience, how it will move the brand voice forward, and how it will fit in with the larger competitor landscape. The designer uses this information to write out the goals and objectives for the upcoming project. 

Finally, the brief includes project details, deliverables, budget, timelines, and scope so that everyone has the same expectations. Design briefs are great for keeping both client and design teams aligned.

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Design brief vs. creative brief

If you’ve never created one before, a design brief might seem a lot like a creative brief. Overall, a design brief handles more of the preproduction and business side of the project, while the creative brief tackles the innovative execution. 

A well-done design brief give both parties a solid layout for how they’re going to accomplish their goals. It’s a great guide to look back on if one party ever feels like the progress is getting off track or a disagreement arises. 

Once you’ve done the research associated with a design brief, your team will use a creative brief to dive deeper into the company and target audience to tailor your designs to their needs. This second brief is a more in-depth look into how your design will speak to their customers, what elements you want to include, and the reasoning behind your artistic decisions.

Why do designers need a design brief?

There are many advantages to having a design brief when starting a new project. It gives you time to truly understand the nuances of a company and its audience. A design brief also reassures the client that their opinion is valued and that all parties have the same end goal. 

By using a design brief you can:

  • Create a more trusting designer-client relationship.

  • Gain insight into the brand and target audience.

  • Invite the client to be more involved in the project.

  • Align on a reasonable timeline and budget before the project begins.

  • Set a standard for the quality and types of deliverables needed.

What to include in your design brief

Design briefs come in many different forms, but there are certain aspects that should be included each time. Once you have included the basics, the design brief can be customized depending on the type of project or client. 

Start your design brief with context about why you’re making your creative choices based. The context should also clarify how your creative choices will contribute to the client’s goals. Finally, your design brief should include all of the necessary information to outline a project from start to finish.

[inline illustration] elements of a design brief (infographic)

Overview

Start your design brief by listing out information about the company the project is for. This starting point helps you gain stakeholders’ trust by demonstrating that you understand their market, industry, and brand guidelines. 

The project or brand overview typically includes details such as the size of their company, contact information, past projects, or their current design needs. This can be especially helpful when multiple people are working on the same project. Once the overview is finalized, everyone will have a quick summary on hand that they can refer back to as needed.

Questions to ask:

  • What are the client’s unique aspects?

  • What does the company do?

  • What are their brand guidelines and expectations?

  • What themes or common motifs are important to their brand?

  • What are the client’s primary needs? How can we meet those needs?

Project scope and overview

Once you’ve written out a brand overview, it’s time to give a detailed description of the design project being executed. This description is a summary of what you’ll be working on, why this work benefits the client, and everyone’s roles and responsibilities.

This is also an opportunity for you to clarify the project scope, which outlines exactly what is needed to accomplish a project. The scope of the project should be agreed upon by both parties to avoid confusion or tension throughout the design process.

Questions to ask:

  • What designs will we create?

  • What issues are we trying to solve with these new designs?

  • What are the client's expectations of this project?

  • What is within scope? What is out of scope?

  • How will we manage scope creep?

Read: How to write an effective product brief (with template)

Design goals and objectives

After an overview of the project and company is complete, it’s important to explain the goals and objectives for a project. This section should focus on the design problem to solve and the steps your team will take to fix the issue.

In this section, you should also outline the purpose of the project and lay out concrete steps for how you will reach the goal in mind. This section should give a clear path for how the project will be executed—make sure to keep it as specific as possible.

Questions to ask:

  • What will make this a successful project?

  • What steps do we need to take to accomplish our objectives?

  • What are our project goals for this design?

  • What metrics will we use to measure success?

Leia: Escreva metas SMART melhores com estas dicas e exemplos

Target audience

Understanding a client’s customers is critical so you can create designs that speak to the people they’re trying to target. In order to do this, create a design idea board to clarify and contextualize your client’s  audience. This board is a chance for you to think about the client’s customers and build a persona with them in mind. 

Your client might already have a persona that your designers can use. If they don’t, you can also create one based on your client’s target audience,  demographics, psychological characteristics, and hobbies. All of this helps to form an image of who your design work is catering to. 

Questions to ask:

  • What are your customer’s favorite hobbies?

  • What are your persona’s demographics and psychological traits?

  • How will your product or service help your target audience?

  • What does your target audience want?

  • What important characteristics impact your target audience’s behavior (whether that’s age, sex, region, etc)?

Budget and timeline

One of the most important steps of any good design brief is to write out an agreed upon project budget and timeline. Many clients that aren’t designers might not realize how long each stage will take, so it’s smart to have a rough estimate for them to refer back to.

When you and your client make a budget for a project, it’s important to be realistic about the time it will take to research, plan, create, and make edits as needed. Be sure to leave enough room in their schedule and budget for potential difficulties or unexpected changes.

Questions to ask:

  • How long will this project take from start to finish?

  • What is the budget for this project?

  • How long should it take to receive feedback? 

  • How frequently will you and your client update your project timeline tool?

Leia: Como criar um cronograma de projeto em sete passos

Competitor analysis

Every organization has other competing brands and it’s important to understand the competition. Once you have a strong understanding of the brand’s competition you can create new and innovative designs that stand out from the crowd.

Designers should learn from their competition’s past design successes and mistakes to help dictate the direction of their next great design plan. Having a strong grasp of your client’s competitors will help make better design decisions in the future.

Questions to ask:

  •  Who are the company’s competitors?

  •  What designs have been successful for the competition in the past?

  •  What makes our brand stand out against competitors?

  • Has my client created a competitive analysis I can review?

Project deliverables

All of the information you’ve filled out and the research you’ve done to create a plan for their design is essential for explaining the project deliverables. This, essentially, is what the client will receive and what the end product will be. 

Project deliverables will vary depending on the size, scope, and budget of the project. Setting clear standards and writing out the deliverables will help make sure there aren’t any misunderstandings at the end of the project.

Questions to ask:

  •  What will the end result look like?

  •  What are the deliverables for this project?

  •  What are the major project milestones throughout the process?

Design brief template

Check out our design brief template below to make creating an effective design brief more simple. Below, you’ll find a sample of what a design brief would look like for an ebook campaign launch, but can be customized to fit any project. Use this as a starting point for your own brief to make sure all the details are covered up front. 

[inline illustration] what does a design brief cover (infographic)

Design brief example   

Use this template as a starting point to further customize a brief that works for your team. 


Overview

What is your project and what is the scope?

Objectives

Why is this project important? What are you trying to achieve?  

Target audience

Who are you targeting? The more specific, the better.

Budget

What is the overall budget? How should it be spent?

Timeline and deliverables

Outline the date and description for each deliverable. 

Imagem do exemplo de Como escrever briefs criativos

Benefits of creating a design brief with Asana

There are major benefits to creating a design brief with an online shared system. First, if you create a design brief in a tool like Asana, all of your stakeholders can access the information. This allows for everyone to be on the same page on the project, goals, and timeline. 

If your client has questions, the answer is at their fingertips in the tool you’re using. Also, if designers need to intake requests, they can use Forms to automatically get all of the information they need so they can get started right as the request comes in.

Clear design briefs drive successful projects

A well-written design brief will help provide shared clarity surrounding your project goals and deliverables. With Asana’s creative production tools, you’ll be able to streamline your design projects and your team will be able to deliver game-changing results time and time again.

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