Design Brief: A Non-Designer’s Guide To Creating One

Are communication gaps causing bottlenecks in your design workflow? Is the design delivered by your design team nothing like what you had in mind for the campaign? Chances are your design project is missing a design brief. 

The design brief is often the missing link in design collaborations. It’s that only critical element that makes it possible to communicate your idea clearly to your designers and thus get the designs you expect as you expect them. 

Don’t have a design brief for your next design project? Not a problem. In this blog, we’ll discuss the ‘what’, ‘why’, and ‘how’ of a design brief. 

What is a design brief? 

Put in simple words, a design brief is a document that captures the outline of a design project. It tackles all the important questions about the project including the scope and the context of the design requirement. So, whenever you are creating a design for your brand, be it a critical branding design like a logo or everyday graphics like social media posts, you need a clear design brief as a reference manual. 

Do you need a design brief even while working with in-house designer(s)? Yes! The designer might know your brand well but would still need input regarding the scope of the campaign, its objectives, target audience, and other details. These help the designer(s) come up with designs that make a difference. 

While outsourcing design, there’s always a dispute as to who creates a design brief – the designer or the client. The truth is the team that’s requesting the design project will be the best authority to work on the design brief. Because this will be the team that knows the brand well and therefore understands what the design should deliver. Of course, involving the designer in the process or updating the design brief later based on inputs from the designer are all ways to build over the process. 

Why do you need a design brief for every design project? 

According to a Venngage survey on content marketing, about 31.8% of marketers find it challenging to come up with visual content consistently. Outsourcing design is one way to tackle the workload. And while collaborating with an external team of designers, you need a document that introduces your brand to them. Your design brief will be that document taking care of formal introductions. 

There’s always ambiguity in verbal communication. And some details tend to be vague. Having all your requirements in writing eliminates these issues. That color you did not want in your design or that one font you wanted to include – your design brief records every little detail. 

There are many stakeholders in most design projects. Some are from the marketing teams and some are from the management teams. Each has a different take on the design and each looks at the campaign from a different perspective. The design brief ensures that everyone is on the same page with respect to the idea conveyed to the designer.

With a clear design brief, verifying the delivered design and ensuring that all the requirements are met becomes so much simpler and less time-consuming too. In other words, your design brief acts as a basis for evaluating the design. 

Having tackled the what and why of a design brief, let’s get to the “how”.

How to create a design brief that simplifies design collaborations 

1. Brand insights 

The brand insights section in your design brief tells the designer what your brand does. It helps your designers understand your business vision and mission. It can give them a glimpse of your brand’s purpose and values. 

Designers cannot create accurate designs without knowing who the design represents. When a designer can find the gist of your brand’s story from the brief, all the time spent in understanding the brand from multiple sources can be saved. 

Brand insights include: 

All these details ensure that your designs do not deviate from what your brand stands for. 

2. Brand style guide 

Along with the details about your brand you also need to provide information that helps capture the visual identity of your brand. A brand style guide includes:

All the details you add to your brand style guide help designers create consistent-looking designs for your brand. This way all your designs look, feel, and sound like your brand. 

3. Scope and purpose of the design 

The scope of a design project is straightforward in most cases. And yet documenting the scope in your design brief avoids confusion later on. Moreover, a designer’s input in this section includes the number of revisions supported for the design. The designer might also add information regarding the visual styles the designer can tackle. 

If there is a landing page to be designed, will the brand provide all the images to be included or will the designer add stock photos? If the designer adds stock photos, the brand should have the license details. Will the brand provide the logo to be included in the design? These are just a few examples of the kind of ideas to include in the scope of a design project. 

In addition to the scope, the brief should also capture the purpose of the design. This includes details like:

4. Information about customer persona

The best way to help a designer create designs that resonate with your audience is to explain to your designer who your target audience is. While there is a main target audience for your brand, for specific campaigns you might have specific demographics to target. Include these details in your design brief.

Vague attributes like gender and age group are not enough. Lifestyle factors and interests make a huge difference. 

Take the below ad for example. Most people get the ad instantly. But only a specs-wearer understands the pain and emotions the ad captures. Designs like these are possible only with a good understanding of the target customer persona. A clear overview of the target customers helps add emotional depth to the designs. 

5. Timelines & budgets 

Clearly defining the expected timelines and budgets for the design project ensures that there are no surprise bills for the brand and bottlenecks that affect the marketing workflow. Based on the content calendar, the campaign details, and the objectives the timelines are laid down. Defining the timeline expectations in the design brief ensures that the teams are not working on the basis of assumptions. 

The designer will also be able to clearly understand if the mentioned timeline is feasible. Remember to accommodate revisions while you plan your timelines. 

Budget details capture the scope of the tasks covered in the said budget. If there are going to be additional costs for priority delivery of the designs or if the designer charges extra for revisions or design source files, these can all be captured in the brief in discussion with the designer. It helps ensure that the designer and the client are on the same page. 

Create a clear design brief for a smooth design collaboration 

Not all brands have the budget or business scope to have in-house teams for marketing, copywriting, and graphic design. In such cases, a design brief for a campaign acts as a common point of reference for all the involved teams to understand the goals and effectively implement them in the content. So, whether you outsource your design or tackle it with in-house designers, ensure that you have a clear design brief in place. 

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