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I’m Jacob Cass, the founder of JUST™ Creative. I’m a multi-disciplinary graphic designer, working with clients all around the world. My specialty is logo & brand identity design. JUST™ Get in touch.

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How To Write An Effective Design Brief and Get The Design You Want!

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How do you get the design you want? The perfect design you envision in your head? … The design brief is the answer.

Whether you are a designer or a client, an effective design brief is the single most critical factor in ensuring that a project is successful.

This article will tell you how to write an effective design brief that will be both beneficial to the client and the designer.

This article will be based from the client’s perspective.

What Is A Design Brief?

First off, you may want to know what a design brief is. A design brief is something that is vital to any design project as it will provide the designer(s) with all the information needed to exceed your expectations.

A design brief should primarily focus on the results and outcomes of the design and the business objectives of the design project. It should not attempt to deal with the aesthetics of design… That is the responsibility of the designer.

The design brief also allows you (the client) to focus on exactly what you want to achieve before any work starts on the project.

A good design brief will ensure that you get a high quality design that meets your needs, providing you have  chosen the right designer.

How To Write An Effective Design Brief

If you answer these questions below in an ordered and detailed fashion, your design brief will be 90% done… the other 10% will come from further questions from the designer after you submit your brief.

Have fun answering the questions and remember, provide as much detail as possible! This does not mean one line answers.

What does your business do?

Tip: Never assume that the designer will know anything about your company. Be clear and  concise  and avoid jargon when replying.

  • What does your company / organisation do?
  • What is your company’s history?

What are the goals?  Why?

  • What is the overall goal of the new design project?
  • What are you trying to communicate and why?
  • Are you trying to sell more products or get awareness of your product / service?
  • How do you differ from your competitors?
  • Do you want to completely reinvent yourself or are you simply updating your promotional material?
Tip:  You should also provide old promotional material to assist the designer.

Who is the target market?

  • What are your target market’s demographics & phychographics? ie. the age, gender, income, tastes, views, attitudes, employment, geography, lifestyle of those you want to reach.

Tip: If you have multiple audiences, rank them in terms of importance.

What copy (text) and pictures are needed?

Tip: The copy and pictures used in a design are as crucial as the design itself and you should clearly state who is going to be providing the copy and pictures if needed.  You may need to look into getting a professional copywriter / photographer – ask your designer for some recommendations.

  • What copy needs to be included in the design? Who is providing the copy?
  • What pictures / photographs / diagrams etc need to be used? Who is providing these?

What are the specifications?

  • What size is the design going to be?
  • Where is it going to be printed / used? The web, business cards, stationery, on your car?
  • What other information should the designer know in regards to specifications?

Have you got a benchmark in mind?

  • You should provide the designer with some examples of what you consider to be effective or relevant design even if it is from your main competitors. This will set a benchmark for your designer.
  • Provide the designer with things not to do, and styles that you do not like or wish to see in your design. This will give the designer an idea of what to avoid and will avoid disappointment on your behalf.

What Is Your Budget?

  • Providing a budget prevents designers wasting valuable time and  resources when trying to maximise your budget.
  • Providing the budget upfront also allows designers to know if the project is going to be worthwhile to complete. Make sure you are worth their time.

What is the time scale / deadline?

  • Give the designer a detailed schedule of the project and set a realistic deadline for the completion of the work. You should take into account the various stages of the design project such as consultation, concept development, production and delivery.

Tip: Rushing design jobs helps no one and mistakes can be made if a complex job is pushed through without time to review, however, there are times when a rush job is needed, and in these cases you should be honest and upfront about it.

Tips For The Designer

As a designer it is important to have a template such as this one to give to clients as clients will not always come to you with a design brief – feel free to use this one as you please. By having a template ready, it shows them your professionalism and ultimately saves them (and you) a lot of time and money.

Do you have any more tips of what should be in a design brief? Leave them in the comments below.

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123 JUST™ Creative Comments

  • Mohamed Shinaz Saeed Reply

    This is just perfect. This article basically covers all the information needed for a designer to start work. Great one!

  • John McFarlane Reply

    This is a great help, I just sent off my first design brief request form to a client, I can amend this now and add some points you’ve raised here.

    Great Post

  • Jin Reply

    I’m a boxer type of guy. :)

    Great list you got there.

  • Steve Brown Reply

    Hi Jacob, back again, we are in the process of creating a new logo, we are using my nephew who has just finished a design course (we will pay him I promise) this article is useful for both parties and may speed the process up a little, we were finding it difficult to be clear about what we wanted, but this helps. I am sure he will be pleased about our new found appreciation of what he requires.

  • Eivind Reply

    Great article! One thing I also ask is “How do you differ from your competitors”  I guess this is something they can answer under “What are the goals of the design project”, but it never hurts to be more specific.

    Just to be picky, demographics are things like age, gender, geography, while attitudes, beliefs and tastes are called psychographics. demographics are “Who/what is the client”, psychographics is “Why is the client like that”.

    Thanks for another helpful article, Jacob!

  • Eivind Reply

    I meant of course “Who/what/(why) is the target audience (like that)”.

    Too focused on clients at the moment :)

  • Jeremy Reply

    Great article, I have been trying to strengthen the way I gather information for quite some time and some of the tips you provided in this article have got me thinking about it again. Putting extra time into working through the natural progression of a project idea and developing a strong design brief saves you time in the long run and makes for a smooth(er) development process. As always great work, keep em coming.

  • Rob Barrett Reply

    Another great article, Jacob. A very handy, well-worded and succinct list of requirements that are necessary for any job to go smoothly. I’ll be utilising a lot of this for future client ‘interviews’.
    Eivind’s additional question is a valuable one too in getting across the benefits of a product/service/company rather than just the features.

  • Jacob Cass Reply

    Bil,l, Mohamed, John, Jin, Jeremy,
    Glad to be of service, thank you!

    Steve,
    Hello again, I would interested to see the final logo design – hopefully not $5.00! You may also find my logo design questionnaire quite useful.

    Elvind,
    I will add that one in too, thank you! I have fixed up the demographics thing too, thanks!

  • Dan Reply

    This is really great, I might lift this set of questions in future, if that’s OK?

  • Erika Nicole Reply

    I appreciate this! I have been consulting a lawyer about revising my contract, and we were looking to separate the brief-related content from the terms and conditions, so I think this gave me a little insight into a way I could do that. Thanks. :)

  • Carina Reply

    Great – thank you very much!!!

  • Steve Brown Reply

    I will tell Roy you are interested in seeing what he comes up with, I think that works in my favour, it will certainly be a figure of more than $5 with this added pressure. Will check out the questionnaire.

  • Nathan Beck Reply

    Ugh Jacob if only this were the case with client!

    Right, when it comes to freelance work – the points you’ve raised above are only a dream, and even I were to shove this in front of a clients face before we discussed anything – they still wouldn’t look at it.

    Even now working at Flame, some of the briefs we get from clients are, well just that – brief!

    I used to love it when clients said ‘it’s a blank canvas – just go for it’… but now I hate it. With no brief you end up with a bad design, no direction often leads to too many ideas floating around and the design falls apart.

    Constraints provide a better end result, as long as they’re not to tight! A healthy design brief gives good direction and will not only develop a better, more confident design, but will more than likely reduce the design time.

    This applies not just to the design but to every aspect of the project. In the case of a website; if you have a good, sturdy brief – chances are the design, the copy, the project management, the PR and marketing and SEO will all fall in to place better if everyone working on the project has a better understanding of the final goals.

  • Conrad Gorny Reply

    Interesting stuff. Might use some questions provided :)

  • Omega Reply

    Hi Jacob! Awesome post. My company, Elune Art, has always used a similar questionnaire for the clients. Thanks for such good description of all the important points!

  • suraj naik Reply

    Well at work we call this as Web Design Questionnaire. We include many questions starting from the client name to their competitors websites. Even the column structure is also asked for. Over all this helps the designer to understand what client is envisioning & to know what is he looking for is always better. Sometimes even change in color hurts a client a lot & that can be taken care by a good design brief.

  • Ann Edwards Reply

    A couple of great resources for this topic from a designer’s standpoint include: Writing A Design Brief and Our New School Design Brief example.

    Though, this definitely was a far more succinct list of steps to provide the client with. Thanks for the great insight yet again!

  • Roy Nottage Reply

    The design brief is something that my course should of covered a lot better, since being handed a warm, freshly printed and stapled brief (like the lecturers would hand us) by your client is not how it usually works, I understand.

    Though since my uncle has read this article, I will most certainly be expecting one from him before I start his $5 logo.

  • Acuity Designs, London Reply

    Great article Jacob. Used it myself to put a logo design brief form on our website! Thanks

  • Dainis Graveris Reply

    Yeah, already fulfilling those points in my workflow – very detailed and thanks Jacob. The more You know about Your work and specific company – output will be even better..!

  • Vivienne Quek Reply

    Sad to say, very few of my clients prepared written brief for us. Instead we asked the clients many, many questions, write the brief and get the client to endorse that what’s documented is correct. I agreed that getting the client to show old marketing literature is important. 2 questions that I’ll always ask:
    1) What works for this marketing material? What is it you like about this marketing materials?
    2) What didn’t work for this marketing material? Is there anything you wish can be improved.

  • James Kurtz III Reply

    When do you typically send a brief to a client? Meaning: Do you send the brief before or after you have the client locked in for the project? Do you send it to prospective clients? I’ve experimented with when to introduce the brief into the work flow and am wondering what your (and your community’s) thoughts are on the timing. Thanks!

  • James Kurtz III Reply

    Another thing I forgot to add in my previous comment… If you have problems getting good answers to your brief, like Nathan Beck mentioned above, I’ve found it’s best to schedule a brief (no pun intended) meeting with the key players instead of sending a form. Most people hate filling out forms, it interrupts their busy day and they rush through it. A face to face chat, telephone call, or video conference will get you much better answers. Through a discussion you get brilliant insights that may otherwise have gone unknown. It’s a bit more work on your part but it’s worth it, and you can usually charge for the time.

  • Theo Reply

    Thanks for the info… selling one’s design is a skill young/stubborn designers doubt.

  • Jacob Cass Reply

    Just realised that my replies never posted to this article… I did it from my admin panel and it is not here now so I will reply again.

    Dan,
    No worries at all, even said so in the article!

    Erika, Carina, Conrad, Omega, Acuity, Dainis, Theo, Pat,
    You’re all welcome.

    Steve,
    Has he finished the logo yet?

    Nathan,
    Indeed, that is one of the reasons I wrote this article, so I had something to refer the clients to rather than repeating the same questions over and over. As I said in the opening paragraphs… “Whether you are a designer or a client, an effective design brief is the single most critical factor in ensuring that a project is successful.”

    Suraj,
    It is interesting that you ask your client the column structure. Isn’t that the designers job to decide?

    Ann,
    Thank you for the links and feedback. I came across the first article when researching this article.

    Roy,
    A questionnaire is a good starting point for a logo design… you should set one up with the questions you ask. You can find mine here for starters: http://justcreativedesign.com/web/logo.pdf

    Vivienne,
    That is one of the reasons I wrote this article, so I had something to refer the clients to rather than repeating the same questions over and over. Some other very valid questions you have there.

    James,
    I ask for the brief before the project begins, this way you also get a choice if you want to work on the project or not. I then put together a proposal and send that to them of which they can then decide to go ahead with the design or not. After the first deposit comes through, I then ask more questions related to the project. This ensures that you are not wasting your time with research, questions, etc without being paid.

    I prefer a form to a meeting as you have something to refer back to – a safety net if you will but it is true, a meeting can get get valuable insights.

  • Jeff Wymer Reply

    Excellent resourcethis is an invaluable resource to a successful design process which in turn results in a well designed finished piece. I absolutely find this site to be extremely resourceful and I enjoy reading your articlesI need to dig into your archives with a big cup of coffee!

  • Logofinery Reply

    Very nice article indeed! Many designers don’t bear this in mind. Being well organized is crucial. The funny thing is, customers often do not know to answer many of these questions… such as: why do you need a logo ? Then you need to actually explain to them why do they need it. These guidelines cut pieces of the customer’s business plan, so you can judge easily if he/she is a lousy businessman

  • elambeloca Reply

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  • Briermow Reply

    ???, ?????? ???????…? ?? ? ????? ?? ????? ?? ? ?? ????? ??? ??? ????? ? ????? ??????????…

  • Roomemig Reply

    ???, ?????? ???????…? ?? ? ????? ?? ????? ?? ? ?? ????? ??? ??? ????? ? ????? ??????????…

  • Steven Reply

    Hi Jacob. Just came across this on my daily crawl through the web. Excellent and well thought out post. I have found that the major bone of contention between designers and clients is the vast amount of grey area, leading to varying or missed deadlines, too many proofs, too much back and forth etc and ultimately customer dissatisfaction. I think you have pointed out a very understandable way of getting rid of the ‘mystery’ of the design process. Because after all thats what it is, a process, the means by which any business runs.
    Great stuff!
    Love your own logo by the way

  • Vivek Singh Reply

    Hi Jacob

    I have always found your blog useful. Especially this post.

    I had to make a design brief and I found your tips really helpful. Thanks a lot!

  • Hugo Canales Reply

    Excellent brief, thanks a lot. I’m sure I’ll use it.

  • Boldis Media Reply

    Budget is a keystone of the brief in russian web design.

  • maricor Reply

    Hi!!
    Really a great read!!
    Helped me a lot on how to effectively relay my thoughts on a design brief to the designer/creative agency!!
    Words used are very clear and consise.
    Thanks for sharing.

  • ganesh Reply

    Nice article. This article covers all the information needed for a designer.

  • Florida Search Engine Optimization Reply

    Thanks for sharing. This is really helpful on my course ” designing”.

  • kathy strube Reply

    Hi Jacob,

    Thank you so much for sharing this design brief. It’s excellent, and I will keep it handy for sure.

    Just would like to add the following:

    “WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, WHY, & HOW”

    I actually received a request to design a flyer with just the date and title of an event.

    EXAMPLE:

    * Who is the team? Who is the coach? Who are the prominent players? Who are the supporters?
    * What sport do they play? What is the competition?
    * Where is the competition? Where is the team normally based?
    * When is the competition? How long have they been preparing? Are there any other important time factors?
    * Why are they entering this particular competition? If it’s relevant, why does the team exist at all?
    * How are they going to enter the competition? Do they need to fundraise? How much training and preparation is required? What will they need to do to win?

  • Website Developer Reply

    Hi,

    Definition of A design brief: It is something that is vital to any design project as it will provide the designer(s) with all the information needed to exceed your expectations.

    This is the good definition.As well as article on A Design Brief is really greate.

    I am deep from Website Development Company : e-profitbooster.com

  • akini john Reply

    Thanks for the information, it helped a lot.I’ve
    been searching for a week an this is the easiest explanation I’ve came upon, writing a design brief is pretty easy for me now an through this i could now explain to others how to go about this.
    THANKS AGAIN.

  • Kathleen Crone Reply

    Hi Jacob,

    Thank you for this article, even though I am a couple of years late in finding it :)

    I am just about to write my first design brief for graphic design work. I have worked with several graphic designers over the past couple of years, none of whom have every asked for a brief or provided me with a questionnaire to fill out.
    I hesitated providing clear and succinct guidelines in fear of preventing creativity and because I was new to small business. The result is work I am not happy with, hence I have never returned to the same designer twice.

    Now that I have seen the light I am about to set things straight. I have found your list very helpful.

    Thank you
    Regards,
    Kathleen

  • mecs, Dubai Reply

    We would really appreciate getting any sort of brief, we often have people making enquiries who explain nothing about their requirements and ask ‘how much to design a brochure? or something similar’

  • brian Reply

    hey ,this article is more than great , i am an interior design student and trying to write my first design brief ,i wanted to know if i can use this one or not ??? plz help as i never had any idea about it
    thank you

  • Paula Dalesio Reply

    We often have people making enquiries who explain nothing about their requirements and ask ‘how much to design a brochure!!

  • Jane Reply

    Hi, I used your logo questionnaire to ask to my clients. Hope it’s okay. Thanks for a great article

  • SHAFEEQUE Reply

    Hi Jacob. Just came across this on my daily crawl through the web. Excellent Job

  • noel Reply

    I am looking at this as a designer so I know what obstacles and guidelines I will have to tackle when working with a client. THANKS!!!

  • Mensah Ishmael Reply

    Hi
    Thank you for such an amazing information on DESIGN BRIEF. I just took on an employment as a College teacher and your information added a lot to my explanations…THANK YOU very much again…

  • Imran qureshi Reply

    Great job as usual i think this design brief covers all the information on designing thanks jacob for uploading this will help a lot

  • China CCTV Camera Reply

    The design brief is something that my course should of covered a lot better, since being handed a warm, freshly printed and stapled brief (like the lecturers would hand us) by your client is not how it usually works, I understand.

  • Adrian Reply

    We have a 2010 chevy hhr & a 2009 scion xb that the wrap will be going on. Pic which ever vehicle you want and we will cuctomize it on our own to fit the other.

  • mos Reply

    JUST WHAT I WAS LOOKING FOR, SAVED ME FROM WASTING VALUABLE TIME. THANK YOU

  • Virtual Agents Reply

    Great blog!This lesson is really excellent information on DESIGN BRIEF, I appreciate it. Thanks for sharing. This is helpful on my program .

  • Ashley Reply

    Hi Jacob-

    Thank you for writing this article. I feel like I have a better idea now how to get the information I need from clients’ and it’ll save both of us time in the process. I’ve been freelancing for 3 years but still have a lot to learn. But it’s encouraging to see how well you’ve done and to gain insight into this business. I appreciate it!

  • Morgan & Me Creative Reply

    Like the saying…’NO design brief, NO work…period!’.

    Designers aren’t gods, we also need a little nudging and push starts to get the creative juices flowing. A brief is like a road map to the final destination. We’ll drive the car, you sit in it and be our guide.

  • Nwanya Felix Reply

    Thanks Jacob!!!

    This guide to produce a good design brief, is very helpful in my academic works and more than useful in my day to day professional practice as an Architect.

    Thanks! once again.

  • Stairs Manufacturer Reply

    Good post on design briefs and information that is transferable to other areas too.

  • Advertising Agencies St. Louis Reply

    Thanks a bunch. This really helps me to organize my projects and improve efficiency.

  • Daly@Writing Templates Reply

    This is a perfect guideline for somebody who needs a designer. Honestly, if I were to hire one, I would never think of all these details myself.

  • Joan A Reply

    I find it helpful to ask clients for adjectives that describe the feeling they want the final design to convey — is it sober & serious? Clever and fun? Bursting with energy? Motivational? Nostalgic? Futuristic? Etc.
    This question often brings out unconscious assumptions the client has. Articulating them is really helpful!

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  • Anita Sanyal Reply

    This site is just the perfect one as I was looking for. I am a self taught designer and want to be good logo designer. The articles, ‘How To Design A Logo’, ‘The Logo Design Process of Top Logo Designers’ are great help for me.

  • Chloe Reply

    Hi Jacob,

    Thanks for the article, it’s great!
    I realise this was written a couple of years ago but I was wondering if you or any readers had any views on how to get a decent brief out of a private client for a private project (say residential).

    Anyone else finding it difficult?

    Thank you in advance for any idea / responses.
    And thank you for the read! Very instructive! :)

  • justin Reply

    Great article Jacob. Used it myself to put a logo design brief form on our website! Thanks

  • gfxnerds.com Reply

    Great article.
    If you need to see another approach at a logo design brief you can check out this article also :
    http://www.gfxnerds.com/blog/logo-design-brief/

  • eslam said Reply

    great article as usual, i have to say plz stop Wasted ur brand because of money, i mean many designer made very bad designs because the clients just want that, its oki money is important but ur brand is more important, if u just keep waste ur brand with bad works the people will just say ohh this designer is bad, if u waste some money and just made good art u will be something in the future ..

  • Patrick Reply

    This is a very helpful guide to us designers. thank you so much for sharing your knowledge. :)

    Cheers!


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