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TopVA’s Tips: How to Write an Effective Design Brief for Your Next Creative Project

Imagine this: You have the perfect website envisioned in your head. You find a designer, give him a verbal overview of your requirements, and you both agree on a deadline.

The designer creates your website, but it isn’t anything like what you hand in mind. The specs are all wrong, the design isn’t suitable for your target audience, and the website just doesn’t reflect your brand at all.

You try to look back at the instructions you gave him, but either end up reviewing vague details or none at all.

Now you’re left with 99 problems and a website you didn’t want.

Is there a way out of this unenviable fate? Of course, there is!

It’s called a design brief and we can’t wait to show you how to write one so that you can make your next design project a roaring success.

But first things first…

What Exactly Is a Design Brief?

In simple terms, a design brief is a detailed document that specifies all of the core details of a creative project. It is often created by the client and then sent to the designer who adds their ideas to it. The design brief is finalized after both parties have reviewed the document and agreed on everything written on it.

The goal of a design brief is to achieve stakeholder alignment before work begins. It ensures that the client gets everything they want while helping the designer stay on track and meet the client’s expectations.

The format of every design brief might vary slightly to suit the needs of the creative project. However, there are set elements that should be present in every single design brief to make certain that the document is clear and comprehensive.

These essential elements are:

✔ An OVERVIEW of the business

✔ A detailed list of the design REQUIREMENTS


✔ Information about the TARGET AUDIENCE


Now that you know what an effective design brief is, let’s dive into how to create one in 6 easy steps!

How to Write an Effective Design Brief

Step 1: Start with an overview of the business

All design briefs should start with key information about the business so that the designer is familiar with the brand and what it stands for.

You can begin with the company name, industry, and a summary of your products and services.

From there, you can talk about the brand’s mission, vision, values, and identity, and also include the brand’s differentiator and/or unique selling proposition.

Step 2: Cover all the design requirements

Now that the designer is acquainted with the business, you should lay out exactly what work is needed. Is it a new logo? A homepage layout? An entire campaign?

Be as specific as possible!

For instance, if the project involves just web designs and not print ones, write it down. Or if it requires creating illustrations for social media, mention what size and format they will be.

This will guarantee that everyone is on the same page and no one ends up wasting their time or effort.

Step 3: Highlight the goals and objectives of the design

Next, you’ll want to talk about why the design is being created. Go over its purpose and what it aims to achieve.

For example, if want your designer to create a landing page for you, write down whether you need the landing page to encourage sign-ups or if you just want it to promote your products.

When the designer knows exactly why they’re doing what they’re doing, the design will be more powerful and hardworking.

Step 4: Define the target audience

Right after determining the why, it’s time to define the who.

A website designed for teens will look and work differently than one designed for corporate decision-makers. This is why it’s essential for the brief to highlight the target audience for the design.

Establish basic demographic information first, such as age and gender. Then add details like their aspirations or hobbies to further personalize your targets.

Understanding the audience helps guide the designer in making the best design decisions.

Step 5: Include the timeline and budget

You probably know this already, but just to be sure...

Don't forget to include the budget you are working with so the designer has an idea of the type of design solutions they can realistically provide.

Once that’s done, mention when you want the designs. There's no right or wrong way to go about this, but always remember that the timeline should be reasonable enough to provide quality results.

Step 6: Work on the brief together before finalizing it

Now that you’re done with the draft, share it with the designer you will be working with. Be open to answering their questions and taking their suggestions to improve the brief.

As we said at the beginning, the design brief is only finalized after both parties have reviewed the document and agreed on everything that is written.

Other Elements You Can Include

We’ve listed all the elements we think are important to cover in your design brief. But if you want to take it a step further, here are some points you might want to include:

  • Competitor information

  • Brand/style guidelines

  • Design inspiration/samples

  • Existing assets available

Wrapping Up

A design brief is the foundation of every successful design project.

It helps avoid roadblocks, sets proper expectations, and keeps your project on track and moving forward—which is what you're aiming for.

Follow the tips we’ve outlined above so your design brief comes out strong every time!

Check back every Wednesday for a brand new blog post from TopVA!

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