HOW TO

Writing a Design Brief: How to Introduce your Project

Estimated reading time: 11 minutes
December 3, 2021
HOW TO

Writing a Design Brief: How to Introduce your Project

Estimated reading time: 11 minutes
December 3, 2021
HOW TO

Writing a Design Brief: How to Introduce your Project

Estimated reading time: 11 minutes
December 3, 2021
  • /
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Ratibor Sekirov
CEO at Aspirity
Written by
This article was written
in collaboration with
Anna K.
UI/UX Designer at Aspirity
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A design brief is a short document that determines the key aspects of the upcoming design project. It's an initial component of the project's lifecycle. A well-written design brief states the main objectives, deadlines, budgets, and overall expectations. Consider it as a landmark that sets the strategic vision of the project and the basic guidelines for the designers' team.

People often find writing a design brief complicated or confusing. However, our designer team in Aspirity has dealt with dozens of briefs, so we know all the pitfalls firsthand.

An inconsistent text may lead to misunderstandings between the designers and their clients. As a result, there will be unclear requirements which may cause extra working hours failed deadlines or other obstacles in the development process.

Thus, it's important to provide a straightforward, concise, and full-fledged brief that includes all the essentials.

Each design project is different, and, accordingly, the briefs should be written relying on its peculiarities. However, there are a few turning points to consider. This post will reveal the role of a brief and its core components. Also, you'll find several tips to help you deliver the right message. We will also provide you with design brief examples for your inspiration.

So if you want to know how to write a design brief, dive deeper into details, consider your project's goals, and follow the lead.

Why do you need a design brief for your project?

A design brief sets the initial milestone in the project workflow. How so?
It directly affects planning efficiency.
It encourages both designers and clients to set realistic goals.
It estimates the approximate timeline and cost.
It helps to reduce delays and misunderstandings and ensures a smooth working process.
The designers need to understand the project's business goals and the target audience. Taking it into account, they will assess its scale more accurately. Clients' participation is crucial here. The more attention they pay to a design brief creation, the more chances they have to save their time and money later on. A brief is a basis for further efficient collaboration between clients and designers. If written well, it will immerse the team in the client's business goals context.

What should be included in a design brief?

The key components of a design brief are aimed to help designers and clients outline the main idea and direction of the project. The word "brief" speaks for itself—it shouldn't be too long and overwhelming.

So when writing a design brief, focus on the essentials:
Information about the Client.
Project's Key Goals.
Budget and Expectations.
Deadlines and Milestones.
Main Technical Aspects.
Communication Flow.
And other important information that has to be considered.

Who Writes the Design Brief?

It seems obvious that clients should be involved in the making of an efficient design brief, regardless of who will fill it in with information. However, it is often neglected which inevitably leads to expectations and reality mismatches.
Designers and clients' collaboration working on a brief brings awareness of the product's goals, business' nature, and any details that could help build the first milestones. However, the roles may vary. Let's take a look at each option.

Client

A client is the most obvious candidate to create a design brief. As long as they are the ones who know exactly what their business needs, clients will be more likely to outline the project's core benchmarks. If you are writing a brief as a client, specify the position and your role in the company.

Designer

A designer may write a brief if a client isn't capable of specifying technical or organizational aspects of the project. The designer team normally has a ready-made template. On its basis, they get the required information from the client.

Designers and developers may also use this approach to optimize the workflow at all levels for their internal needs.

Collaborative team

This approach is good for better detailing customer needs and enhancing mutual understanding. A standardized template may not be enough to deliver a full-fledged vision of the project. Then designers request more clarifications after the foundations of the brief are laid.
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How to Write a Design Brief

It's important to mention that there is no one-size-fits-all method for an efficient design brief. Its components may vary depending on your project's type and specifics. The types of design briefs fully comply with the types of products to be created.

For instance, requirements for an e-commerce platform, a project management tool, and a SaaS product are quite different. However, there are a few mandatory elements for every brief.

Now, with a clear definition of what a design brief is and why it should be used, let's find out how to make it clear, informative, and result-driven. For greater clarity, our guide will be followed by an example of a design brief.

Briefly Describe Your Business

First of all, the designers' team should understand your brand's identity, the existing style, and tone of voice. It will have a direct impact on further design solutions. Also, write a few words about the essence and core principles of the client's business. Mention the industry it belongs to and the size of your firm. Outline your values and core objectives. If the product should be designed from scratch and your business is at the earliest stage, specify your general plans for its development.

The business overview should be concise. For a more detailed immersion, add the corresponding links to this section.

Define the Project's Scope

This section is determining since it provides designers with a general idea of what they will work with. The project's scope depends on the number and complexity of your assigned tasks to the chosen team. Whether you need to build a mobile app for an existing product or create the software from scratch, the professionals need to know where to start and how large the project is.

Here, the client should specify the essential details regarding the project's scope. If there are any additional expectations from designers, it's worth specifying them in this section. For instance, if you want to design a custom dashboard, mention what data to visualize.

Set the Design's Goals

The design goals are the central part of the brief. You may be aiming to enhance the users flow, increase the app's efficiency, or supply your company's employees with a powerful project management tool.

Thus, the designers will understand what they are working on and what the client expects at the end of the journey. Considering the project's type and objectives, they define which features to include, the primary focus, and the client's priorities.

If you need to redesign an existing product, make sure to mention the metrics and KPIs you want to be improved. For instance, your primary goal is to increase conversion or keep the users' attention on a specific feature. Thus, the designers will know what is the project's priority focus.

Also, provide the designers' team with all the existing requirements and specifications If you've already set the project's structure. However, in many cases, the initial plan lacks details and contains many gaps regarding how to achieve the goals.

Designers often start working on a project after a detailed study of the client's needs and build the structure in collaboration. If finding means to meet the set goals will be the hired team's responsibility, be sure to state it in your brief.

Identify the Target Audience

The project's goals directly lead to the audience's needs. Build a generalized prototype of your app's average customer and define their expectations and pain points.

In your brief, provide the results of your user research. The designers may have to dive deeper into the matter to deliver perfectly suitable UI/UX solutions. However, this section of the product design brief will provide them with a basis to start.

Consider the Competitors

It's rather unlikely that your project doesn't have any analogs on the market. Ignoring the competitors is a misleading strategy as you may learn a lot from their experience. Take this advantage and list both the direct opponents and the distant ones. It will help you gain information about your audience and understand the market needs.

The designers will highly benefit from the competitors' list presented in your brief. They will use this information to make your product stand out and confidently occupy its niche.

Mention the Technical Requirements

The technical aspects are often considered as the part of the project that the hired specialists completely cover. However, outline it in your design brief if you need to redesign an existing product, an MVP, or an app with defined technical constraints.

Here is the list of the potential requirements that will significantly affect the project's scope, timeline, and budget.
Backend development. Suppose the project is already on track. It would be great if you provide the existing backend documentation. Although it's not always necessary at the initial stages, designers may benefit from understanding the product's technical context. Sometimes it's important to know where certain data is taken from, how it can be changed, etc.
Business analytics. Inform the hired team about any business analytics that has been conducted. It may include a persona for the target audience, CJM, user story, and related requirements.
Design and technical preferences. Mention the front-end libraries, color palettes, design style, files format, etc.

Provide the References and the Existing Assets

Even with no prepared structure, you probably have a more or less clear idea of what your product should be like. Design briefing is a perfect way to convey this vision to the team you will work with. Back up the description of the style that you like with examples. Provide references to the websites, apps, or other digital products you admire.

If your brand already has a face, introduce it to the designers. Include everything you've got: mood boards, graphics, mockups, style guidelines, logo design, typefaces, colors, etc. Inventory and references will outline your project's individuality. They may serve as a guide for future User Interface design. In addition, if your product needs redesign and you want to save something from the previous version, mention it in your brief.

Name the Deadlines

Although the timeline is approximate, it majorly depends on your project's complexity and goals. Designing an MVP may take 5% of the whole project's timeline.

Taking it into account, express your expectations concerning the project's duration. If you build an app from scratch, you're likely to know the release date and need the team to follow the schedule. So set the key milestones when writing a brief.

You may divide the workflow into several parts:
the design sprint;
the basic prototype;
user testing;
the main part of the design;
the final corrections.
Estimate the approximate timeline for each of these stages. It will help designers develop a roadmap and set up the workflow.

Estimate the Budget

Just as the project's scope of time, the budget is based on the features' complexity and the requirements. Of course, any calculations will depend on the design company's proposal. However, it's worth setting reasonable limits and expectations in your brief. The budget should be discussed as soon as possible since it will clarify all parties, essential before the design process starts.

To get an approximate budget for different tasks, look at our free pricing manual with examples of the estimation for different projects of different sizes and complexity.
You may also specify the type of your project in this regard. Mention if it's a startup requiring pitching, are there any investors involved, or is it a product that currently makes a profit.

Plan the Communication Flow

This section is often omitted in design briefs. However, communication plays a vital role in workflow efficiency. Designers normally need regular online meetings to discuss the deliverables, share current results, and ask important questions. If you use an effective project management tool, you can address most issues there. However, calls remain an integral part of the workflow as they help designers and clients collaborate and stay on the same wavelength.

The client should be involved in the process as much as possible, especially at the initial stages. Although a lot of calls and questions may be a bit annoying, treat it as an investment in a result-driven workflow. Constant communication leads to the result that perfectly matches your expectations, in particular, if they aren't clearly defined in advance.

Point out the most convenient time for calls, especially if you have a time zone difference with your partner's outsourcing company. Mention who will participate in communication and which team members you want to contact. For example, you want both designers and developers to be present to avoid wasting time on multiple separate meetings.

Design Brief Template

For your convenience, we're sharing the design brief template we use at Aspirity. It might help you get inspired to write yours. This sample contains essential sections only. In your very case, you may have to add or remove something to fit it to your project's specifics.
General information
Company name & Project title;
Client name & Position in the company;
Contact information.
Country,
Time zone,
Phone,
Email.
Project information
Business overview
Your company's niche, principles, values
Project's scope
What exactly is to be designed? What is the final deliverable?
Project's goals and objectives
What are the project's aims? What kind of problems should it solve?
Target audience
Who are the end-users of the product? Are there any business analysis results?
Competitors
Who are the direct and indirect competitors? How do you want your product to stand out? Make a list.
Technical requirements
Is backend infrastructure on your side? What are your design preferences and specifications?
References
What are the examples of designs you want your project to be like? Provide links.
Styleguides
Does your brand have other existing products? Do you have any ready-made style guides, mockups, or layouts to use?
Schedule
What is the project's time scope? Specify deadlines, milestones, and the expected release date.
Budget
What is your project's budget? Does your product have investors?
Communication
Whom would you like to contact? What is the best time for calls/meetings?

Company Experience

Not all companies come to us with clear and well-prepared requirements. That's why we at Aspirity have extensive experience in creating design briefs together with our clients.

Sometimes clients' briefs may be quite vague, so the major part of their creation is carried out by our team. For instance, in the Pick Up Points project, we solved business tasks and built the brief in collaboration with the client. As a result, the initial brief has significantly changed after the discovery phase.
In contrast, Arctic, a project management software for real-estate development, had a complicated digital transformation system. Our client wanted an Atlassian-like PM platform that would satisfy the company's needs, being efficient yet extremely easy to use and understandable. They wanted everything to be kept in one place, with no need to switch between multiple apps and systems.

Our client provided us with a lot of files and information on how their former business process worked. We built a brief and, on its basis, documented extended system requirements. The brief became a great basis for dealing with this complex task. Seldom should you learn how the other country's investment system works. Yet, for our designers, nothing is impossible.

Also, our clients gave us a style guide, so the UI was partly based on its existing products for consistency. We built all mockups and layouts based on the color palette taken from one of the company's apps.
As a result, we built a platform that met the client's requirements and matched their brand identity. The design brief helped us understand the client's core business goals and find the right solutions. That's why it's an essential part of our work.

Deliver your Ideas with a Design Brief

Writing a design brief is an easy-to-perform way to provide the chosen designers' team with the necessary information about your project. With its help, the professionals will be aware of your goals, objectives, requirements, and expectations.

Make your brief concise yet informative and consistent. Specify everything you've already got and do your best to convey your vision and the key ideas. Reinforce it with relevant links, explanations, and references. Be sure to mention the desired time scope and budget limits. Each piece of information you add to your brief will enhance the designers' awareness and involvement at the earliest production stage.

Hopefully, our guide on how to make a design brief was helpful and will come in handy for your case. But if you're still not sure how to introduce your project and deliver your ideas, our dedicated team at Aspirity is ready to answer any of your questions and provide you with a free consultation. Drop us a line, and we will find a perfect design solution for your project!
This article was written in collaboration with Anna K. UI/UX Designer at Aspirity
CEO AT ASPIRITY
Ratibor Sekirov
For more than 2,5 years, I've been working as CEO at Aspirity. I help professionals launch digital products by providing dedicated development teams.
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