Design team

Design Brief Example: How It Should Look Like and What It Should Contain


min to read

6 Jan



Table of contents

Have you ever ordered a design project? If yes, you probably know that successful execution depends on mutual understanding between the designer and the customer.

Usually, to find such common ground, design agencies ask a client to write down the requirements for the project. This document is called a design brief.

At Eleken, we used to follow this model, so we know quite a lot about it. In this article, we will explain what a brief is and how to write a design brief with examples and templates that you can use. We will also answer the question "Is it possible to work without a design brief?" Spoiler: yes!

But first, let's define the concept and see what to include in your project design brief.

What is a design brief and why do you need it?

Generally speaking, a brief is a document with a list of questions regarding implementing a specific task. In design, this document is a set of requirements that helps designers understand what the client wants and also helps to define the direction for design. 

Usually, a good design brief increases the certainty that a result will be fully satisfying, reducing the risk of misunderstandings between the client and the design team. The design brief sets the direction for future design and is a base for designers to start work.

An example of design brief

A design brief is input from the client, as it should reflect their vision and expectations for the project. But we shouldn't forget that creating a brief is, first of all, the teamwork of the designer and the customer. You don't need to worry about forgetting to mention some vital information in your brief. If the designer you've chosen is a professional, they will never leave you alone with this task.

How do you write a design brief?

We have put together a list of questions typical for a design brief that will help you understand the concept and prepare for hiring a designer. When you answer them, you can assume that 90% of the brief is ready! The remaining 10 percent you will gain when discussing it with your designer. Ready? Let's start!

  1. What does your company do?

Even if it seems clear, it's best not to assume that the designer knows everything about your company. The deeper the designer understands your business, the more opportunities for creativity they have.

Write clearly and concisely:

  • What does your organization do?
  • What background does your company have?
  • What are your goals?

Let designers deeply understand your big goals by sharing your product vision or mission.  

  1. What tasks should the design solve? Describe the deliverables.

This is probably the most crucial question to ask yourself when ordering a design from an agency. Explain what you are trying to communicate with the help of design and why. Clearly state the project's scope, desired outcome, and objective deliverables that you expect, and describe what pain points your product solves for users and how design can help in this regard.

  1. What is your target audience?

When writing about your target audience, don't forget to mention your users' age, education, occupation, income, etc. Explain to the designer who these people are, what issues they want to solve, and how they are expected to interact with your product.

  1. Who are the competitors, and what differentiates your product from them?

Knowing the main competitors and the unique value proposition of your product is also very useful. The design should reflect the unique advantages of the brand to stand out among rivals.

  1. What copy and images will this project include?

The text and images used in the project are essential parts of the design. It doesn't mean you must have all the materials before starting the design process. However, it's worth drafting a plan for visuals and text so that designers can correlate their work with your direction. 

  1. Do you have references?
  • Find some examples/references to the good design or style you like and would want to have for your solution. If you are already on the market, share existing brand visuals like corporate colors, fonts, or images to help the design team get a feel of your product and analyze it more carefully.
  • Show examples that you think would suit the most, even if it is the design of your main competitors. By doing so, you set the bar for your expectations.
  • Show the designer what you DO NOT like. This will give them a general idea of your tastes and preferences and prevent you from getting frustrated with their work.
  1. What are the timeline and budget?
  • Determine your budget in advance. This way, a designer can optimize the time and resources spent. Determining the budget also allows the designer to decide whether they want to perform this task.
  • Give the designer a timeline and set a realistic final deadline. You have to consider the different stages of the design work, such as consultation, concept development, execution, production, and delivery.
  • Sometimes, it is simply necessary to complete the work quickly. In such cases, honestly inform the designer in advance.

It is necessary to discuss all the above questions with the designer before you start working. You may think that some of them are trivial and the answers are obvious. Still, the quality of the design depends on the knowledge of all these details.

Now that we know what information is important and why, it's time to look at some design brief templates.

Design brief examples and templates

The above questions are fundamental but don't always look exactly like this. The following templates contain the main points you should discuss with your designer before starting the design process. Based on them, you can outline the questions in your design brief.

Let’s check out some design brief examples.

Design brief example
Design brief example

Design brief template above is quite detailed, all questions are divided into blocks and spelled out in detail which makes it clear and very convenient to fill.

Design brief template
Image source: Spigot design

This creative design brief example is well-structured, sets clear business goals for design, and is very laconic. It works well for website design requests.Regarding app design, a brief template has to be more specific regarding UX requirements and include some relevant references.

Regarding app design, a brief template has to be more specific regarding UX requirements and include some relevant references.

Design brief example
A basic product design brief exampleImage source: Ossmium

The simple template above gathers information about the company, the problem to solve, the client's product, the budget and timeline, and the desired deliverables. It is a good design brief example that can be a great start. However, let's not forget that designing products is a complex and sometimes long-lasting process.

When classic design briefs don't work? 

Clear goals and requirements help in the design process. Designers always appreciate clients sharing a brief that can become a North Star in the design process. However, some problems can occur with design briefs.

For example, young startups might not have a product manager on the team, so writing a design brief often falls on the founder's shoulders. For them, writing and submitting effective design requirements can be a very complex task, as founders might not have the right expertise for it. Even though that's absolutely fine, designers might wait for ages to get the desired brief.

Meme with Frodo from Lord of the Rings

Another common case is that discussion with the design team often inspires the product owner and changes perspective regarding the initial design requirements. Then, clients' ideas about the desired format and concept of the product may change in the process, too. In that case, there's a need to update a brief, and you may feel your time was wasted on writing the brief.

To write a good design brief, you must collect and structure a large volume of information on the product in one short document. Without prior experience of creating a design brief can be difficult. This is especially true for product design.

Brief is the most effective when you want to order a design project (landing page, website redesign) from a design agency. However, when building a product from scratch, a short brief is insufficient to cover all the requirements for a new product design.

Do you really need a design brief to start working with a designer?

A design brief, while highly beneficial in framing a project's scope, objectives, and expectations, is not an absolute necessity to start working with a designer. In fact, many successful collaborations begin without a formal brief. This is particularly true when you're working with experienced designers or agencies who are adept at extracting essential project details through initial consultations and discussions. They can guide you through the process, helping to define goals, understand your audience, and pinpoint design requirements. This approach often leads to a more organic, evolving understanding of the project, which can be particularly beneficial for startups or businesses still fine-tuning their vision. Ultimately, the decision to use a design brief depends on your specific context, the nature of the project, and the working style of both you and your design partner.

To sum up 

Understanding the role and structure of a design brief is crucial for anyone looking to embark on a design project, whether it's a website, an app, or any other digital product. A well-crafted brief serves as a roadmap, ensuring that both the client and the design team are aligned on the project's goals, audience, and desired outcomes. However, it's important to recognize that the utility of a design brief can vary depending on the project's nature and the team's expertise. In some cases, especially when working with experienced designers or agencies like Eleken, starting a project without a formal brief can lead to a more fluid and adaptive design process. This flexibility often results in a product that truly resonates with its intended audience and fulfills its business objectives. 

To save our clients` time and offer a more flexible quick call format. Our Head of Design, Maks, who has years of experience in product design, has a meeting with a client. We call it a kick-off meeting. During the call, the client shares their vision for the product, goals and objectives, ideas about design, details about the existing stage, and desired outcomes. Maks has a trained ear, so he listens carefully and picks up the most important details that he professionally translates into design requirements for our team. We fully trust Maks, and so should you, because he's a real pro.

Sometimes, the clients come with references and ideas; other times, we suggest how the product can be designed. At Eleken, we are big fans of the idea that good products are not created in a vacuum, mindlessly following requirements. Great products are the result of ongoing team collaboration. And we have a whole bunch of them in our portfolio

You have a product to design and want to see us in action? Book a call to get in touch with our team.

Mariia Kasym

Writer at Eleken