How to Write the Perfect Design Brief for Your Next Project

When you’re outsourcing creative work, it’s only natural to be a little concerned about how the finished product will turn out. If you’ve never worked with a particular graphic designer (or agency) before, you naturally wonder how well they’ll interpret your needs.

If the designer is reliable and experienced, you can be sure of a certain level of quality. But even if the design is completed to a high standard, will you receive designs that are in line with your goals – and consistent with your brand as a whole?

In order to do great work, a designer needs to gain a clear understanding of your company, as well as your desired goals or outcomes for the project.

All of this information forms the basis of a strong design brief. But what exactly is a design brief? And what needs to be included? Let’s find out.

What is a Design Brief?

A design brief is a document that defines the core deliverables, scope, and requirements of a forthcoming design project. It’s typically created by a client for a graphic designer or agency to reference during the project, and can include information about design preferences, intended goals, and target audiences.

Having a design brief is incredibly useful for a designer or agency. It contains all of the information they may need in order to meet (and hopefully exceed) the client’s expectations for a given project. It’s a chance for the client to share practical information about their company, what is needed from the project, where the design deliverables will be used, and any other supplementary information that may help.

Creating a design brief can be helpful from the client’s perspective too. It gives you the chance to clarify your objectives and expectations from the project, whilst also communicating your preferences in style, colour schemes, and tone to the design team.

All in all, a thorough design brief manages expectations on both sides and forms a solid foundation for your work together.

Why Produce a Design Brief?

A clear design brief gives your design agency a precise idea of who you are, what you do, who you serve, and what you need the finished design outcome to achieve. When you set your needs and expectations from the outset, the agency aren’t left to form potentially incorrect assumptions or interpretations of what you want.

Design briefs help everyone involved with your design project stay on-time and within budget. It acts as a compass for both the client and designer to orient themselves by.

What should you include in a design brief?

Company Summary

Before you dive into the design, you should provide some contextual information about your organisation. Even if you have an established relationship with your design agency, providing a run-down of who you are, what you do, who you supply, and why keeps everyone on the same page. Be sure to include key details about your products and/or services and your unique selling proposition too.

Top-Level Overview

This is a brief, straightforward overview of what you need from the project. For example:

We require 500 tri-fold (A4 6pp) flyers highlighting the benefits of our new social media training courses. We are exhibiting at The Big Marketing Expo on the 27th September 2019 and hope to target these flyers towards SME attendees in the FinTech and SaaS sectors.

Target Audience

State who your target audiences are and the pain points you alleviate for them. You may also want to include mini case-studies here so the designer can understand what you do, for who, and how it all works from start to finish.

Consider where prospects are in the sales funnel (or sales flywheel) when they encounter your deliverables – are they for completely cold contacts? Or for people who are close to making a final purchasing decision? This may help influence design decisions.

Current Imagery & Collateral

Establish your current brand guidelines and marketing collateral; what imagery is already in place for the designer to work with? Include your logo, any colour schemes, any existing collateral already in circulation, and (if possible) any rationale behind your current branding and design choices. This gives your designer a good idea of where you’re coming from, what your current presence is trying to achieve, and why.

Images & Copy Required

Consider any external creative input like copywriting or photography that your project will need. Do you already have these materials? If not, who will be creating this and when will it be provided by? What are you intending to illustrate in your copy and/or photography?

Intended Outcomes & SMART Goals

Inform your design agency about the outcomes you hope the deliverables will help you achieve. This can be something concrete like SMART goals (e.g, we’re hoping to increase sales by 10% and increase market share by 5% by 31st December 2019”) or something more general, such as “we simply need to present our documents more professionally”.

Preconceptual Ideas

If you have any ideas floating around in your head about what the end product should look like, be sure to include them; even if it’s a simple pencil drawing, a vague description, or examples of designs you like from elsewhere. Some clients alternatively like to produce a “moodboard”, giving the designer an impression of what you’re aiming for without giving too strict a definition. If you’re in need of inspiration, sites like Pinterest and Behance are great places to start looking.

Any ideas – no matter how hazy – will all help a designer come up with something that’s uniquely yours and ensure your expectations are exceeded.

Timescales & Budget

It’s essential for designers to be aware of any timescales or deadlines you have in mind. For example, if you need your deliverables for a certain product launch or exhibition, your designer needs to know this from the outset, particularly if print timescales need to be factored in.

It’s equally important to be upfront about your budget for the project and whether it’s negotiable at all. This way, the designer can mould their service and advice around what you can afford and can establish early on whether the desired pricing will work for them.

Technical Information

Communicate all known technicalities behind your design. If you’re working with digital graphics, do you need the end product to be a certain resolution or file type? How will the graphics be displayed to prospects? Will the design need to follow any third party design guidelines?

If you’re working with print media, what size will the finished product need to be? Will the finished design require crop and bleed marks? Are you hoping to incorporate any extra finishes or effects like spot UV overlay, metallic foil, embossing, or lamination?

Are you looking to work with a graphic or web designer soon? We hope this guide is useful! If you’re putting together a shortlist of agencies to work with, why not consider OLCO Design? We pride ourselves on getting to know our clients well so we can produce accurate and inventive materials on their behalf. Get in touch for a free consultation on 0330 223 1193 or email

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