The process that goes into researching, outlining and assigning your design brief is just as important as the actual design process. Not only do you save the designer sanity but you save yourself (or the company) money. Design is expensive, and going back and forth because of a bad brief is a waste of money.
Without a solid foundation, the end result is bound to fall flat or not hit the mark. If it does, there’s a mix of luck in there because it’s incredibly hard to create a design based off of a simple verbal ask or quick Slack message.
A solid design brief will not only ensure you’re happy with the end result, but it will also:
In this post, we’ll walk through how to develop a rockstar brief for your internal designers and/or external design partners. We’ll also share some tips for briefing freelancers or agencies (even though they’ll often manage the scoping and briefing process themselves).
Here’s what we’re covering:
Let’s get started!
A design brief is a written document that outlines everything from project objectives and milestones to the intended audience. The purpose of a design brief is to outline expectations for both parties, while developing trust and understanding between you and the designers you’re working with. It’s also great for referencing throughout the project process to ensure its success.
Without a solid brief in place, your designers are left piecing together a puzzle in the hopes of creating a design that delivers. This is very difficult to do unless the information initially provided is well thought out and includes everything a designer needs to create a successful end product. That’s where a solid design brief comes in.
Design briefs are important because they help to:
Also, remember that no brief is ever “perfect”. Regardless of what you put down, there will always be a little room for interpretation. When handing a designer or team a brief, make sure to walk them through it and cover all aspects in order to start that rapport and answer any uncertainties. Again, the more clear your brief, the less guessing your designers will have to do.
To make your life easier, we’ve packed up everything you need to deliver a great design brief into a free template. This customizable design brief template will enable you to:
Simply access the design brief template below, and create a copy of your own!
Now that we understand a bit more about what design briefs are and why they’re important, let’s dive into the anatomy of a solid creative design brief.
This is a detailed outline of the project, including:
Whether or not you have a design background, you can always find ways to describe what you want with visual references and links to examples when applicable. Be specific and detailed in the scope!
What is the intended outcome of the project? Is it to increase conversions on a particular page? Maybe you want to generate buzz.
When the designer has a better understanding of the end goal, they’ll have an important piece of context needed to deliver the best creative result. Describe how and where this design will be used, along with the main KPIs attached to the project. Some example goals are:
When you let your designers play a strategic role in the creative process, you’re bound to have better results.
It’s important that, before the project begins, you establish and define everyone’s role. This will avoid any confusion, and prevent anyone coming in willy nilly and providing their unsolicited “feedback”.
The easiest way to keep everyone accountable for doing their part, while setting the necessary boundaries, is to use the RACI framework. RACI is framework that assigns roles and responsibilities to individuals by the following:
At every stage of the project, you can assign each individual a RACI role.
TIP: It’s best to keep this list nice and short. Too much feedback can lead to never ending projects—it’s difficult to please everyone.
A good design brief will go beyond sharing “finish project by June 19th.” In fact, a great design brief will include the following timelines (and then some):
When you’re able to embed your design feedback process into your brief, it will ensure that both parties are on the same page throughout the entire project. Should the designer expect to get feedback within 3 days of sharing the first draft, or will that feedback come when the reviewer has “some free time”?
When you list out all of the timelines and deadlines associated with a project, it will make it easier for both parties to keep one another accountable.
Are you designing an ad to connect with children or their parents? Even if you’re marketing the same product, your approach to the design and messaging should be different for these two audiences. The more tailored your creative, the better.
When building out your design brief, it’s important that you include:
For internal creative/design teams and external long-term design partners, the latter will become more and more familiar as they continue to produce designs over time.
When it comes to the end deliverables, listing out everything you need will help the designer understand what’s expected of them. As you build out your list of deliverables, think to the future. For example, if you’re creating a blog header, maybe have that image formatted for all of the social media channels you use (I.e. Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest).
For example, if the design is for a Facebook video campaign, then you may ask for:
Beyond just image dimensions, think about the file types you want as well, like the raw files.
If you want to stay true to your brand, you’ll need to do more than just share a link to your website. Instead, you should outline and share what assets are available to the designer. This includes things like:
When you include the things that will enable your designers to create something that’s on-brand, you’ll spend less time going back and forth with an unnecessary round of feedback and changes.
If you’re working with an internal team or your flexible design partner, then they should already have these things. BUT, you can still send them any additional graphics or existing visuals that may be repurposed in the creative. Basically, if you’ve got any assets that may be helpful, send them.
Now that we’ve covered the essentials, here are some optional, but helpful things to add into your design brief:
When working with Superside, we handle all of your creative requests and brief our designers accordingly. We streamline the entire process by assigning each customer account a dedicated creative project manager. Not only that, but we choose the best designers for the job and always ensure our customers are happy with the results.
We’ve built our DesignOps platform to make requesting designs hassle free. You can manage and order all of your designs on one single platform. Take a look below!
We sat down with Bill Macaitis, former Slack CMO, to chat about what it takes to success with ad design. Hear his tips and more in this Q&A style interview!