How to Write a Design Brief

Learn how to write a design brief, from inception to effective elements to ensure it’s successful. Get this advice and more on Kent’s UXD blog.


Knowing how to write a design brief can help drive an overall understanding of a project’s needs. A truly excellent design brief, however, bridges the terrain between a good idea and making it into reality. By effectively communicating all the essential environmental factors, requirements, constraints and needs of a design project, a brilliant design brief can energize all parties involved.

Keep reading for an in-depth exploration of how to write a design brief, from the reasons for writing one to the most effective elements to ensure your design brief is successful.

Why Write a Design Brief?

A marketing department executive, creative director or manager typically kickstarts a new design project, but small business owners, company directors or startup founders may also need to assume this responsibility. The range of design projects requiring a design brief may include:1

• Advertising campaigns

• Architecture design

• Business branding or rebranding

• Content marketing improvements

• Digital marketing campaigns

• Ecommerce

• Fashion design

• Interior design

• Packaging design

• Print advertising

• Product design

• Website design

Reaching out by email and phone conversations with various designers and agencies is a time-consuming process and difficult to manage. So, in the interest of saving time, design briefs are written to streamline a project. By thoughtfully defining requirements and answering all the inevitable questions that stakeholders will ask, design briefs help keep all involved parties working on the same page and help keep the project on track.

How to Write a Design Brief That’s Effective

A good design brief is easy to understand, not overly wordy but comprehensively describes an issue or need and a solution. It highlights the project’s importance to your company, industry, market, customers and other users and outlines project-specific needs and goals.

Design briefs are not typecast to a specific document format. They can be submitted as emails, Word Docs, Google Docs, PDFs and even PowerPoint documents. However, a really effective design brief may go the extra step to improve communications and enhance collaboration by enabling sharing, commenting and other forms of collaborative editing allowed on Word and Google Docs.1

Essential Elements of a Design Brief

To ensure your design brief is both brilliant and successful, you’ll want to present your design project in the most straightforward and compelling manner. The following list offers a logically-ordered flow of elements you’ll likely want to include:

Your Company’s Elevator Speech: Provide a brief but exciting overview of your business. Creating a solid first impression significantly improves how your company and design brief are received.1, 2

Your Design Project Objectives in a Nutshell: State right upfront the measurable results you want your new project to achieve for your business. Well-defined success factors help drive project plans in the right direction and target the specific tasks and responsibilities needed.1, 3

Your Target Audience or Users: Concisely describe demographic traits and psychographic characteristics, eg.: family structure, education, preferred brands, websites, newspapers, magazines, vehicles, pets and other relevant details.1, 4

The Business Problem: This should be an honest explanation of the real-world challenge your business wants to overcome.1, 5

Specific Project Requirements: This might include pre-existing interface issues, software compatibility requirements, environmental factors or other known project constraints.1, 6

Your Company Bio: In other words, the “long version” of your elevator speech. Now that you’ve generated some creative energy, offer a deeper dive into your company’s overall profile. Share specifics about who owns your business, business size, growth, market strategy, greatest achievements, biggest clients and other critical details.1, 7

Examples of Your Preferred Design Style(s): This could be a pre-existing brand style guide or examples via screenshots or links to other websites, Pinterest or Instagram posts offering insights regarding the look and feel you prefer for this new design project.1, 8

Your Competitors: Listing your competitors and differentiators helps designers understand how your company fits within your market and objectively measure your target audience/customer engagement.1, 9

Project Timescale: Although specific timelines will be determined by the chosen design manager, listing any known time constraints impacting the desired launch date is essential for creating a successful project plan and schedule.1, 10

Project Budget: A budget outline doesn’t necessarily need to be down to the penny but you’ll want something that gives a fair indication of what everyone is working with.1, 11

Project Deliverables: Include all the different tangibles and/or products required, including such elements as research reports, test results, prototypes, files, files formats, and sizes.1, 12

Contact Information: You’ll want to list the name of the person serving as the project’s lead point of contact, as well as the best ways and times to reach this person. It’s vital for project success that this person knows all the ins and outs of the project and is fully engaged as the go-to person for answering design-specific and project-related questions.1

How Your Project Will Be Awarded: If you plan on submitting your design brief to several agencies, it’s reasonable to include factors determining how your project will be awarded as well as the percentage and weighting of each factor. Award criteria may include such elements as the agency’s suitability, previous experience, alignment to the design brief, potential ROI and/or quality of work.1

Response Required: Finally, include a specific request for replies in your preferred format, such as a written response on company letterhead, to be received by a specific date. Also include any additional material requested, such as relevant work samples and/or client testimonials.1

An Effective Design Brief = A Brilliant Design

By including all the essential elements into your design brief, effective communication between all parties is opened up and detailed from the start, generating the partnership essential for success. The key takeaway here is that knowing how to write a design brief well can be the difference between a successful and unsuccessful or stressful project experience.

If you’re interested in learning more about user experience design or seeking to accelerate your design career, consider achieving your Online Master of Science (MS) in User Experience Design (UXD) from Kent State University. Our 100% Online MS in UXD helps evolve your creative skills as a UXD expert and brilliant design leader, offering a solid understanding of information architecture, user research, content strategy, and usability.

Take advantage of the fast-growing market for UXD designer careers and schedule a call with an Admissions Advisor to learn more about Kent State’s online program.


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