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Why a Design Brief should be the first step in every Design Process

By: Edo Begagić

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Every successful design project should begin with a design brief. The design brief is the blueprint that guides the entire design process, ensuring that both the designer and the client have a clear understanding of the project's direction and objectives.

What is a Design Brief?

A design brief is a comprehensive document that outlines the essential elements of a design project. It is created collaboratively by the designer and client, and it serves as a foundational tool that guides both parties through the entire design process. It's helping everyone involved in better understanding the vision of the projects, but also ensures that all participants have a clear understanding of the project’s objectives, scope, and constraints as well - serving later as a guide when moving towards further phases of the design process (like wireframing and developing the design system).

Key components of a design brief

A design brief is structured into various key sections that represent the foundation of the design process. These sections consist usually of the formal aspects (including the company information such as the client’s name, project name, main contact, collaborators etc.), the design aspects (like the branding keywords, tone of voice, information about the client, the target audience and project goals), but also some practical aspects like deliverables, scheduled sessions and additional notes.

Get a Filled-Out Design Brief Example

Download a filled out Example of the Design Brief in order to have better insight into how it should look like when it's complete.


By taking a look at the example above, the first information we have to fill out is the Client/Company information.

The Client/Company Information gathers all essential details about the client and the project. These information include:

  • Client/Company: Identifies the client or company commissionings the project.
  • Project Name: Specifies the title of the project.
  • Final Approver: The person authorized to approve the final design.
  • Collaborators: List all main collaborators included in the project.
  • Main Contact: Designates the primary point of contact for project communications.
  • Budget: Outlines the financial constraints and expectations for the project.

After filling out the company information, the next part is filling out the Branding Keywords.

Branding Keywords are specific words or phrases that encapsulate the core attributes, values, and essence of a brand. By writing them down, it is possible to always return to them. This is useful when confronted with design choices related to the brand’s overall market positioning. Since branding keywords capture the essence of the brand’s identity, they are most often used to guide the aesthetic and thematic elements of the design. Most larger companies already have established branding keywords, but if they do not, it's important to assist them in order to effectively capture their brand's essence.

The Tone of Voice specifies what type of feel the brand has to it. It refers to the consistent expression, personality, and emotion that a brand conveys through its communications. It includes the words and imagery you choose across every content format (including emails, landing pages, ads, social media posts, blog posts etc.). In the example provided above, the characteristics are presented in a spectrum, illustrating how each aspect contributes to the overall style of the brand.

About the Client is a section used for describing the most important information about the client. It provides the design team with insights into the client’s industry, business model, and market environment.

The Target Audience defines who the end users or recipients of the project will be, which influences many design decisions. It includes demographics, psychographics, behaviors, and preferences of the audience the project intends to reach.

Project Goals clearly articulate what the project intends to achieve. A design is complete when it meets the predefined requirements. And the project goals are an important aspect of those predifened requirements.

The Deliverables specify what the client will receive at the end of the project. This includes all final products and materials such as digital files, printed materials, web components, etc.

The Scheduled Session outlines the project timeline and key review sessions. In the example provided it includes reviews after completing: sitemap, wireframe, ui design and development. It is important not to confuse reviews with continuous communication with the client. Gathering additional information about any uncertanties regarding the brands values should be an ongoing effort throughout the design process.

Extra Notes offer additional instructions or considerations that might affect the design process. This section may include inspirations, specific compliance requirements, or other special instructions that need to be considered during the design process.

Conclusion

By integrating a design brief into our design process, we establish a comprehensive roadmap for executing our projects. As the initial stage of our workflow, it serves as a tool to better understand the brand and the clients expectations. It offers a structured approach that helps streamline the design process, ensures transparency and provides relevant practical information about the projects lifecycle. By using a design brief it is ensured that both the client and the designer are aligned throughout the design process, preventing any uncertainties and ensuring that every step is clear and purposeful.

Thanks for reading. Do you have questions or suggestions? Feel free to send me an e-mail on info@hexcode.digital or connect via Linkedin.

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