A good design brief is vital for a project that will run smoothly, and delivers the expected outcome on time and within budget.  

A design brief should be a comprehensive, detailed document that will guide both the designer and the client through the project's development. 

It will inform the designer of exactly what is required for the project, guide the workflow from beginning to end, keeps communication clear between the client and designer, and will keep the project on schedule.

The brief should be open enough to allow the designer to be creative, but specific enough that it avoids too much scope creep. Remember to define "what" needs to be achieved rather than "how" it should be done. 

In this blog post we will discuss what should be included to create a great design brief. 

What is the product? 

First off, you need to introduce the product. Explain clearly and concisely what the product does, and what the key features are. Think of this as your "product summary". 

Objectives and goals 

This part should give the designer some context and background to the project. 

Explain the need for the product. What is the real world problem you have identified, and how does your product solve this? Are there existing solutions on the market? How is your product better than your competitors? 

Tell us what stage your product is at – is it just an idea, do you have a functioning prototype, or is it a redesign of an existing product?  

Clearly define the scope of the work required from the designer. You may only want the designers to get involved at a certain stage, or you may want a complete "research to production" project – what deliverables do you want to see at the end of the project? 

Target market 

This is where you explain who the user of the product will be, and what issues concern them in using the product.

Who will be the person that buys the product? – remember, this is not always the person who will use the product. How much is the product going to sell for? 

Also explain the context in which the product will be used. Will it be used indoors, outdoors, in the wet or in the heat? 

Technical and material requirements 

Think about your material requirements – but try not to be too specific. Instead of saying "aluminium", say that the product needs to be strong, and lightweight. You don’t want to rule out a more suitable manufacturing method by specifying materials too early on. 

Does it have any electronic components, or other technical requirements? Does it need to be dust- or water-proof? Does it need to adhere to any standards or regulations that you are aware of? 

Manufacturing requirements 

When you are at the beginning of a project, manufacturing seems like it is something that will be in the distant future, but its important for the designer to begin designing with manufacture in mind.  

The first thing to think about will be the quantities you want manufactured. Is it going to be 50 a year, or 50,000? How much do you want it to retail for?  

These factors will influence the choice of manufacturing method, and the manufacturing method will influence the design.  

Budget and timescale 

Both the designer and the client need to share a realistic understanding of what work is required to complete the project. Each project is individual, and the budget and timescale will generally depend on the complexity of the design.  

Before you start, make sure you know your budget for funding development – this will allow the designer to make better decisions on where to allocate resources, and to give an idea of the level of product development they can achieve within that budget.  

Do you have a specific launch date? If you don’t, timescales need to be agreed. Timescales should include a final deadline, but also project milestones along the way. These milestones are a good opportunity to review the project with the designer, and update the brief if necessary. 

Design brief updates

Of course, it would be nice to have all the available information in the initial design brief, but its absolutely fine to have questions – just make sure there is allocated time to research and find answers to these unknowns. 

Also remember that the brief is a live document, and as projects develop and grow, the original brief may change. It's important for the brief to be updated, so both the designer and client are on the same page in regards to project outcomes and timelines. 

A good design brief can be one of the most valuable tools for project management, so don't just write it at the start, then file it so it never sees the light of day again. Keep notes, keep updating, and keep learning from it. 

This was written by Emma Hartley our award winning Product Designer.  If you have any design questions or would be interested in finding out more about how we can support you, please get in touch.