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What Is A Design Brief – A Guide

 By metaghdouini@userlytics.com
 Nov 06, 2023
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Home » Blog » What Is A Design Brief – A Guide

What Is A Design Brief – A Guide

Back in the mid-1980s, Coca-Cola found itself in a fierce rivalry with PepsiCo, vying for market dominance. To regain lost ground, Coca-Cola made a daring decision that would later become a case study in branding and design gone awry.

They decided to reformulate their iconic Coca-Cola recipe and launched “New Coke” on April 23, 1985. The aim was to outperform Pepsi, but the decision was made without a clear design brief or a full understanding of the brand’s emotional connection to consumers.

The result was a marketing disaster. Consumers weren’t just attached to the original Coca-Cola’s taste; they had a deep emotional bond with the brand’s identity, which symbolized American culture. The introduction of “New Coke” triggered an unprecedented public backlash.

In response to the public outcry, The Coca-Cola Company swiftly reverted to the original formula, labeling it “Coca-Cola Classic.” This wasn’t just a return to the old taste; it was an acknowledgment of the brand’s enduring value and the emotional connections consumers had with it.


Time Magazine’s cover following the public backlash
against Coca-Cola’s “New Coke” release

The “New Coke” debacle remains a powerful lesson in the world of design and branding. It underscores the significance of a well-rounded design brief, not just in terms of visual design, but also in recognizing and managing the emotional connections consumers hold toward a brand.

In this article, we’ll illustrate the crucial role of design briefs in ensuring the success of a design project. We’ll guide you through the process of creating your own design brief and shed light on the key details that must be included in this important document.

Defining a Design Brief

First things first: what is a design brief?

Think of it as your project’s map and compass. It’s the GPS that outlines your company’s objectives, expectations, and constraints. 

Who creates a design brief?

Much like a ship’s crew working together, both the client and the design agency play a role in creating the design brief. The company takes the lead in coming up with the initial version, and the agency (or designers) hired for the project add specific details, such as design guidelines.

What’s included in a Design Brief?

The details in a design brief may differ from one to another, but we’ll break down the essential elements below. We’ll dive into these elements with the example of XYZ Corp, a made-up company we’ll use for clarity.

Design Brief Introduction

In our case, let’s say XYZ Corp wants to revamp its website. The project is scheduled from January 1 to July 1, 2024, with a budget range of $30,000 to $50,000 (please note that these numbers are for illustration purposes and may not match real project costs). Typically, a design brief summarizes this info at the document’s beginning. It can also include the project manager’s or other key stakeholders’ contact details.

Now, let’s look at every part of the design brief and how to detail them.

1. Project Objectives

Offer a brief overview of the project, its intent, and the primary objectives. This section is vital for grasping the project’s underlying business goals. For instance, XYZ Corp aims to improve user experience, rejuvenate their brand, and boost online engagement.

Objectives section in a Design Brief

2. Target Audience

Clearly outline your target audience, considering demographics, behaviors, and preferences. In our example, we’ve simplified it, but the more details you offer about your target audience, the more valuable it becomes. Information such as age, gender, location, preferred device, and more are beneficial for the design team.

Target Audience section of a Design Brief

3. Project Scope And Limitations

Define what falls under the project’s scope and any restrictions or limitations. What are the project’s boundaries? For instance, in our example, XYZ Corp aims to retain the existing website structure, highlighting a specific constraint.

Project Scope and Limitations Section of a Design Brief

4. Deliverables

Clearly state the desired results and project deliverables. What should the design team create or accomplish? What are your expectations at the project’s conclusion and upon launch?

Deliverables section of a Design Brief

5. Timeline

Establish a realistic project timeline with clear milestones and deadlines. When should different phases of the project be completed?

Timeline section of a Design Brief

6. Budget Considerations

Discuss the financial aspects, including the allocated budget for the project. What are the financial constraints? In our example, we’ve simplified it, but you can provide as much budget-related information to the agency as needed.

Budget Considerations of a Design Brief

7. Technical Requirements

If the project involves technical elements, specify the platforms or technologies to be used.

Technical Requirements of a Design Brief

8. Communication And Collaboration

Define the frequency of updates and how the design team should collaborate with you or other stakeholders.

Communication section of a Design Brief

9. Competitor Analysis

Include insights about competitors and their designs. What works well for them, and what can be improved upon?

10. Brand Guidelines

Provide any existing brand guidelines, if applicable. This includes logos, color schemes, typography, and other branding elements.

Extra Information (Brand Guidelines and Competitor's Analysis) of a Design Brief

In our example, we’ve combined the final two sections under “Extra Information.” However, your design brief may differ and contain more in-depth information about these aspects, of course.

By incorporating these details into your design brief, you establish a clear and comprehensive groundwork for your design project. This ensures that all involved parties are in sync and share a common understanding of the project’s objectives and parameters.

Here’s what the complete brief for XYZ Corp might look like : 

Full Design Brief example
Full Design Brief Example (2)

If you’d like to use an editable version of this brief for your own project, click here.

Additional Design Brief Best Practices

While design briefs can vary from one project to another, the aforementioned guidelines are likely to be applicable to most of them. We also recommend a couple of additional best practices:

Include an “Inspirations and Guides” section

While it’s common to reference competitors for design inspiration, it’s a good idea to dig deeper. Explore other companies’ products and services that may not be direct competitors but offer innovative ideas. This can add a unique dimension to your design brief.

Use communication and project management tools

In addition to setting up a clear communication and feedback schedule (such as weekly calls), consider using project management tools like Trello, Asana, or Notion. These tools allow you to closely track progress, even on a daily basis, and provide visibility into the specific tasks being addressed. This level of detail can be highly beneficial for effective project management.

Case Studies

Hopefully, we’ve already conveyed to you the critical role of design briefs. But for those seeking further persuasion, let’s turn our attention to some renowned companies that executed extensive projects with meticulous design briefs.

Airbnb

In 2014, Airbnb underwent a significant rebranding effort. They wanted to evolve their brand identity to reflect their broader offering, moving beyond just home rentals to experiences and travel. 

Airbnb created a comprehensive design brief that emphasized the need for a more inclusive, community-driven, and global brand identity. The design brief detailed their vision for a new logo, color scheme, typography, and brand messaging.

The result was a more versatile and modern brand image that positioned Airbnb as a platform for all types of travel and experiences. This design brief played a crucial role in reshaping Airbnb’s brand identity and supporting their growth and diversification.

Apple

Apple is renowned for its emphasis on design, and the iPhone is a prime example. Apple’s design brief for the original iPhone in 2007 was a detailed document that outlined their vision for a revolutionary smartphone.

The brief emphasized a minimalist, intuitive user interface, a sleek and compact form factor, and the integration of multiple technologies like a phone, music player, and internet browser into a single device. This detailed design brief guided the product development team and led to the creation of a groundbreaking product that reshaped the entire mobile phone industry.

Tesla

Tesla’s Model S was a game-changer in the electric vehicle industry. The company had a comprehensive design brief for the Model S, which aimed to create a high-performance electric sedan that could compete with luxury gasoline-powered cars.

The design brief included specifications for range, acceleration, safety features, and the integration of cutting-edge technology. Tesla’s commitment to this design brief resulted in the successful development and launch of the Model S, which became a benchmark for electric vehicles and helped reshape the perception of electric cars.

In conclusion, creating a detailed design brief is not just a routine step; it’s one of the most critical factors in determining the project’s success. In any project, big or small, a design brief is the linchpin that holds everything together; It aligns teams and ensures that everyone is on the same page.

While every design brief is unique, they typically include the same essential elements, many of which we’ve explored in this article. For your convenience, an editable template is available for your project; simply click here to download it. Wishing you a happy briefing! 


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