How to write a design brief

Here at ORCA, we love a good design brief. Here are a few tips and tricks to help you translate your request effectively and efficiently.

So you have a project in need of some brand direction. You’ve followed the initial steps of ‘How to choose a brand agency’ and now you’re looking at how to write a design brief to translate your vision into writing.

Here at ORCA, we love a well written design brief. Although we’ll create these in house after a thorough brand immersion workshop, it’s always nice when a client approaches us with a design brief already prepared, as we can quickly establish whether we’re a right fit for the job, saving us both time and money.

Here are some helpful suggestions of the areas you need to consider when thinking about how to write a design brief.

Introduction/Client Overview

Start with a simple introduction to yourself and your company. What is your business? What is your story so far? What do you offer? What problem do you solve for your customers? How do you want to be perceived as a brand? 

Target audience

Who is your target audience? What is their age/sex/profession or general likes and interests? Do you have specific brand personas you’re trying to attract? Perhaps you’re looking to launch a new product or subsidiary brand, separate to your main brand or product and you’re looking to attract a whole new audience. Break it down a little and describe who we’re targeting here.

Project Overview

Next, briefly explain the project as a whole. What’s the plan? Don’t worry, we’ll get more specific shortly.

The Business Objectives

Many articles will not recommend this as a primary consideration when writing a design brief, but here at ORCA, we like to understand our client’s business objectives in order to help them achieve these goals. If we have a specific target or goal in mind, then we can accurately envision where you want to be in 3, 5, 10 years time, and adapt our creative strategy to suit.

The Project Objectives

Similarly to the main business objectives, project objectives can really help us to envision our creative campaign as a whole. How can we help our clients to realise their potential and achieve their objectives? These kind of visionary, ambitious goals are what make us buzz here at ORCA, and it will kick start our thought process. Aim big and then evaluate on budget. You can tone a big idea down, but you can’t amplify a small idea. 

Deliverables/Services Required

What is it exactly that you’re looking to commission? A brand identity, a new website, a brand campaign, a product launch? Maybe it’s all of this. Be specific in your request and you’ll receive a better, more suited response. 

Competitors

Outline your competitors, in terms of size, offering, location and anything else that you consider to be a main point of competition. List them by name, and if you want to be that little bit more helpful, share their website URLs too.

Limitations and Risks

Things to avoid, project constraints, things to look out for, obvious pitfalls. Add what you can here, although your chosen agency will be able to elaborate on this through their research and discovery stages. 

Creative Direction

You may already have an idea of the direction you want to take this project in or a specific design style you’d like to explore. If so, include this, it will help your prospective agencies to evaluate the time and cost involved.

Measuring Success

How will success be measured? Is it based on audience growth, sign ups, gross profit, brand reach, secured partnerships, website traffic etc. The list is endless, but try and refine what areas you’re using to measure success so there are no misunderstandings as to what’s expected. You can aim high, although don’t be unrealistic.

Timeframe

Be as specific as possible. Time is money. Are there any major deadlines, launch dates, board meetings, shareholder reviews already booked in? Outline them all so the project can accommodate your needs. If you’re more flexible, state as much.

Budget

You may or may not have a budget, or even want to disclose your budget at this stage, but doing so can narrow down your search and ensure only the suitable agencies respond to your brief. The clearer you can be about your budget, the better an agency can calculate the time and the resources required to create a solution. It has been said that asking how much a creative service will cost is like asking how long a piece of string is. But this needn’t be the case if there is transparency and communication from the offset. Be open with your budget and you’ll receive an open and tailored response.

Approval Process

Outline from the offset what your approval process will be. Who will be involved? Will you be using a scoring system, if so what is it?

Response Expectations

What kind of responses are you expecting? Will you be accepting calls so the agency can learn more about you and interrogate your brief? Will you want your shortlisted agencies to pitch or present their proposals? Do you expect the project costs to be broken down? There are many variables here, and it’s up to you how to play it.

Main Point of Contact Details

It may seem obvious, but make sure you include all of the necessary contact details for the main project POC.

Other things to consider

Other things which you can consider, but which aren’t vitally important at this stage are:

Tone-of-voice: is there a set tone-of-voice for the brand/product/campaign?

Buzzwords: a list of buzzwords; single word descriptions, emotive adjectives; words to give a feel for the overall brief. These can be super helpful.

Choice of channels: Is this a print brief, a digital brief, a social brief, an internal comms brief?

If you know what the intended channels are, state them.

Additional useful stuff: Links, past design examples, quotes etc. etc.

I hope this proves helpful for clients and creatives alike and aids you with how to write a design brief. Good luck!

Get in touch

Looking to kick start a project and start your brand journey? Get in touch with ORCA today, we’d love to hear from you.

If you’d like to see more helpful articles like ‘How to write a design brief’ or ‘How to choose a branding agency‘ keep an eye out on our News page.