How to write an effective design brief

Guest Post: Rachel Viski, head designer at Minta Viski

Whether you’re a marketing pro or a small business owner, if you’re not a designer then at some point you’ll need to work with one and they’ll need a design brief.

Having a solid brief from the outset is critical to ensuring you get something back that hits the high notes. Yet, so few people take the time to write a good one.

How to write an effective design brief

Please don’t ask me to make it pretty

If you ask any designer, this is probably the most common design direction a graphic designer receives when taking on a new job. And it isn’t helpful.

Of course, you want your design to look great, but to enable us to do that we first need to understand who you are, who you’re speaking to and what exactly you’re looking to achieve.

This may sound like a lot of work, but it can actually save you money in the long run. Most designers will provide a quote for a design project that will include one or two rounds of edits. If you reach this cap, you may then start to be charged for corrections and changes on an hourly basis.

Here’s my advice on how to write a cracking design brief.

Silverline Design Brief

1. Provide an overview of your organisation and your brand

This is the critical first step, we need to understand who you are and how you present yourself. Introduce your business! Explain your brand identity and define exactly what makes you, you.

When writing this into a design brief, imagine that the designer has no knowledge of what your business is and the services it offers. You want to ensure the designer ‘gets your business and brand.’ This includes your brand values, personality and position in the market. I find it often helps if people think of their brand as a person when describing it – is it corporate, fun, cheeky, serious and so on.

Your branding and promotional material design should be consistent throughout all business activities. This is done with brandmarks and the consistent use of colours and fonts. Ideally, you’ll have high-res images of all relevant logos and products you need included in your design, these need to be provided to your designer. If you have an existing style guide, pass that long too! If not, this could be the perfect opportunity to develop one with your designer.

2. Identify exactly who you want to reach

Understanding who you’re speaking to helps set the tone of the material we’re developing. For example, are we targeting neurosurgeons, British backpackers, new parents or university graduates? As I’m sure you can imagine, the visual tone we would look to use would be vastly different across these four audience groups!

3rd image

3. Explain what the business is trying to achieve

Are you trying to boost sales of a particular product? Or promote a key brand value to your team? Are you educating residents on a new service? Introducing a new product to market? Recruiting volunteers? Explicitly communicating the context and bigger picture of your campaign or project with the designer will define the focus of the design. That new product of yours will be front and centre but only if you ask. As designers, we need to understand what the desired outcome is. What is the purpose of this project and what do you hope to achieve?


4. Design specifications

Finally, we need to know key details of the project – deadline, budget, specifications, delivering, print numbers … this is where you define the scope of the project.

For example, explain that you’re looking for a graphic that will be printed on a Snap Up Reception Desk for an upcoming exhibition. You’ll need an image that is a minimum of 300dpi and CMYK colour; luckily, we’ve provided those specs here.

Keep deadlines realistic and give yourself plenty of time to tweak and collaborate on the design. Think ahead! With regards to your budget, be up front about how much you want to spend so your designer can tell you what’s possible.

On a final note, maintaining good relationship with suppliers is critical across the entire supply chain. Your suppliers can often get you out of a pickle, but only if there is an established relationship. Here are some tips to turn your designer into your BFF:

  • Don’t pester your designer for urgent turnaround times if the project is not urgent.
  • Understand that a lot of time and effort goes into visual design and that includes trying various colours, positioning, images and layout before you receive the first proof.
  • Send file attachments via Dropbox or WeTransfer if they’re large, time is precious!
  • Be honest with your feedback and provide visual examples where possible to steer the direction. And yes, Pinterest is ok. is also effective.
  • And of course, give your designer a solid brief. No excuses now, I’ve provided this one for you to download FREE > Minta Viski Design Brief Template