A successful outcome to a design project means different things to different people. In an effort to align the expectations of the client with the deliverables of the designer, it is critical that a design brief be developed and agreed to, by both the client and the designer.
The client defines the design brief in order to communicate their objectives clearly. It will also set out the timelines, budget, and how they want the work to proceed. The design brief aims to answer any questions the designer might need to ask the client, both before and during the process.
A client can certainly prepare a draft design brief in advance of hiring a designer to execute it, and in fact, this is recommended, as it will assist in selecting the right design firm for the job. However, keep in mind that the design brief is constructed with reference to the design firm's own design process so it will be necessary to refine and edit the design brief with the specific designer before the actual design work begins. Remember the client must ensure that the brief they finally agree to with the designer communicates their objectives precisely. Having said that, "keep it brief" is a reasonable rule of thumb in a brief.
The design brief the client eventually hands over should be one that gives the client a sense of security, a sense that they have expressed as clearly as possible what they are looking for from the design firm. Achieving this usually means that there are some standard topics that simply must be covered. To that end the following free design brief template may be helpful as a starting point.
FREE INDUSTRIAL DESIGN BRIEF TEMPLATE
INDUSTRIAL DESIGN BRIEF
The Client needs to explain who they are; The client might feel that their company is a household name, but designers still need to hear the clients version of their story. There is a need for the client to provide the designer with enough information about their organization to understand where they have come from, and what their long-term vision is for where they want to go; how do they see themselves one year, five years and ten years down the road?
Extend this background information to a high-level synopsis of the market in which the client operates, explain who their competitors are and how their company and its products or services differs from the competition. Explain their organization's brand personality.
A clearly defined objective is critical to the success of the design effort. This section of the brief should explain the need for this particular design project. If the design brief offers a clear statement of the client’s objectives, and the priorities they place on them, it will be doing a large part of the job it needs to do.
Explain the vision of the project and add details, which will help to express more clearly what the company is about and how this project will affect the way the company does business. Part of this process should involve an effort to define the work's audiences.
Outline the materials, medium or media in which the design will be realized, the design cycles, the distribution, the design parameters in general, and the client should say as much as they can about how and where they see the design being used. The client will also need to detail any constraints on the project or its delivery.
The client's design brief will need to tell the design firm some things that the clients would like their design to say about them, adding if possible some examples of work that they think scores highly in this direction. If the client is truly determined to have their company seen, for example, as one that is facing with zest the challenges of the 21st Century, the client will need the design to do the same.
The client must clearly define how they will judge the success of the project. Provide measurable outcomes, such as increased sales figures, client retention or web site visits. Include the time frames in which the outcomes are to be achieved and how the numbers will be calculated. For example, be specific as to what counts as a new customer or a retained customer, and how web site visits will be calculated or product performance will be measured.
MARKET POSITIONING AND TARGET AUDIENCE
The client must describe the current market and where they think the market is headed. This portion of the design brief must provide the designer with a comprehensive understanding of the target audience (i.e. customers) both now and in the future, so that the designer can ensure that the product meets their needs.
CORPORATE OR BRAND PERSONALITY
The designer needs to understand and develop the brand personality so that the customer can relate to the product. The brand personality will have a consistent set of traits, almost human traits, which will add value to the product in addition to the functional benefits it already has. The brand identity reflects on, and relates to , the corporate identity and enables customers to put a human face on the product and relate to it on a personal level. Brand personality can make or break customer loyalty to the product.
Provide the budget and relate spending to the stages of the design process and measurable deliverables. A high-level budget should reflect and align with the detailed project plan and a complete business plan.
SCHEDULE, MEASURABLE TARGETS & DEADLINES
Provide a high-level summary of the project plan.
TECHNICAL AND PRACTICAL CONSTRAINTS
The client and designer should agree to a list of any/all known constraints including everything from budgetary and time constraints, to materials handling, shipping and manufacturing constraints.
OVERVIEW AND ANALYSIS OF THE COMPETITION
Provide a high-level summary of the market, and the existing and foreseeable competition. This should be a summary of the details provided in the business plan.