Design Briefs: Why You Need Them And How to Draft Them

Visual language is perhaps the most effective one. Breaking all communication barriers your brand’s visuals talk to your customers in a language they understand. And to create consistent-looking visuals for your brand, there is one essential detail – a design brief.

You might have a great visual marketing strategy in mind. And with this, you might also have some great ideas for your marketing designs. But how do you communicate them to your designer? That’s where a design brief comes in.

When your knowledge about your brand and your design team’s knowledge about design meet at a common point, it results in designs that strike the right chord with your customers. And this union results in designs that help shape your brand image. 

These are also the designs that take your campaigns in the right direction. Design briefs act as a meeting point in any design collaboration. 

But what is a design brief? What all details should you include in one? Who creates it and why? We’ll talk about all these in this blog. And later, we’ll also look at some of the common gaps or hurdles in creating design briefs. 

Now, What Is a Design Brief Exactly?

A beautiful design is of no use if it does not fulfill its purpose. We’ll put it in simple words. Of what use will a fancy-looking couch be, if it does not feel comfortable. Or if it does not fit in your living room? 

Similarly, if your design does not evoke the right emotions or if it does not feel relevant to your brand, it will not be of any use to your brand. No matter how aesthetically appealing the design might be. Don’t you agree? 

A design brief makes sure your designs don’t just look good but also feel relevant to your brand and help fulfill your marketing goals. It is a brief document that captures all the essential details that a designer needs in order to start working on your design. 

A design brief includes things like:

  • A brief description of what the project is or the goal of the campaign 
  • Target audience 
  • Competitors
  • Any particular visual style you will like (retro, grunge, art deco, etc.)

Here is another blog from Kimp that talks in-depth about all the components a good design brief contains. 

Should you provide all the above-mentioned details for all your design projects? Well, it depends. Are you working with the same team for all your designs or different teams? 

With Kimp’s unlimited graphic design services you work with a dedicated team that handles all of your design requests. So, you do not have to keep repeating information like brand assets, target audience, and competitors. Unless of course, you have a targeted campaign that focuses on a subset of your existing customer base. 

Reasons Why Design Briefs Matter More Than You Think 

Whether you are outsourcing your graphic design or working with an internal team of designers, the design brief lays a strong foundation for every design project. Let’s look at some of the reasons why you should be spending more time drafting one. 

Talk about the objectives of each design 

While working with a dedicated team of designers in a subscription model, you can leave out a few details. But each design will have a different objective. 

Some of your designs are meant to promote your brand. And some should promote specific products. Some talk about an upcoming sale. And others might focus simply on building better interactions with customers. Your design brief will capture these differences. 

In this case, you can have a standard design brief template. Only change the varying factors like objectives, color scheme recommendations, and design copy. 

Everyone stays on the same page

60.8 % of marketers consider visuals as a critical aspect of marketing. So, every successful marketing strategy consists of a few or more of the following teams working together: 

  • A marketing team that analyzes and identifies the right marketing strategy. 
  • A content team that pinpoints the essential content for the campaign and strengthens your content strategy. 
  • A copywriting team that comes up with the copy for the campaign. 
  • And a design team that takes care of the visuals. 

Some of these might be internal teams and some external. Irrespective of the specific arrangement you have in place, the creative brief helps in getting everyone on the same page. It captures the marketing goal and contains the copy to be included in the design. And also the purpose for which the content will be used. 

Collecting inputs from all the independent teams this common document, namely the design brief, helps everyone stay on the same page. 

So, in the future, when your content strategist, for example, tries to evaluate an old campaign and wonders what visual style was used or why it was used, the answers will all be there in the design brief. 

Saves time in verifying and finalizing the design 

When you start planning the visuals for a campaign, you might have a clear picture of what you discussed in a recent meeting. But, by the time your designs are ready, will you still remember all that was discussed? Details like the colors you wanted or the particular font style you recommended are all difficult to recollect. 

When you make the first round of evaluation of the design before sending it out to be published, you should have a clear picture of what was finalized based on the goals. 

When you sit to work on the design feedback, to be sure that the design conforms with the goals, you can use your design brief as a reference. 

Helps achieve consistency in your designs

Building your brand’s visual identity takes months of consistent effort. Every design you present to your audience will be a reflection of what your brand stands for. It will tell them what your brand does. And how your brand is different from the many others in the same industry. 

A good design brief combined with a solid style guide makes visual consistency possible. 

How is that? It is quite difficult to keep track of verbally communicated requirements for a design project. You know that your previous social media campaign was a hit. Your designer was able to get it right and set the tone for your brand’s visual style. But how can you make sure that you follow a similar path for your design requests that come a few months into the future? 

Remember that your designer or design team might be handling many other design requests from brands other than yours. There might even be brands very similar to yours. 

So, a detailed design brief will act as a reference document that they go to every time they work on your designs. It will also be useful when they have to make revisions, either immediately or later in the future. You do not have to go over the minor details like colors and font styles all over again. 

Strengthens collaborations in the long run 

To leverage the perks of working with a dedicated team, you should focus on building a strong collaboration. And for this, having a unified approach and a standard document of reference comes in handy. It makes it easier for you to make your design team understand your requirements. 

For your design team, this will be a way to know your brand better. What you do, who you sell to, and who competes with your brand. 

All the information that your external design team might not be able to obtain from your website and social media pages will be present in your design brief. And this inside information is what helps them create designs that look and feel like your brand. 

Things That Can Go Wrong in a Design Brief 

Technically, there is no rulebook that defines what a design brief should look like. But we do have a round-up on the steps in which you can create one for your design projects. 

Every brand might have a different approach to drafting a design brief. But there are a few gaps in the design brief that can:

  • Affect the quality of designs
  • Lead to multiple revisions
  • Or ineffective design collaborations

Here are some design brief mistakes to avoid: 

Using generic descriptors

A good design brief outlines what your brand is about. It tells your designer about your brand’s personality. But using seemingly cliched and overused keywords like “contemporary” brand or calling it a “reliable” provider of web design services will not work. Because most brands are contemporary and reliable. But what is that one trait or set of traits that makes your brand unique? Mention them in your design brief instead of using generic descriptors. 

Talk more about the emotions aligned with your brand. The kind of response your products evoke. The way your products make your customers feel. Use metaphors if you like. 

Kimp Tip: When you choose a highly-focused descriptor for your brand, your design team will be able to accurately capture the mood in your design as well. 

Not gathering inputs from your stakeholders

In most cases, revisions occur because the marketing team feels that the design looks perfect, but the management team wants something else. Or the team member who communicates the design requirements to the external team misses some key points relevant to the marketing strategy. 

All these hiccups occur due to poor communication between the stakeholders. You do not want internal communication gaps to lead to revision requests in the later stages. Not to forget the additional time spent on gathering design feedback and getting the revisions done. 

So, brainstorm with all the stakeholders. Arrive at a common ground on the objectives and visual styles for your design. And include these details in your design brief. 

Failing to share references 

Rather than saying that you want a design that “looks happy” give your design team some references. You might have a favorite ad that triggered the exact emotion you want your ad to evoke. Include these ads in your design brief as references. 

References are also useful when you do not know or if you are not too particular about the color codes or typefaces. The designer will be able to find similar colors or typefaces with relevant licenses. 

So, instead of saying that you need “serif” fonts in your design give your designer a few references. These will help them come up with font recommendations to meet your expectations. 

Kimp Tip: A website you recently came across or a social media aesthetic that caught your attention – anything can be a source of inspiration for your design. Provide screenshots or screen recordings if required. And this will make it easier for your design team to materialize your ideas.

When you choose a Kimp subscription you are assigned a Trello board where you can track all the communication that happens. This makes it easier to share and document reference images and videos. 

Not focusing on the problem the design intends to solve 

One of the best approaches in marketing will be to identify one problem that your target customers face. And then propose a solution for the same. Including details about this problem that your product or service solves will give your designers a strong idea to work with. 

For example, take a food delivery app. Is this app about super-fast food delivery? Or will it be about helping customers find healthy food easily? When you answer such questions before your designer starts working on your design request, the designer might be able to understand the intentions of the design. And based on this the design will be able to come up with ideas for illustration and other visual elements. 

In fact, critical decisions on what kind of imagery to use and what message to portray will depend on this. So, detailing the problem and how you plan to use the design to solve it will ensure that the copy and the design are aligned. 

Skipping details about your target audience 

A women’s skincare brand targets women. That’s pretty much obvious to anyone who does a quick search about your brand on the internet. But what demographics of women do you target? Young or old? Women with particular skin types or skin concerns? All these details will make it easier for the designer to get a clear picture of who the design is intended for. 

“Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder,” they say. How can your designer come up with beautiful designs if they do not know who this “beholder” will be? 

Kimp Tip: What looks chic to a middle-aged woman might look boring to a teen. This applies not just to the world of fashion but also to graphic design. So, you need to be sure that the design reflects the interests of the target audience. 

Drafting Design Briefs To Simplify Collaboration With an External Design Team 

Every graphic design your team creates will fit into your existing brand identity. This will not be a standalone design. To be able to easily compare these designs and understand whether they fulfill their roles, comparing their design briefs will be an easy option. So, all the time you spend drafting your design brief will help you save a lot of time in the future. It ensures that your design team knows exactly what they are dealing with. And nobody will have to go in circles when the goals are clear. 
If you are struggling with getting it all right in the first take, fear not. Kimp’s graphic subscriptions let you ask for unlimited revisions. So, you can keep changing your design as you like until you are fully satisfied with the results. Start with a free trial today.