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How to buy design: 02 Writing your design brief

laptop_l_45719380_155To help ensure that you cover every detail of information that your designers need to know, we have developed a template for you to build upon. The more detail you can include, the better the response will be.

Client name

Project Name


Provide an introduction to your business, who you are, what you do, where you do it and how long you have been doing it for. Add a link to your website and any relevant information with regards to the project. Add any further information that would help the designers get a feel for your business and how it operates.

Project background

Describe the project in as much detail as you can or need to. How has the project been raised, what is it designed to do, where does it fit with other initiatives within the business, does it have to work with any of them? Detail the project objectives if available particularly with respect to business impact and what the project needs to do for the business or organisation.

Market background

Describe the market you are in; the current prevailing conditions; what you need to achieve in the market. Have you any market research data to support the project, was the project based on changes within the market itself or are you looking to enter new markets?

Who is the target audience/s (customers/users) within the market you have just described?

What is the competition in your market, what does it look like, can you list websites that the designers can go to get a better feel of the overall landscape of the market you are describing?

Work to date

Detail any work (if you can) that you have carried out or completed to date that has an impact on the project. What is available to the designer, describe the point that they are entering in to the project (if relevant). Is there anyone else that they might be working with? Is there anywhere else that they might be able to get further information on what you have done so far?

Services required

This is where you detail what you need. It may be that you just want a brochure or alternatively it may be where you attach a specification for something much more technical. You can be specific about what you need or leave the brief deliberately open for the designers to challenge at a meeting. If you are unclear about exactly what form the services will take – seek advice; make sure you have the right type of designer for the job (see section 3 for further help on selecting designers).

Measurement and outcomes

You may want to add this section to communicate what you feel the deliverables above will do for the business. This should correspond with what you need the project to do for the business or organisation outlined above. This section should be more detailed with regards to how effective you need the project to be, using numbers or more specific targets or goals. These may be related to a business plan or business case raised for the project.


There is always a debate as to whether you should communicate the budget for the project or not. This will be entirely up to you. The budget may not be known at this point and you are looking for a response that helps you formulate it. You may not want to communicate the figure allocated as this may not get you a favourable price or an agency may quote just under the budget. Alternatively you may need to get started fast and will not have the time (or luxury) to spend weeks negotiating best price with the selected designers.

At this point you have two options, either tell the designer how much money you have in the budget and get them to provide a response that indicates what they would be able to deliver against that budget; or let the designer come back to you with a figure for the project without any guidance. There are no rules here. It is more likely to depend on the budget available. If the budget is on the tight side then it may be better to let the designer know as this is likely to save time (and perhaps embarrassment) later. Bear in mind that where you have indicated what the budget is, you are reviewing what the designers can deliver for the money whereas where no budget has been given you are evaluating what you are getting for the price quoted. One of the benefits of disclosing an indication of budget is that it will ensure the panel are comparing ‘apples with apples’ at pitch stage.

Either way, just be clear what your position is with regards to the budget and ensure you communicate this to all of the agencies involved in the pitch.


This may involve working to design or brand guidelines or being asked to work alongside other designers. You will need to confirm this as well as how the designers will get access to a copy of the relevant guides.

There may be other constraints for the project such as time or location as well as access to key individuals or audiences. It would be best to identify this up front and allow the plan to be developed around whatever the constraints are rather than dropping them in at the contract stage and having to rework the project.


If you have a timeframe, then communicate it. This may be in the form of a project plan or just a list of dates that you need to hit.

Approval process

On longer or more complicated projects there may be an approval process that allows the project to move from stage to stage. Communicating what this process is, who is involved (consider other departments such as procurement or in-house design teams) and how long you would need to get each stage signed off, will allow the designers to plan for this when working out how long each stage may take. This is especially important when running projects over any key holiday periods.

Response required

You will need to indicate what you require back from the designer. Do you want them to prepare for a meeting to discuss the brief before they make a formal response or will you just expect them to call you if they have any questions? Explain what you are looking for; how you would like it sent, and in what format. You may require the project plan to be in a certain format or the budget estimate to be provided in a certain way. Confirm when you want it returned by.

Additional information and attachments

If you have any supporting information or attachments, explain what they are, why they are attached and your expectations for use. It may be that you can set up online access to existing brand guidelines; relevant market research and other project related materials, so detail access here.

Contact details

Provide your preferred contact details for both the response and any questions the designers may have whilst developing their response.


More information

If in doubt about any part of the process or you have questions that are specific to what you are trying to achieve, ask the DBA, who will almost certainly know someone who will be able to answer your questions or help in the process.

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