The Ultimate Design Brief Template [2023]

Use our design brief template to write an effective brief for your graphic design, branding, UX, and product design projects.

Given its name, you’d imagine a design brief as something short and simple. In the presentation, this is sometimes the case; however, in practice, design briefs, like all creative briefs, require a little effort. But the effort pays dividends for designers and clients alike. 

What is a design brief?

A design brief is a written description of a design project that communicates the project’s vision to everyone involved. It clarifies the problem the design will address, the proposed solution, and the target market the solution is designed for.

In the design industry, briefs are often misunderstood, or worse, disregarded as unnecessary formal documents — but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Writing a design brief and the exploration that comes along with it is the most important part of any design endeavor. 

The purpose of a design brief

As a document that includes a project’s key details and objectives, a design brief is a demonstration of understanding between the designer and the client. 

Creating a brief entails a discovery stage in which the designer works with the client to establish the purpose of a project, its objectives, and the criteria for success. This helps shed light on the client’s objectives and vision.

A brief also helps establish a sense of trust by demonstrating the designer’s understanding. Briefs provide clarity and prevent confusion for everyone involved. While this purpose alone qualifies the document and its creation process as essential, briefs do some pretty heavy lifting. 

Since briefs clarify project scope and timeline, they’re a great way for freelance designers to learn how to price their time and services. While quotes, contracts, and invoices come much later in the process, briefs define a project’s scope, budget, and timetables, laying the foundations and workflow for the entire project. 

A design brief is a demonstration of understanding between the designer and the client.

What to include in a design brief

Since every design job is different, no two briefs are identical. Design briefs vary depending on the type of design you’re doing, such as logos, products, or user experience. Despite the variables, there are a few definitive elements that should be included in every brief:

  • Project overview: Every brief should open with a succinct description of the client and the project.
  • Company description: Most briefs include a description of the company and an overview of its values or wider objectives.
  • Project objectives: Essential to every brief, the project objectives establish the reason for the project’s existence. This sets the bar in determining the project’s success.
  • Target audience: While briefs don’t require significant market research, they should provide an outline of the client’s target market.
  • Scope: Briefs clarify a project’s scope, which helps establish the amount of work upfront. It also helps prevent scope creep once the project is underway.
  • Timeline and budget: Every brief should include a close approximation of the time and budget defined by the project’s scope.

Take careful note of these sections as each one is essential to a good design brief. Whether you’re a freelance designer or working with design agencies, the more time you spend creating a project brief, the more you’ll improve the chances of the project’s success.

Design Brief Template

The following creative brief template will help you get started with your own design briefs. Simply fill it out with your client or designer before you start your next design project.

✔️ About the Company

Briefly describe the company roadmap and its goals. Write down the notable topics that surface when discussing the project with the client. 

✔️ Overview

Describe the wider perspective of the project, including why it exists and what the client hopes to accomplish.

✔️ Scope

Outline the scope of the project, including the creative work performed and the deliverables or end-product the client will receive once you complete the project. 

✔️ Objectives

Define and clarify the client’s objectives, both to demonstrate your understanding to the client and to establish a direction for the design once work begins.

✔️ Target Audience

Describe the client’s perfect customer as defined by them. Depending on the creative project, this section can also include a vignette of the business’s existing customers and demographics.

✔️ Timeline and Budget

Clearly define the client’s timetable and budget, including any details that are relevant to either one, such as potential launch dates or setbacks.

Design Brief Examples

There are as many types of design briefs as there are types of designers. Although every designer takes a slightly different approach, briefs differ the most according to the type of design project. The following creative brief examples across disciplines help illustrate the essence of creative briefs: 

🎨 Branding & Logo Design Brief Example

Clean Sweep is a small business that’s ready to expand its renowned cleaning services to a larger market. Sherry, the business owner and operator, recognizes that much of her success comes from her personable, down-to-earth approach to service. Although she wants to grow her business, she wants this same quality to characterize her brand’s new visual identity. 

✔️ Overview

Established just 2 years ago, Clean Sweep is a small business that provides home cleaning services specifically to pet owners. As a dog lover and busy professional, Sherry spent years searching for a cleaning service that would accommodate her unique needs as a pet owner. Seeing an opportunity, Clean Sweep was born. Her current logo features a dog with a broom and is used on invoices, t-shirts, business cards, and social media.

She defines her current brand as:

  • Friendly and approachable, caring, and, above all, pet loving
  • Efficient, but knowledgeable and personable, taking the time to explain the nuances and techniques of cleaning a space where pets also live

✔️ Scope

Sherry’s planning on expanding to other cities throughout Washington, but first, she wants a new logo and visual identity and a little help with her brand identity. 

For the deliverables, Sherry would like:

  • A new logo design, along with guidance on how and where to use it in print and digital mediums
  • Definition of brand colors, typography, and other guidelines

✔️ Objectives

Sherry appreciates the growth and progress she’s made with Clean Sweep, but she wants to establish her brand as more than a small business with a handful of clients. Many of her customers are unaware that Clean Sweep employs more than 30 full-time workers. 

As a result of her new branding efforts, Sherry’s goals are to:

  • Pay homage to her original logo and maintain the business’s existing brand identity while giving her brand’s visual identity a professional veneer
  • Establish her brand in new markets across Washington and eventually California
  • Lay the foundations for future plans of a web presence, including a brand publication catering to pet owners

✔️ Target Audience

Attained mostly by word-of-mouth, the majority of Sherry’s existing customers are career-minded homeowners who are usually too busy to clean their homes themselves. As pet owners, they’re frustrated with generic cleaning services that never seem to get all the pet hair out of the carpets and furniture. 

Over half of Clean Sweep’s customers opt for its micro-cleaning services, which provide deep cleaning once per month and daily “clean sweeps” during the week. These services also help customers with simple pet care during daily visits.

✔️ Timeline and Budget

Sherry has plans to launch her services in three other cities by the end of the year, with an initial test run in a Seattle suburb in 2 months. She’d like her logo by then but can wait longer for other brand materials. While she’s flexible, Sherry would like to keep her budget under $5,000. 

📱 Product Design Brief Example

Work Simply, a startup that provides web-based software tools to busy freelancers and small business owners, would like to expand its offerings to mobile. The company’s current tools are a smash with freelance designers, developers, marketers, and other tech creatives, but research shows there’s a big market for indie and freelance professionals who aren’t desk-bound. The company wants to connect with these professionals by bringing the Work Simply approach to mobile devices.

✔️ About the Company

Work Simply is a startup on a mission to simplify tasks and work management for freelancers and small businesses. Recognizing that complicated project management tools have too many bells and whistles for most small businesses and individuals, the company built a successful web platform that emphasizes simplicity.

✔️ Overview

Having established itself on the web, Work Simply wants to expand to mobile. By leveraging a product design team with expertise in mobile product design, Work Simply wants to create a mobile app that captures its tool’s core functionality while remaining intuitive and simple to use. 

✔️ Scope

Work Simply’s web app currently loads a pared-down version when it’s accessed from mobile devices. The company wants the core functionality of the web experience but for mobile devices. The web app currently has: 

  • One main dashboard that’s moderately complex
  • 14 screens of moderate complexity
  • Various modals, popups, and other interactive components

The final deliverable should:

  • Include high-fidelity designs that capture Work Simply’s core functionality
  • Be designed for cross-platform implementation on both Apple and Android devices
  • Include an accompanying design system for guidance in future updates

✔️ Objectives

As a result of bringing its work and project management app to mobile devices, Work Simply wants to:

  • Improve customer loyalty and retention
  • Expand its customer base by providing its web app to busy professionals who don’t have consistent access to larger screens throughout their day
  • Make the Work Simply experience even simpler without losing any of its core functionality

✔️ Target Audience

Work Simply’s existing customers are mostly tech-savvy freelance professionals in marketing, software development, and content creation. However, the company’s research shows there’s a significant market for business owners and freelancers who aren’t in front of screens during their workday.

This group includes small business owners who manage traditional brick-and-mortar businesses, such as cafés, coffee shops, bookstores, and other retail outlets. It also includes professionals who are always on the move but still need access to functional project tools, such as realtors and event planners.

✔️ Timeline and Budget

Work Simply wants to launch its mobile presence by the end of next year. The company estimates that development will take approximately 6 months, so it needs the design ready to go by the end of the year. The working budget is $30,000.

✏️ UX Design Brief Example

Sandbox Software is a small company that develops high-quality CAD software for professionals. In business for over 2 decades, the company has a dedicated and loyal following in the professional sector. With the professional sector stagnant, however, Sandbox is looking to the consumer space to grow its core business. 

✔️ Overview

For the last year, Sandbox Software has been developing a new CAD and modeling application targeted at consumers and hobbyists. While the team’s technical approach is sound, they’ve found in early testing that the new app’s UI and UX are simply too confusing for the layman. They need a fresh approach that gives regular users the power of CAD tooling, without all the technical overhead. 

✔️ Scope

Given Sandbox Software’s unique product and its shift from professionals to consumers, the company requires significant UX research and analysis. The team recognizes they have a product that’s difficult to place, so they’d like to generate ideas on how their CAD tooling might be useful in other consumer applications.

Final deliverables should include:

  • A research case study indicating possible interface and experience designs of a CAD application that’s appealing to the average consumer
  • Low-fidelity prototypes demonstrating the basic interface and functionality of the core designs
  • Low-fidelity interface mockups demonstrating variations of the core designs
  • User personas and stories illustrating the ideal customers for the designs presented

✔️ Objectives

By enlisting the expertise of a UX designer with significant experience in digital consumer experiences, Sandbox Software hopes to: 

  • Establish a product design and market it for CAD tooling in the consumer space
  • Grow its core business by providing powerful drafting tools that are also accessible and simple to use

✔️ User Research

Sandbox Software’s current market consists largely of professional architects and mechanical engineers. The company has a sizable user base consisting of interior and landscape designers, and it suspects this market segment might have more room for growth on the consumer side.

✔️ Timeline and Budget

Given the development overhead incurred so far, Sandbox Software would like to keep the timeline for this initial research and drafting project limited to 3 months. The company has a budget of $20,000 allocated for this stage of the project.

Tips for writing your first design brief

For the uninitiated, writing briefs using graphic design prompts is a great way to get a feel for the process without the pressures of client interaction. 

Here are a few things to keep in mind to ensure you write effective design briefs:

  • Be sure to focus on clearly defining the problem you’re designing for.
  • Don’t rush through the initial discovery and consultation with your client — asking the right questions now helps save incalculable time later in the process.
  • Before handing a completed brief over to a client, be sure to check it for spelling and grammar errors.

Always keep in mind that a brief’s purpose is communication. One of the most important lessons learned from other designers is that communication is essential to the success of a collaborative project. 

Write a design brief that delivers results

A design brief in any form represents clarity and common understanding between the client, stakeholders, and designer. Simply put, they’re collaborative tools that help you and your clients lay the foundations for a great project and a better relationship. One of the best ways to find freelance design jobs is through word of mouth and repeat business, so make sure you maximize your chances with a design brief.