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How to Write a Design Brief (With Templates and Examples)

No matter how many hours we spend staring into our dog’s eyes, none of us are mind readers. 🔮 🐶

Luckily, there are ways to combat our lack of telepathy in the workplace—especially when it comes to design concepts that we imagine so vividly in our heads, but have no idea how to recreate IRL.

What’s the solution? Writing detailed and practical design briefs, of course!

Like placing an order at a restaurant, design briefs tell the designer what you want out of a request. It’s how they understand what the project is, what the task requires, and where to start.

The key to a highly effective design brief is to be both clear and concise—which is challenging when you’re dealing with complex tasks or multiple non-negotiable project requirements. But we’re here to help with tips and examples to take your design briefs to the next level. 💜

Whether your design team is looking to standardize your briefs and requests, or you’re part of an agency commissioning a company project, this article has you covered. Read along for a fresh take on writing efficient design briefs including the essential elements, how-to breakdowns, a customizable template, and more! 

What is a Design Brief?

A design brief is a written document that lays the groundwork for a design project with the outlined goals, scope, and approach for the request. Similar to your project roadmap, the design brief is a designer’s guiding light when it comes to the where, what, when, and why of a specific request. 

Design briefs typically pass through many hands before they land on the designer’s to-do list. With approvals from all project managers and stakeholders, the brief should be thorough but to the point, identifying the approved timeline, end product, and budget (if applicable).

Creative Brief Example Made In ClickUp Docs
Create beautifully formatted wikis, briefs, and resources for all kinds of projects in ClickUp Docs

On a deeper level, briefs are also a way for the designer to connect and align with the person making the request. In this sense, try to use your brief as a collaborative tool for eliminating the general confusion that comes with additional back-and-forth phone calls, messages, and emails.

But while it’s important to include key details and context to your requests, your design brief should still be, well, brief. You want it to be long enough to describe the project and communicate your request without overwhelming the designer with a multi-page pamphlet that runs margin-to-margin. 🥵

How do these ideas come together in a design brief? We’ll show you! 

How to Write a Design Brief (With Examples)

In an exciting turn of events, there’s no set-in-stone format you must stick to when writing an effective design brief. 🤩

Your team will find the type of brief that serves your design project management style best in terms of length, detail, and work style. Small requests or smaller-scale projects may not require as hefty of a brief, but there are still key elements that all briefs share. 

Product Brief Example Made in ClickUp Docs
Add formatting and styling options to make your briefs as detailed or visual as your project needs in ClickUp Docs

Relying on a template, a survey-style request, or a standardized document structure are all great ways to collect the necessary information to build a design brief. The key is to keep it consistent! Here is our step-by-step guide for writing effective design briefs with real-life examples. ✏️

Follow these eight steps from top to bottom—or skip to the next section for a free customizable template to make the process even easier! 🤓

Step 1: Choose your design project management software

Design projects are collaborative by nature and your ideal design project management software will have the features to support that! Powerful tools will alleviate some of the stress and streamline daily processes involved in your design workflow with the ability to organize, edit, share, and manage projects of any size. 

And since design briefs are commonly formatted in a document, your chosen project management tool will likely include a built-in document editor or integrations to bring all of the right information together across apps. 

Example:

Think of your design brief as a reliable source of truth—a document that you can refer back to at any time for the most accurate information and progress updates. The best example of this? ClickUp Docs. 📃

rich formatting and slash commands in clickup docs
ClickUp Docs allows rich formatting and slash commands to work more efficiently

ClickUp Docs are your destination for all things text-based in your Workspace. In true ClickUp fashion, Docs offer a ton of features like nested pages, Slash Commands, styling options, embedding, and advanced settings to customize the look and functionality of your Doc.

You’ll love how far your can take your design briefs with real-time editing, @mentions in comments, and secure sharing and permissions via a simple link. Plus, Docs can be connected to your workflows so any updates that happen in your document are automatically reflected in related tasks and other areas of your workspace. 

Step 2: The project description

Context is everything and this section of your design brief should give exactly that! 

Give a brief but descriptive overview of what your project is and what it will be used for. This doesn’t have to dig too deep, but a sentence or two that clearly states your request and what you’ll be using it for is a great starting point for the designer.

This section may also include a bit about the company or client commissioning the design. What the company does, its primary services, values, and brand identity are common details to find in this section. 

Example:

Our social media marketing agency is redesigning our website to feature a new home page, blog section, and portfolio. We are a small team of eight members who work with 50 businesses in our area, and all of our work is currently clustered together on our outdated webpage. We have matured as a brand since we created our initial website and grown as a company, and we want our new website to reflect that. 

Step 3: The design objective and SMART goals

Describe the problem this project will address and the big-picture idea that you’re hoping to achieve with it. Be direct with the purpose you want the project to serve and use this section to align the design team with the client’s overall vision and objective through SMART goals

P.S., SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound

Goals in ClickUp
Create SMART Goals in ClickUp with multiple ways to track progress and hit your targets

Want to learn more about SMART goals and why they’re so important? Check out our goals resources to write and implement goals across departments! 

Example:

We want our redesigned website to reflect our brand identity better, drive more traffic to our services, and increase email newsletter sign-ups by 25% by the end of our next fiscal quarter. 

Step 4: The target audience

The next section of your brief covers the who of it all. Not so much related to who you are as a company requesting a design, but who the project is targeted to.

This is where the client commissioning the project will describe their ideal customer, audience, user personas, and use cases. This design is like your first impression—a way to show customers that you have a solution to a specific problem they are facing and that your project meets their needs.

It is crucial for the designer to understand who you’re trying to reach through this request to meaningfully connect with those customers’ needs. 

Example:

Our target market audiences are female entrepreneurs in the San Diego area in the 25-34 and 35-44 age ranges. These clients want to grow their business by investing in paid ads on social media platforms and want resources to improve and increase their online presence. 

Step 5: Your budget and timeline

Now we’re starting to move into the details and logistics sections of your design brief. ⏰💸

Make sure the timeline provided is realistic and feasible for what the brief is asking. If there are any budgetary or resource constraints, this is the time to lay them down. 

Designers need to know when the project is due for its first round of edits, when they can expect feedback from the client, and any key milestones, task dependencies, or deadlines tied to the request. This will help establish clear communication between the designer and the client so all of their expectations are met, and avoid potential bottlenecks while the project is in progress.

Drawing a relationship between two tasks in Gantt view
Show relationships between tasks and Milestone tasks in Gantt view in ClickUp

Pro tip: Also note if there is any flexibility with the expected budget and timeline.

Example:

Our ideal timeline from start to finish is six months. We are announcing our new website at an event in March but want to quietly launch the website a month prior. This extra month will give us some wiggle room if there are any setbacks. We would like to approve the mockups and wireframes, and go through two rounds of edits before we launch.

Step 6: The expected deliverables

This section is all about the file details and formatting in which you want to receive the project. If necessary or applicable, specify the size, file type, naming process, and deliverables you’re expecting. AKA, what is your preferred type of video, image, or software to work with and how should they share it with you?

Example:

We will approve initial ideas and designs from our digital whiteboard software and review all wireframes in Figma.

Step 7: Anything else you deem important! 

To make sure that all of the i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed, add any other relevant information to the end. This may include key contacts to reach out to if the designer has any urgent questions, approval process details, key dates, client mockups, and more!

This is a great time to specify anything that you do not want to see from this project and inspo images to give the designer a clear idea of what to work off of. 

Example:

Check our virtual whiteboard for recent work we’ve done with our clients, rough sketches of what we’re imagining for our new website, some research, media, and more!

Our suggestion? ClickUp Whiteboards! 🎨

Mockup drawings and brainstorming on ClickUp Whiteboards
Easily sketch out mockup drawings and wireframe ideas on ClickUp Whiteboards

ClickUp Whiteboards are highly visual, collaborative, and productive! What’s more, they’re also the only whiteboard software on the market that can convert any object on your board into a customizable task and connect it to your workflows. 

With tools for drawing, uploading media, embedding, styling, and real-time editing, ClickUp Whiteboards are built to capture your ideas the moment they happen so you can act on them instantly. Seriously, Whiteboards are every designer’s dream. ✨ 

Plus, your Whiteboard stays updated at all times, wiping out the need for multiple tabs, constant refreshing, and confusion caused by lengthy text-based descriptions. 

Step 8: Share it with the team

RE: Step 1—design briefs are collaborative! 

You need the ability to quickly share, edit, and update your design briefs via custom permissions and convenient sharing options like a simple link. This will get the entire team quickly get on the same page (literally) and stay on target. 🎯

Share ClickUp Docs with public or private link
Share your design brief publicly or privately via a simple link in ClickUp Docs

Design Brief Template

Like in a bad game of telephone, inconsistent design briefs gloss over key ideas and eventually lose the main point of the project entirely. But customizable templates are a surefire way to guarantee every detail is clearly stated.

Think of pre-built templates as a springboard for standardizing the way you write your design briefs. They’re created to simplify and streamline the design brief process so everyone involved can focus on what matters most—the project itself. 

The Design Brief Template by ClickUp is your one-stop solution for writing thorough and valuable creative briefs. This template applies a designated List to your Workspace with separate views for managing tasks, timelines, and your overall direction. 

The Design Brief Template by ClickUp
The Design Brief Template by ClickUp is your solution for writing thorough design briefs

In your design brief List view, you’ll find pre-made customizable tasks for everything from client sessions to gathering assets, and seven custom statuses for total transparency. But the coolest feature of this template is definitely the creative brief Whiteboard with colored sections, sticky notes, and diagrams to solidify your project vision, brand, resources, notes, and more. 

The Design Brief Template in Whiteboards by ClickUp
Customize your pre-built Whiteboard with the Design Brief Template by ClickUp

This template also comes with a thorough how-to ClickUp Doc to walk you through every feature to ensure you’re using it to the fullest extent. 

Pro tip

The Help Doc in the Design Brief Template shows off a ton of styling and formatting features to use as inspiration when writing your design brief Docs in ClickUp. 

Set banners at the top of your Doc and throughout the page for a clear outline of information, embed videos, add a table of contents, and more. Or, layer another one of ClickUp’s pre-built templates on top of your Doc to keep the process moving along.

Write Your Next Design Brief in ClickUp

There you have it! Not only are you set up for success with the eight essential steps for writing design briefs, but you’ve got a flexible, free, and customizable template to lighten the load. 

The take-home idea though is not just how to write a functional brief, but how to make the most of it. And that’s where ClickUp can help you take your processes to new heights. ✅

ClickUp Docs, Chat, and List view in ClickUp
Monitor project updates, create design briefs, and work with the team, all from your ClickUp Workspace

ClickUp is the ultimate productivity platform for teams to bring all of their work together into one collaborative space, no matter your use case or work style. Its feature list is loaded with hundreds of time-saving tools to make work management easier and more convenient than ever—with 15 ways to visualize your projects, over 1,000 integrations, in-app chat, and more! 

Access everything you need to write effective design briefs including ClickUp Docs, Whiteboards, 100MB of storage, unlimited tasks, and more at absolutely no cost when you sign up for ClickUp’s Free Forever Plan

And when you’re ready to boost your productivity even further, unlock even more advanced features for as little as $5.

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