Branding, Digital Design, Rebrand, Studio, Web

Writing a Design Brief? 10 Things You Must Know

We know that writing the perfect design brief can seem daunting. Some businesses have a good grasp, while others haven’t a clue where to even begin. The good news is, as the client, you shouldn’t have to worry about writing the design brief and here’s why.

Often, the most significant mistakes happen during the initial briefing stage, and surprisingly, this isn’t always from the customer’s standpoint — more on this in point 3.

As an entrepreneur or key decision maker at your firm, you may find yourself up in the crow’s nest, making calculated decisions. However, if like most people, you may not have spent years learning about brand strategy. The chances of knowing how to attract and covert an audience into loyal customers using design are slim.

If you’re eager to attract loyal customers while receiving a rewarding ROI, this is guide written for you.

Here are 10 things you must know before writing a design brief:

  1. Make the commitment
  2. Avoid the temptation to take the lead
  3. Discuss the ideal outcome, not what you think you need to get there
  4. Seek a specialist in serving your industry
  5. Discuss the budget early
  6. Discuss the planned schedule and deadlines
  7. Target audience
  8. Agree on the scope
  9. Seek a designer that you feel a connection with
  10. Trust your gut

1. Make the commitment

When writing a design brief, it may seem that you have already committed to levelling up. From my experience with our clients, you would be amazed by how many aren’t ready for change yet. When they describe their dreams and desires, they get scared and start rummaging around for excuses to avoid jumping in with two feet.

Sometimes it isn’t until the project gets to the final stages that they begin to believe in becoming and owning what until now always seemed like a pipe dream.

This step is one of the hardest, from a mindset perspective. However, when you do, it’s so worth it. So the first step should be to commit to a mindset shift. You need to commit to levelling up if you’re to dominate your industry as you know you absolutely can.

So for your business to succeed, commit to a better you now and do not be tempted to look back. All your comfort zone will ever do is hold you back.

2. Avoid the temptation to take the lead

Aside from budget restrictions, this is also why people are often tempted to use Wix and Fiver. However, unless you’re a superhuman, you will always struggle to build a website that converts.

You will also have to invest a vast amount of time learning new skills: hours on trying to becoming a UX expert that should be spent growing your business, servicing clients, and developing your expertise.

Invest smartly and leave the design to the professionals.

3. Discuss the ideal outcome, not what you think you need to get there

When owning a business, it’s common to assume that you know what a designer needs to do for you to reach the next significant milestone. However, unless you have already commissioned an experienced brand consultant, you may not be in the best position to diagnose the best solution.

What’s worse, is this could be a costly risk to take. Much like requiring the service of a surgeon, it would be a complete disaster if they simply agreed to proceed with everything you asked them to.

Rather than self prescribing the solution, take the time to explain what it is that is motivating you and allow a brand strategist to diagnose the best approach to the project in a way that considers your level of comfort and of course, your budget.

4. Seek a specialist in your industry

Seeking an agency that specialises in servicing your industry with the testimonials and case studies to back it up is ideal.

You’ll find all sorts of agencies that have honed in and are nailing their niche. Not only will this give you a considerable advantage, but the chances are also that they’ve already gone through the trials and tribulations by helping many businesses just like yours.

Here at Studio Innate, we specialise in lifestyle and consumer-focused brands because we’re experienced in how that market speaks, thinks and acts.

5. Discuss the budget early

Most people have a fear of discussing the budget, and it’s not surprising with so many trades from different industries taking advantage. Do your due diligence and speak to a few agencies.

It’s in everyone’s interest to talk money nice and early. Avoid the temptation to seek a one size fits all price and be open to discussing the value of the opportunity to you.

Allocating 5–15% of the foreseeable opportunity will help you to assign a proportionate budget. So if you believe the opportunity could yield an additional £20k in revenue, then you should allocate no more than$1,000–£3,000. If you find the potential growth is much higher, say +£100k in revenue, then you should assign no more than£5,000–£15,000. And if there isn’t an opportunity for notable growth, then well, 5–15% of £0 is still £0. If you find yourself here, an excellent opportunity could be to consider crowdfunding or to arrange a free 60-min consultation.

6. Discuss the planned schedule and deadlines

Be upfront and clear about the dates and events surrounding the opportunity that may be motivating the project. For example, if you’re in a rush to prepare for peak season, then it’s best to discuss a strategy to accommodate that in the best way that won’t damage your brand.

When positioned correctly, a brand should deliver sentiments like reliable, trustworthy, sophisticated and professional. The reverse is also true. Rushed and thrown-together is a perception that could irreparably damage your brand’s reputation before it gets a chance to connect with the ideal audience.

So it’s in your best interest to be realistic, transparent and open for advice when planning a schedule.

7. Target audience

Determining the target audience may seem like an obvious one, but you would be surprised how many of our clients haven’t decided who their brand best suits.

Often a brief discovery conversation on user profiling can help to get a head start here. Although it can seem restricting, honing in on a niche audience can provide great success.

When you know you have an excellent service or product, its understandable to feel the urge to shout it from the rooftops to everybody in earshot. However, if you focus on becoming a generalist, then your ideal audience aren’t likely to feel as special. And that’s when potential loyal brand advocates pass you by.

8. Agree on the scope

Scope creep is well known for being one of the most common symptoms for delivering a disastrous and unfinished project. Often scope creep is caused by skimming over the desired outcomes and goals. Be clear about what a great success would look like and likewise, be clear about what a complete disaster would look like for you.

Collaboratively agreeing on the northern star for the project will prevent going off-piste.

9. Seek a designer that you feel a connection with

If you’re lucky enough to find an agency that specialises in your niche or industry, then the chances are you’re going to have a great deal in common.

As humans, we naturally gravitate toward relatable people. Tribal behaviour of this nature dates way back to the early caveman days and is still present in modern-day society. You’re going to need to work very closely with the design agency of your picking so make sure you seek out a good fit.

At Studio Innate, we see a good fit by asking ourselves, “If our paths had crossed outside of the workplace, would we happily grab a beer together?” So far, so good.

10. Trust your gut

When making the crucial final decision of whom you can trust to deliver your project, listen to what your gut is telling you.

It may sound like a wise old tale, but this is actually hardwired into us biologically—this is your limbic brain talking. Look at why the agency exists and what they truly stand for.


If you’re in the process of writing a design brief to hand out to several agencies, consider replacing your Word documents with a good old fashioned conversation.

Not only should our top ten tips save you a vast amount of time and money, but you should also now be able to spot the less honourable operators in the market. Unfortunately, it’s the same as when you take your car to the mechanic without any knowledge about what needs fixing.

When hiring specialists in the field like us at Studio Innate, you want to ensure they take the lead. They are the experts, and you’re paying them handsomely to take on the project while producing the best possible ROI.


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    Related Testimonial

    “The initial phone call I had with James at Studio Innate really got me to start thinking about things quite differently. I didn’t appreciate that what was needed to make the company/brand successful was more than just a website. If this hadn’t been made clear as early as James made it, I would have been tempting to just go with a generic web design company!”

    “This has completely changed the way I think about my business and will continue to do so, moving forward! Small things make a big difference; Colour choices, vibrancy, wording, and stripping things back to define why we do what we do and rebuild the brand from there.”

    “Specifically, I liked the personality of James and his team! I have always been listened to, involved in every decision and made to feel part of it all. I was so scared of losing control of something I’d built, and, although my initial thoughts haven’t been what we’ve gone with, I was very much a part of that decision. It’s also been great to see James enthused by the project rather than just feeling like ‘another project’ he’s working on – they’ve all been really passionate about making it work!”

    “Top benefits have been response time when I’ve requested help with something. Being local made it easy to go to the office and engage personally. Also, gaining other professional connections to help get the project off the ground.”

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    Kat Penn
    Founder – VoxFresh

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