Freedom Through Limitation
Setting Expectations and Limitations in a Design Brief
Successful design implementation is about the whole, not the parts. If you wear a $2,000 suit with the wrong pair of shoes, you’ll be remembered for the shoes and not the suit. Inconsistency raises doubt, and doubt makes people wary. Successful design means doing a few things really, really well.
The Apple logo doesn’t single handedly make the brand successful. Apple is successful because it engages and behaves consistently with its users across all channels of its brand ecosystem to earn both their attention and participation through experiences. In order to attain that consistency a brand must begin by setting expectations and constraints.
Brand expectations and limitations are set in a design brief. A design brief is a written explanation given by the client to the designer or agency at the beginning of a project. The client spells out objectives and expectations, while defining the scope of the project. It is a commitment to an expression that can be revisited as a project continues. A design brief keeps everyone honest and helps raise questions. Questions asked early on are always better than questions asked later, or not at all.
The design brief is not a blueprint. It is a declaration of expectations for what the design should accomplish. Briefs are project specific, but here are some general guidelines to get started:
- Provide a clear statement of objectives.
- Relate the objectives to overall company positioning.
- Indicate if and how you will measure achievement of your goals.
- Define, characterize, and prioritize your audiences.
- Define budgets and time frames.
- Understand the approval process.
Regardless of project size, defining these limitations allow for the development of a sound design strategy. Design strategy puts your dollars to work more efficiently and increases probability that designs hit close to the mark on the first go.