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What is a Graphic Design Brief?

Laura Busche May 25, 2021 · 4 min read
Clear communication is the key to success in design projects, and all kinds of creative projects for that matter. We tend to think that just because something is crystal clear in our minds, it’s immediately available for others to see and understand. In reality, unless we paint that picture in a detailed, organized way, others simply can’t deliver what we expect them to. And that is precisely why I have a feeling that, after reading this article, graphic design briefs will become your new best friends. Essentially, a graphic design brief is a document that captures the vision for a creative project and outlines the client’s expectations for the end result.

Some general advice for effective briefs

Great creative teamwork depends on your ability to express expectations and background information in a way that allows producers to do their job. Here are some of the keys to more effective graphic design briefs that align everyone around your vision.
  • Brevity. Brief is the key word here: express your ideas succinctly so that someone with limited time can grasp your vision. Because that “someone with limited time”? That’s everyone these days.
  • Precision. In yet another obvious rule we don’t usually apply, technical specifications related to your deliverables should be specific. Hyper-specific. Are you expecting .jpg or .ai files? What sizes will the final composition need to be exported to? Any considerations around resolution or file size limits?
  • Organization. Don’t just throw dozens of scattered ideas and expect someone to make sense out of them. Walk them through what you’re envisioning, and organize the brief in a logical sequence.
  • Illustration. Examples are king. Pointing your reader to similar projects and end results can set the tone for a much more productive workflow. In looking at the examples you provide, creative professionals can abstract trends, aesthetic preferences, and general moods that may be hard to describe with words only.
  • Context. Don’t assume producers have enough background about your brand or industry to proceed confidently. Give them that background. Lack of proper competitive context or knowledge about the business model hurt anyone’s chances at creating work that truly resonates with the brand’s audience. Likewise, don’t make the assumption that an external producer is aware of any brand guidelines or visual treatments you’ve used in the past. If your goal is to have them follow some kind of pattern, be specific about what that pattern has looked like in the past.
  • Openness. As precise as your specifications for deliverables should be, when it comes down to the creative concept itself you should try to strike a balance between prescriptive and flexible instructions. You want to be mindful of your producer’s expertise, but also provide enough direction that they feel confident using their skills.

Essential sections in a design brief

Taking the above into account, here are some useful sections to include in your graphic design brief:
  1. Company contact information
  2. Company and brand background
  3. Project name
  4. General project description
  5. Project goals
  6. Style guidelines to consider (if any)
  7. List of deliverables
  8. Technical specifications for those deliverables
  9. Examples and references
  10. Timeline
The framework I’m proposing above goes from the general to the specific, all the way from a bird’s eye view of the brand to a zoomed in schedule with key dates to consider. That’s precisely the intention: to guide the brief’s reader through a narrative that conveys context, project expectations, and deliverable specifics —in that order.

Ready-to-use design brief templates

Starting with a blank page makes creating a brief particularly challenging. Fortunately, independent designers on Creative Market have built flexible templates that you can adapt to your own needs and brand identity.

Any other suggestions for a graphic design brief?

What has worked for you in the past? Any tricks or tools that have made brief creation easier? Share them in the comments below.
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About the Author
Laura Busche

Brand strategist. Creating design tools to empower creative entrepreneurs. Author of the Lean Branding book. MA in Design Management from the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD).

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  • Excellent article and templates, a nice clean design! 4 years ago
  • Thanks for sharing nice information. 4 years ago
  • Thank you for sharing Laura. Always useful to see how other creatives approach their design brief :) 4 years ago
  • Very interesting, good job and thanks for sharing such a good information. 3 years ago