How to write an effective design brief to get the result you want

Communication is an art form. Like making music, any form of communication means translating something in your head to the hearts and minds of those who are on the receiving end.

It is a challenge to do this well. How often do you mean something that gets picked up not in the way you intended. It happens to us personally and in business.

To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others. — Tony Robbins

This article will help you limit the risk of miscommunication when briefing a designer or agency about what you have in mind.



Briefing your designer can be a tough task. It’s more common than ever to work with remotely based, freelance designers so translating your vision to a detailed, to the point brief is essential.

You don’t want to send your briefing to discover that what you thought they thought you wanted and what you actually wanted are two different things.

From a designer point of view, nothing is more painful than to submit your designs to find out it is not what the client wanted.

Design is and will always stay subjective but following this guide will maximize your chance of nailing your new design and getting closer to a happy dance.

We’ve asked our top designers what they would like to see in a design brief so they have everything they need to complete the project successfully.

Definition of the problem

What is bothering you right now? What is making you want to change the current design?

Has your design worked for you the last 5 years but is it time for an update to make it more contemporary, fresh and ‘less is more’? Explain that in your brief.

In case you don’t have a current design at all, look at examples (see next section) and be very clear why that is not 100% of what you want.

Include examples

It’s good to share your sources of inspiration. Nothing can give more direction to a designer than the language of visuals. The old adage of ‘a picture says more than a thousand words’ applies here.

Put down links to websites that include aspects that you like and communicate which specific aspect of the website you would like to see in your own design.

For example:

“Really like the use of minimalism and less is more but I’d love to see a bit of color”.

Dinner for Five

I like the use of color but I want it simple without emoji and the image.

The Cool Club Design

Just two simple examples can come a long way.

Who is your end-user?

When you have found an experienced designer they can give you valuable input on best practices for a certain target audience. Based on where your product is going to be used, on which device, and in what environment.

A startup in a rural area where people don’t have access to the newest phones requires a whole different user experience than a corporate application used by management level.

Think about how fool-proof your application needs to be. This can mean minor differences such as showing a ‘hamburger icon’ or writing out MENU instead.


These things can have a major impact on the user experience.

The goal of the (new) design

It’s very important for a designer to understand what the goal is. “We want a better website” is like saying “I want to lose some weight”. Why do you want to lose weight? To create a healthy lifestyle so you can play soccer without the risk of having a heart attack? Is it to fit in clothes that better express who you are?

Consider asking yourself the same following question:

Why do you want to have a better website or why do you want a website at all?

A couple of goals to consider:

  • Improve lead conversion rate
  • Increase awareness
  • Reduce the time for visitors to complete a certain task
  • Optimize workflow automation
  • Increase employment applications
  • Improve employee satisfaction

These are just some examples. Bottom line is the goal of your website should be leading in the design, hence it’s important for your designer to know the reason why you need a web(re)design in the first place.

If the goal is not clear is becomes very hard to tie it to business results. A great resource to help you on your way with defining the goal of your website is the Job to be Done.

What is the job to be done?

Job to be Done is a tool to find out for what you are ‘hiring’ your website.

Hiring your website? Yes. Stick with us for a minute. Every day of our life we ‘hire’ things to do a certain job. I hire a thermal mug to transport my coffee and keep it warm at the same time. I hire a clock to hang in my living room to tell the time and I hire a nice watch to put on my risk. They both tell time but the clock’s job to be done is to tell time and the watch’s job to be done is to show I have style.

Jobs to be Done is a theory you can use to learn how Customer Jobs (Jobs to be Done) can help you become great at creating and selling products that people will buy.

It is a highly effective tool and very underutilized.

A Job to be Done defined

Customer Jobs theory states that markets grow, evolve, and renew whenever customers have a Job to be Done, and then buy a product to complete it (get the Job Done). This makes a Job to be Done a process: it starts, it runs, and it ends. The key difference, however, is that a JTBD describes how a customer changes or wishes to change. With this in mind, we define a JTBD as follows:

A Job to be Done is the process a consumer goes through whenever she aims to change her existing life-situation into a preferred one, but cannot because there are constraints that stop her.

Products enable customers to get a Job Done. In this case, you are the customer and your website enables you to get a Jon Done. What that job is, is the big question.

Job to be Done

If you want to read more on this theory we highly recommend this article written by Alan Klement who has more than 7k followers on Medium.

Which values does your brand identify with?

The things you find important and what you want your brand to identify with can do a lot to a design. It might seem like an open door but this is something that’s almost never included in a design brief.

Here are some examples of companies who have clear brand values:

  • Genuine
  • Exceptional
  • Innovative
  • Involved
  • Performance
  • Passion
  • Integrity
  • Diversity
  • Focus on impact
  • Move fast
  • Be bold
  • Be open
  • Build social value
Ben & Jerry’s
  • We strive to minimize our negative impact on the environment.
  • We strive to show a deep respect for human beings inside and outside our company and for the communities in which they live.
  • We seek and support nonviolent ways to achieve peace and justice. We believe government resources are more productively used in meeting human needs than in building and maintaining weapons systems.
  • We strive to create economic opportunities for those who have been denied them and to advance new models of economic justice that are sustainable and replicable.
  • We support sustainable and safe methods of food production that reduce environmental degradation, maintain the productivity of the land over time, and support the economic viability of family farms and rural communities.

These are examples of companies that let their core values subtly shine through in their brand assets. We recommend choosing between 3 to 6 values as a guideline.

If you have trouble identifying core values, list 3 to 6 companies instead. Think of companies that have a certain brand voice in the consumer’s mind that is similar to what you would like to achieve.

Include a brand guide

Last but not least, if you have a brand guide attach it to your brief. Even if it is just some guidelines and a simple mood board for social media use, it can give just that extra look and feel to the designer to be completely in line with what you are envisioning.

Brand guidelines should outline exactly what your brand stands for. Not just visuals, logo, and colors that your brand uses.

If you’d love to play around with designing a brand guide we recommend reading this article. It is probably way more than you actually need but it’s worth taking a look at.

For examples of brand guides like those of Medium, Skype, Jamie Oliver, and Urban Outfitters read this blog post by Hubspot called “21 Brand Style Guide Examples for Visual Inspiration.”

Brand guidelines should outline exactly what your brand stands for. Not just visuals, logo, and colors that your brand uses.

Other questions to take into consideration:

  • Any colors that you like/dislike?
  • What is the scope of the project?
  • What is the due date?

So if you decide to go for a (re)design of your website after reading this article, there are at least two things you should consider:

  • What is the Job To Be Done
  • What are good examples of the look-and-feel you are aiming for

Because one thing’s for sure: the value a well thought out design can bring to your brand is definitely worth spending some time on a briefing.