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How to save time and money by writing a top-notch brief for your design project

Commissioning professional design work can be a fun part of your job, but before you get the ball rolling you need to think carefully about all the details of your project – and get them down in writing.

Taking the time to write a comprehensive, well-structured brief will make sure that everyone who works on the project has a clear understanding of what you want to do, which means that their work is more likely to be right first time.

This will save you time and money in the long run (and let’s be honest – working in the voluntary sector, we don’t always have huge budgets for design).

The length and level of detail will vary depending on the size of the project – use your best judgement. But always be clear and concise, and organise the information under headings.

This how-to takes you through some of the areas that you might want to cover.


PROJECT DETAILS – say who you are and what the project is

  • What do you want to produce? What’s the name of the project?
  • Who’s the main contact at your organisation? What are their contact details?


  • What does your organisation do? Who do you do it for? How do you do it?
  • Is the work part of a project? If so, explain a bit about it.
  • What’s going on in the sector that you work in? What relevant things are going on in the wider voluntary sector? Write with the assumption that they don’t know anything about your area of work.
  • Are you working in partnership with anyone? Who are they and what is your relationship to them? Do they have to sign off the final piece of work?

AIMS – explain what you’re trying to do

You’ve already said what you want to produce, but be clear about what you want it to help you do. The following table contains some examples. 

The thing you want to produce What you want it to do
Signage and banners for a conference Give the conference a brand identity and help people find their way around the venue on the day
A series of web banners and social media images Promote your campaign, raise awareness for your cause and get 50 people to sign up to your mailing list
A membership brochure Promote your membership scheme and recruit 10 new members
A research report Inform people about the findings of your project

AUDIENCE – describe the people that you’re targeting

Basic details such as age, gender, job title and location are a starting point, but try to give a fuller picture of who you want to communicate with (keeping it relevant to the project).

  • Do they already know who you are? If so, what do they think of you?
  • What do they care about? What’s important to them? What do they respond well to?
  • What difficulties do they face? What pressures are they under? How will you help them deal with these through your project and its goals?

LOOK AND FEEL – guide the creative approach to the project

What tone do you want the work to convey? What feelings do you want it to provoke? Focus on ideas and moods rather than getting into specific details about how you think something should look. Below are some examples of what this might sound like.

  • Playful and light hearted, but remaining professional and not veering into wackiness
  • Optimistic and motivating; frank and open about difficult truths, but expressing hope that they can be overcome
  • Friendly and relatable, but with a sense of authority that inspires confidence

You may have brand guidelines that set out your organisation’s broader style and personality, and rules for how your visual identity should be used; make sure you give these to your designer before they start the work.


SCHEDULE – list the project’s deadlines and milestones

Begin by figuring out the absolute final date that you need the work completed – then, if you can, subtract a week. This will give you a bit of slack in case anything gets held up.

List any other important dates – for example, if you don’t have all the content (such as text and photos) for the project yet, when will it be ready? If you need to review and agree design options at a meeting with your partners, do you know when that will be?


BUDGET – let them know what you can spend

Being upfront about your budget will make sure that the designer proposes an approach to the project that you can afford.

It can be useful to give a range of figures (eg between £200 and £300); the top is your maximum budget, the bottom is what you’d ideally like to spend. The designer can then suggest a couple of approaches that fit both ends of the budget: one that’s basic, and one with more bells and whistles.

Money for design work can be tight in our sector, so you’ll understandably want to keep costs down. But try to push the maximum budget as much as possible – you’ll get to explore more ideas and options, which gives you a better chance of finding the perfect approach for your project.


Page last edited May 24, 2017 History

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