There are a lot of considerations running through an entrepreneur’s mind when it comes to hiring design services for their business, such as a logo or website. One of the most struggles is in entrepreneurs trying to communicate something they want, when even they themselves don’t know what that is yet. An engineering project might have crystal-clear specs, with diagrams, blueprints, and spreadsheets to show exactly how to spend time, resources, and materials. Since design is a creative and iterative process, though, it can be extremely difficult to decide on specs that everybody agrees on.

In the end of the day, what makes design extremely difficult for entrepreneurs or small businesses is that they know for sure what they do not want, whereas they do not know what they want until they see it. This requires lots of interaction and reiteration that ends up being expensive, making both the designer and entrepreneur frustrated.

Introducing the design brief.

A design brief is a blueprint, created with two purposes in mind: to get everyone to buy into the same vision, and, more importantly, to establish the direction of the project. Great creative briefs have one primary function — to inspire designers to create brilliant and effective communications solutions for specific problems. A good creative brief helps to stop misunderstandings before designers ever even get to work.

A design brief will clarify all the aspects of a creative design project: goals, budget, audience, competitors, and timeline, for both entrepreneur and designer. Ultimately, both parties should confirm they understand their problem, and develop strategies for solving it.

Questions your design brief should answer:

– What problem are you trying to address?
– Who has this problem? Who is your audience?
– What product, service, or brand are you selling as the solution?
– Who is the competition?
– Why should your buyers believe in you? What are rational and emotional reasons for them to buy?
– What are you trying to say, and how do you plan on saying it?
– What action should your clients take, once they receive your message?

Creative briefs are the starting point, with which every decision and movement made on the project should align. They also tend to adapt and change, as your project grows. Think of them as a type of living document. Project requirements are added or removed, expectations are shifted, and new insights are constantly being discovered. As the project evolves, the brief does too, in order to focus the entrepreneur and designer on developing issues.

[Extract from the book Growth by Design]