How to Formulate a Design Brief

We deal with a wide variety of clients, some have very specific project requirements and some have a much more general idea of what they want to achieve. We approach every project with the intention of solving a problem or adding value through design. This means that we are able to bring clarity to the fuzzy front-end and work with our clients to formulate a solid brief before embarking on a new project. In the first instance, we always ask these basic but essential questions:

  • What is the need for a new product; does the proposed product solve a real problem or fill a gap in the market?
  • Is the need exclusive to an individual or a collective; how many people are likely to buy the product?
  • What are the budgetary constraints of the project; is finance available to design the product properly, invest in capital equipment and initiate full scale production?
  • When does the project need to be completed; is the market opportunity ripe or will the product launch be more pertinent in 2-3 years time?

Having solid answers to these four questions will provide a firm starting point for a new design project. Being realistic with the answers will also give the project the best possible chance of being delivered on time and within budget. More specific factors that need to be considered when formulating a project brief, include:

  • What is the primary function of the product?
  • How should the product perform?
  • Who will use it?
  • Where will it be used?
  • How often will it be used?
  • Are there any known material constraints?
  • Are there any known manufacturing constraints?
  • What is the desired life-time of the product?
  • Does it need to comply to any safety regulations?
  • What are the anticipated sales volumes?
  • What is the target retail cost?
  • Where will it be sold?

Once these factors have been considered, a more detailed Product Development Specification (PDS) can be established. The PDS acts as a control document throughout a project, ensuring that the completed product captures every intended element.