Briefs, in brief
No design project should start without a well formed brief, from the simplest icon to the most advanced space shuttle. We need them to define the scope and make a plan.
Briefs nail down our thinking and provide a simple point of reference for everyone throughout the project. They’ll stop a project drifting off course. They should be short (brief!) and easy to understand. Aim for one side of a piece of A4.
A good brief will also form part of a contract, formally or informally.
A brief isn’t a lengthy technical spec. Trying to conjure one up front wastes time on a useless document that no-one reads, all full of guesswork and fantasy. No one wants that.
Before writing a brief we need to do our homework. This might require a period of research to gain customer-centric insights.
What to put in a brief
In an ideal world, a brief would magically appear at the start of any project. Most of the time though, designers need to help write them. Here’s what needs to go in.
Problem statement — Define the current state of play. What’s the problem to solve? This may require a deep understanding of unmet user needs - not what they’ve asked for.
End goal — Think of this from an end user’s viewpoint—not an organisation or a product.
Work to be done — Write this as a simple task. Design projects may be open ended—we might need to figure out exactly what we’re making and stay flexible as a project proceeds. Narrow in scope but broad in creativity.
Timings — Key dates. Deliverables. Presentations and prototypes.
Supporting info — Point to reports and other reference materials needed to get started.
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