One of the keys to success for any project is the design brief. An effective design brief acts as a roadmap for the project team and helps set up a successful partnership. So, how do you write an effective design brief?

Determine a fit

The first goal in potentially working together is to determine the best fit. We want to work with as many clients across as many industries as possible, but not all design or engineering firms will fit every client or every project. Our firm has experience across many markets and leverages this experience to bring ideas, technologies, and methods to different industries. Typically, the more technical a program gets, the higher the demand for specialized individuals and experiences that may suit one firm better. 

Finding the right firm to deliver on your specific deliverables is key to a successful relationship, and understanding this fit starts in the design brief.

Understand your needs

Gaining a clear understanding of your industry and its challenges is an essential part of developing our relationship. Every client is different not only in the markets they operate in, but each has its own challenges, business conditions, management styles, and internal capabilities.

  • Past challenges and lessons learned for the application of the current project.
  • State of the industry, marketing challenges, and business conditions.
  • What are your business goals for the project investment including timelines, ROI and return on innovation?

Get your ducks in a row

All too often we leave a review of a client’s design brief with more questions than answers. This is a crucial step in alignment with our clients, but a few common areas lead to dwelling periods and wasted time. 

  • Create an internal project team of key stakeholders that will need to give feedback throughout the alignment and development process.
  • Relevant research or lessons learned on a specific challenge or the industry overall.
  • An understanding of budgets and cost targets, if available.
  • Any related CAD to help understand the position of the program currently and the effort needed to get CAD to a level we can kick off development.
  • Ensure your delivery format for internal CAD systems and REV levels.

Establish a clear understanding between the client and design/engineering firms

To cut down on potential future headaches, it is important to understand the intended outcome of a program. This quickly aligns both parties on end deliverables and overall expectations that will come out of the work we do together.

  • Challenges for different user groups that we intend to overcome.
  • How do we plan on measuring the success of the project?
  • Establish a cadence for design reviews. We have found weekly or bi-weekly touch points are required to keep everything moving forward and all parties up to date on progress.
  • Budgetary estimates available to execute on the goals that have been identified. There are many ways our team engages with a client. By understanding a rough idea of project funding, we can better understand how to approach the program to best suit your needs.

Breakdown phases and key milestones

Everyone has some type of internal process they follow to develop a product. These processes tend to vary case by case in how phases are described and what percentage of the overall budget is applied they follow a similar ideology. 

The standard project development process is research, ideation, concept development, engineering, and documentation. Phases also include areas for prototyping, testing, and analysis depending on the details required by the program. Understanding how our client views this process and how it will be reflected in the project gives us a good understanding of the overall project flow and team alignment.

  • Key phases required to deliver on project goals.
  • Project activities per phase to further understand how the client views the project breakdown.
  • Milestone dates and how they relate to our client’s master timeline. These dates are critical for understanding loading and prioritizing activities to run smoothly as an extension of your team.
  • Understanding our role and fit within the current project structure.

Benefits of an Effective Design Brief

Project briefs vary greatly depending on the type of program. The development of a rock-solid project brief is critical not only to a firm using the brief to quote the program but also to our client’s internal teams to gather a deeper understanding of the program. Beginning a project with an undefined brief tends to lead to fluctuating costs from suppliers who don’t have a clear understanding of what is being asked of them. This can lead to commercial issues down the road. By taking some time to work through the finer points of the brief with the key stakeholders involved in the program’s success, everyone gets a clearer understanding of their roles and responsibilities needed to achieve the desired result. 


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