Starting calm: a brief guide to writing a brief

This summer, Ernst-Jan Pfauth and I launched Verwondering, a Dutch podcast about what makes design work. In these 30-minute conversations, we share personal experiences that inspired us. Our aim is to explore what makes good design work by looking together, each from our own perspective. And since design begs to be seen, our podcast comes with a new platform full of images: the visual show notes.

In episode 6 of Verwondering we explore the best way to start a project when collaborating with a designer. The last 16+ years running my own design studio Momkai have taught me that the best route is to never be shy and always ask a basic question: could you take a moment and put your thoughts to paper? Followed by a meaningful conversation to get to know each other. Sounds all too simple, right?

Photo: Eddo Hartmann

But when asking the dreamers and thinkers I found on my path to write down their ideas, it was still hard to grasp the full context of their ask and truly empower them. That’s why I elaborated on that one basic question to create an even better vantage point, a more solid start. The outcome is a practical guide to writing a brief. It might look basic, but don’t be fooled, you can spend many hours philosophising about each of these fundamental questions.

I hope the simple list below can be empowering to you as a client or insightful to you as a designer. Please let me know if our brief guide to writing a briefing works for you.

Part 1

What we would like to know about your ambitions

We would like to know your organisation

  1. How would you describe the market you are in?
  2. What is your business model?
  3. Could you share the story of your company?

We would like to know your challenge

  1. What is the issue you want resolved?
  2. In what way does this issue affect your business?
  3. What causes the issue?

We would like to know your promise

  1. What is your brand’s mission?
  2. What is the strategy to achieve this?
  3. What makes your brand stand out?

We would like to know your proof

  1. Could you describe your products?
  2. What makes your product different from the competition?
  3. How do these products match the brand?

We would like to know the landscape

  1. Where do you interact with your audience?
  2. What role does each channel have?
  3. What role does digital play?

Part 2

What we would like to know about the project

We would like to know how we can help

  1. What are the objectives?
  2. Why us?
  3. What role do you have in mind for us?

We would like to know your users

  1. Who are we addressing?
  2. What drives these people?
  3. What do we want them to experience?

We would like to know your requirements

  1. What do you expect us to deliver?
  2. What planning should we take into account?
  3. How would you define success within this project?

We would like to know your budget

  1. How are budgets allocated?
  2. What is the initial project budget?
  3. What is the yearly budget?

We would like to get to know the team

  1. Who is the project owner?
  2. Who are the internal stakeholders?
  3. What will the decisions-making process look like?

From starting calm to cultivating calm

Our design philosophy guides everything we do, from strategic consulting to meticulous craft. See our latest work at momkai.com.