Why I always write my own brief.

When most people talk about the benefits of creative or technical briefs, they’re normally talking about things they’re angry about. Sometimes in project, when there is no design brief, friction can be caused between the clients and the people doing the work. Questions around ‘what we paid for’ or ‘that wasn’t in scope when we had the meeting’ cause conflict and unhappiness — essentially no brief can cause the breakdown of projects.

But thats not the only reason I believe briefs to be important. Briefs actually help me to create better work.

My process

I’m a fan of agile. Being organised but not rigid is the best way to get things done and remain in site of the future at the same time.

For this reason every project is different but I always try to stick to a couple of things before I start anything:

- I do my research. I don’t mean just trawling through ux articles or reading up on the company, I mean LISTEN. Listen intently to what people are saying (and what they’re not!). I make lots of notes, I talk to as many different people from as many different perspectives as I can, quickly.

Features list of the rebrief

- Write up a ‘what a user needs to be able to do’ list. Essentially this is a features list but from a design point of view, merging together all those things in scope and grouping them into quick user flow notes. For example a brief I had once was just a remote meeting where I was asked to design a way to edit the courses in the system. Nothing more than that. In order to ensure I included everything that was needed I combined my knowledge and research notes to come up with a features list.

These steps help me create my own brief. Even if there was one to begin with I try to write this out to ensure I’ve got the whole picture in my head, and it’s this small additional ‘re-briefing’ step that enables my to create my best and most efficient work.

How is a rebrief helpful?

It helps me remember the bigger picture.

As a designer who has previously worked in marketing, IT and development, I understand the need to design for the bigger picture so I don’t ‘design out’ functionality that we might need in the future.

This is especially important when working in an agile manner as there may be an end goal eventually, but I need to design smaller steps in between that to help achieve small milestones quickly.

For example if I was designing a user uploading screen, I wouldn’t want to design a way to add 10 users for a beta launch that couldn’t also be adapted to add 100 users for a full launch. Knowing the end goal makes the design flexible enough to hit all the milestones.

Wireframe sketches for the course adding/editing

It helps the designs please all stakeholders at once (as much as is possible!).

Gathering all the points of view, grouping them and then turning them into user flows, means that all the perspectives I’ve heard have been considered for the designs.

It’s not just about good looking designs with great user experiences, it’s about merging those things with business needs, marketing, copywriting and everything else as much as we can.

Not forgetting anything.

This is a really simple reason that it actually streamlines the design process — I don’t forget anything (or miss anything). Taking the time at the beginning to re-write things into a new brief means I can just get on with the designing and all my questions for marketing, development or even the boss are answered beforehand and weaved into the design.

Try it on your next project and let me know how you get on!

ps. I’ve debated whether or not people may like a template for this — if you think it would be useful to you please comment and I’ll create one!