Being rigorous in your briefing process is the best way to safeguard a project from blown budgets, timelines, and scope. Though it is unlikely a client will know exactly what they want on day one, it is important to start setting the parameters of the project from the first meeting.
Do this by creating a strong briefing document, which you can use to establish information transparency throughout the team and build confidence with the client, too. As you and your client develop the concept of the project, you can add to and edit the brief.
Whether you are working on a new development or a simple renovation, the overall success of your project is directly dependent on the quality of the information included in this briefing document.
What is a design brief?
A design brief is a document describing the design work that needs to be done, usually prepared by the designer. The point of the brief is to understand the client's vision and objectives for the project, discussing important matters such as budget, timing and aesthetic.
The brief can be very formal and detailed, or it could be an informal one pager. The important part is that it is done. You will often find a client says they aren’t sure what they are after, however when you send them a brief to complete, they often give good guidance.
We recommend sharing the brief with the architect, builder and any other involved parties to ensure everyone understands the job and flag anything from the beginning.
What should the design brief include?
There are no set rules for what a design brief should include, though we’ve found the structure in the template we’ve included in this article to work best for us. The brief roughly covers:
Key Objectives – the reason for engaging your services and what they would like to achieve from the project.
Budget – it’s crucial to understand the clients budget and allocate part of this immediately for a contingency plan.
Project structure - Detail the current and desired layout of the project, from rooms, to important features, and so on.
Timing – this section is as much about managing expectations as it is understanding a client’s needs. Clients often don’t understand how long builds take, so having a clear indication of what their expectations are will help you discuss details with the builder and bring everyone on the journey together.
Sustainability – understanding how important the environment is to the client is important as it can change the entire thinking around a project.
Usage – Knowing who is using the space and how will inform a lot of your design decisions such as spatial planning, furniture and fabric selection. Does the client have a big family? Do they entertain a lot? Do they have any hobbies?
This is not an exhaustive list, but will give you a starting point. The more detail you can add the better. And to help you prepare and ensure you are equipped you can download a design brief template here for your next project.