3 Common Mistakes When Crafting a Design Brief and How to Avoid Them

3 Common Mistakes When Crafting a Design Brief and How to Avoid Them

A well-crafted design brief is the cornerstone of any successful design project. It serves as the primary communication tool between the client and the designer, ensuring that both parties are aligned in their vision, goals, and expectations. However, creating an effective design brief is not always straightforward, and several common mistakes can lead to misunderstandings, project delays, and unsatisfactory outcomes. In this article, we will explore three prevalent mistakes made when crafting a design brief and provide practical advice on how to avoid them.

Mistake 1: Lack of Clarity and Specificity

One of the most significant and most common mistakes when crafting the perfect design brief is the lack of clarity and specificity. A vague design brief can leave designers unsure about the client’s needs and expectations, leading them to miss the mark on what was expected by the client. This therefore, leads to inefficiency as designs will have to be revised until the client is satisfied.

Examples of Vague Design Briefs:

  • General Goals: Statements such as; “We want a modern website” without defining what “modern” means to the client.
  • Unclear Target Audience: Descriptions such as “targeting everyone” fail to provide a focused direction.
  • Ambiguous Deliverables: Do not specify whether the deliverables include just the design files or the coded website, marketing materials, etc.

How to Avoid It:

  1. Define Clear Objectives: Outline specific goals and purposes of the project. For example, instead of saying “increase user engagement,” specify that the goal is to “increase user engagement by 20% over the next six months by improving website navigation and adding interactive elements.”
  2. Include a detailed description of the target audience: Describe the target audience in detail, including demographics, preferences, behaviors, and pain points. This helps in creating a design that resonates with the intended users.
  3. Have Specific Deliverables: Clearly list all deliverables expected from the project in the design brief. If the project involves multiple phases, outline what is expected in each phase.

Mistake 2: Ignoring Brand Identity and Context

Another common mistake is neglecting to provide a comprehensive understanding of the brand identity and the context in which the design will exist. Without this context, designers might create work that, while visually appealing, does not align with the brand’s values, message, or market position.

Consequences of Ignoring Brand Identity:

  • Inconsistent Visual Language: Designs that do not align with existing brand aesthetics.
  • Misaligned Messaging: Design elements that convey the wrong message to the audience.
  • Market Discrepancy: Designs that do not consider the competitive landscape or market trends.

How to Avoid It:

  1. Comprehensive Brand Guidelines: Include brand guidelines that cover all visual elements (logos, colors, typography), tone of voice, and core brand values related to the brand. This ensures the design aligns with the already established brand identity.
  2. Contextual Background: Provide background information about the brand’s history, mission, vision, and current market position. Understanding the broader context helps designers to make informed decisions.
  3. Competitive Analysis: Share insights about competitors and industry trends. This information can guide the design process to create a distinctive and competitive design.

Mistake 3: Insufficient Communication and Feedback Mechanisms

Poor communication and lack of a structured feedback process can disrupt even the best-laid design plans. If expectations and feedback are not communicated clearly, it can result in a disjointed process with frequent revisions, delays, and frustrations for all stakeholders involved. The success of any design brief needs clear communication and effective feedback mechanisms especially during the creation of a design brief. Without these factors, these mistakes are likely to plague the entire process.

Indicators of Insufficient Communication:

  • Frequent Misunderstandings: Regular misinterpretations of requirements or feedback.
  • Delayed Responses: Slow feedback or approval processes causing project delays.
  • Unstructured Feedback: Vague or contradictory feedback making it hard for designers to make necessary adjustments.

How to Avoid It:

  1. Establish Clear Communication Channels: Define how and when communication will occur. Use tools and platforms that facilitate clear and efficient communication.
  2. Regular Check-ins: Schedule regular meetings or updates to ensure the project is on track and any issues are addressed promptly.
  3. Structured Feedback Process: Create a framework for providing feedback that is specific, constructive, and actionable. Encourage stakeholders to articulate what they like or dislike and why.


Crafting an effective design brief is essential for the success of any design project. By avoiding common mistakes such as lack of clarity, neglecting brand identity, and poor communication, clients and designers can work together more effectively. A well-defined, detailed, and communicative design brief not only saves time and resources but also leads to better design outcomes that meet the project’s goals and resonate with the intended audience.

As our friend David Fae said; “Slow is fast. Shortcuts don’t really work.” By investing time and effort into creating a thorough design brief, you set the foundation for a productive collaboration and a successful design project. Whether you are a client or a designer, understanding and addressing these common pitfalls can lead to more innovative, aligned, and impactful design solutions.

Need more help learning how to craft a perfect design brief? Take a look at a FREE guide we created just for you! In it, you’ll find; 

  • Elements and structure that make up a great design brief.
  • Step-by-step instructions for gathering information and defining objectives.
  • Recommended tools for project management, communication, and design.
  • And much more!

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