Writing your own design brief : Where to start ?

So I’m an old pro at POP design, have been doing it for years and have taken the big step to work freelance and see how things work out. I am also starting to design some housewares based around ‘cheap’ manufacturing processes that won’t involve much up front tooling costs. I know it’s a tough one but I have an angle I want to pursue.

Now I have a premise on which to base this range of ideas I have but I’m finding it hard to ground them and focus on the problems at hand.

What I was wondering is how ‘self employed’ designers define a problem and tackle the issue by themselves. I find being given a brief makes you focus and I can very quickly translate the need into a solution…but when you’re writing the brief and coming up with the solution, boy am I struggling!

Any suggestions ?..does this even make any sense ?

I focus first and formost on the need, desires, and preferences of the consumer as they pertain to the market opertunity.

Know your cunsumers, know your market situation, and know your opertunity/goal.

However I usually find that “cheap” anything tends to kill the design options, as price is the key factor.

This is the simplest I find to start with, you can refine it as you go, and as you discover stuff that you need.

Background: Give a description of why the need for design, ie. client realises a shoe is needed and thus we’re designing a shoe
Target audience: who is this product being designed for (as per the client) - i.e. who is going to be your user
Market Scenario: What is the current market for doohickeys like? who is the biggest seller? what are your users buying instead?
Design criteria: as per the client - first put down everything you heard in your briefing or conversation with the client, it will change as you begin to design
Limitations if any known: ie. client wants it in aluminium because they are only into aluminium
Quantity produced: this is an estimate of the client’s production intent - you will design accordingly

There will be more headings but this usually captures the essence of the briefing.

This is the great challenge, showing that just because it is ‘cheap’ doesn’t mean it can not be well thought out so it works well and looks good.

Thanks for your input guys…goes to show how important it is to work in a team sometimes. As a lone designer it’s difficult to get out of a rut and you sometimes just need people to point out the obvious to you.

I just need to get my head out of my sketch book and do a bit of research to define what direction to take.


sounds like you already have the product category: housewares

when I market ideas or start on side work this is typically what I do…not unique by any means, but I stay disciplined to the process. Often do not know the end result but trust the creative process.

  1. define product category (example housewares)
  2. research sales/growth market (example may include SHOPA or ICFF) find out what businesses are reacting to. Make sure that the organizations are recognized by your client (IDSA falls short in this area)
  3. research design trends (overall; transportation, furniture, product)
  4. remind clients of specific case studies of existing products which made profit through design (avoid using Sony, Apple…a bit overdone) to gain confidence in your design direction.
  5. find a successful bridge that is evident in both 2 and 3. Develop a product that visually reflects both.
  6. Presentation is everything…whatever you say, be convincing.

Not sure if you are looking for anything more specific…but this is a one minute reply about my process on projects with little initial direction.

Most important in my experience is to trust yourself, most likely you know more than you think. And, trust the design process, don’t skip anything.

Best of Luck!