Writing an effective product design brief

Writing an effective product design brief: From the earliest briefing stage, our designs are rooted in realism. Quite simply because products have to be manufactured and be commercially successful. When you write a product design brief, make sure it covers the essentials.

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How to write an effective product design brief

A bad design brief is open to interpretation. And that poses a problem.

When innovating, you’re asking your design partner to balance multiple competing factors, so they can prioritise accordingly.

To do this well requires clarity and context. Otherwise, you risk your design team determining the importance of each feature and misinterpreting your priorities.

When you construct your initial design brief, consider the essentials:

  • UX
  • Costs and budgets
  • Styling
  • Materials (to be used or avoided)
  • Sustainability considerations
  • Performance
  • Manufacturing complexity and methods, and
  • Commercial feasibility of the product.

It’s part of your design house’s job to get this clarity and context by bringing everyone together for a shared understanding of what’s most important. That’s how you identify what is necessary and is non-essential so features are prioritised and compromises made.

Try one of our approaches by asking three questions:

MUST: Which features MUST be present?

These are your product fundamentals. The things you won’t compromise.

SHOULD: Which features SHOULD be present?

You’re still aiming to include these features. Their non-presence requires a justification.

MAY: Which features MAY be present but are of lower priority?

Features in this category are your nice-to-haves.

Asking these three questions builds a better brief and clearer understanding for all involved. Inevitably, this means a stronger design and a smoother transition from the first design stage through to the final result.

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Kristo Shivachev (Founder of product design agency, Simple Design Works) reads Wired magazine in the design studio
Kristo Shivachev (Founder of product design agency, Simple Design Works) reads Wired magazine in the design studio
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