A Design Brief is essential to the start of any project. It could be as short, or as in-depth as you like however, there is an art to writing a good Design Brief. Product Design Engineer, Will, shares a breakdown of the key considerations that make up an effective design brief:

There is a hint to a good Design Brief is in the name… brief! It should be clear, concise, and easily understood in a matter of minutes to any stake holder. It should be noted that a Design Brief is not the same as a Product Design Specification (PDS). A PDS explicitly states the key criterion of the new product being developed so is based on certain assumptions and can restrict creativity and innovation. Whereas a Design Brief allows for wider thinking so innovative and yet-to-be developed solutions can be explored. Once a Design Brief has been drafted, and convergent/divergent developments have been made, then a PDS can be produced.

A Design Brief is ultimately a project management document which outlines the specifics of a design project. The main objective of a good Design Brief is to outline the true scope direction and scale of a project. What is it you’re hoping to achieve out of the project; Is there a problem that needs to be overcome or an opportunity to fill a gap in the marketplace? Are you intending to enter a new market? Does your product need to be more competitive, so you need to reduce manufacturing costs?

We have outlined some of what we feel are key considerations to include in a good Design Brief, to not only help your project, but also to help the stakeholders understand your project:

  • Executive Summary
  • Current business status
  • Goals and aspirations
  • Project overview and scope
  • Project stake holders
  • Roles and responsibilities
  • Key Deliverables and Outcomes
  • Project Duration/Schedule
  • Project Budget

Current business status

This should be a short description of where you currently are as a commercial entity, your current product line-up, R&D activities as well as commercial/competitive advantages and disadvantages.

Goals and aspirations

The goals and future aspirations should be somewhat limited to this new project venture however, it’s always great to share the wider aspect of why this project plays a crucial role within the overall company vision.

Project overview and scope

Now that the current status and vision has been laid out, it’s great to talk freely about what the project is, what the utility of the product/device will be, why it would be used, the benefits it will bring as well as the limits of the project.

Project stakeholders

Stakeholders are people of importance to or, who hold value in the project. These may be internal positions such as Head of Operations, Marketing, Engineering, etc. It’s also important to include your end users, investors, compliance bodies and generally, anyone or anything that will interact with your product!

Roles and responsibilities

Listing potential project members including their roles and responsibilities makes it clear from the outset what each project member is focusing on, what they need to deliver, and who they may need to talk with in order to bridge the overlap of responsibilities for example, a proof of principle prototype may require discussions with project management, procurement teams, approved vendors, goods in/logistics teams, hardware engineering teams, electronics engineering teams, software engineering teams, NPD assembly teams, testing and validation teams, and health & safety members. Not being clear on responsibilities from the start is one of the main reasons that projects can run into difficulties so is important for all stakeholders to know they are accountable.

Key Deliverables

Understanding what the key deliverables are for any project is incredibly important. Knowing what needs to be done from the outset will assist with understanding the critical path required to ensure the projects remains to deadline and, to budget. It is also useful to consider the key stakeholders’ thoughts on deliverables – for example, a funding body may request preliminary technology demonstrators prior to significant financial backing.

Project Duration/Schedule

Understanding whether a project is a design sprint or a long-term aspiration can set a precedent for key stakeholders. Usually, the deliverables and Critical Path Analysis dictate the project schedule however, sometimes activities can be sped up significantly through non-conventional or radical means.

Project Budget

The Project Budget is usually dependent upon the potential business opportunity, overall project duration, whether the product being developed is highly innovative, and the associated effort levels required to complete the core activities.

Being able to convey the anticipated investment scale of a project to a design team by providing a ROM cost (Rough Order of Magnitude) makes it possible for them to understand the expected effort levels for the project. Ideally the overall project budget should also be provided as this helps understanding of expectations. It is important to consider, tooling, testing, contingencies, and if possible, essential/desirable activity budgets. This will help the design team whilst making decisions throughout the development process.


At Haughton Design, we typically work on new product and medical device development projects where the Design Brief has already been produced, the company has already reviewed the strategy of pursuing with the development of the idea and analysed the typical capability, capacity, time and commercial commitment required.

However, it is to be noted that a Good Design Brief is not a fixed document. It can, and probably should, change upon early insights and developments made throughout the project. After all, design projects should be steered by a genuine need for new design whether that’s by meeting an unmet need or, improving on elements of an existing product or device. Being able to react to technical difficulties, competitor advancements or market opportunities results in an agile mindset. Providing that the ultimate goals and company aspirations haven’t significantly changed, a good Design Brief should be able to cater to these developments as project progress is made.

If you would like Haughton Design to assist with the development of a Design Brief, to review your current design brief or assist with your design & development activities, please get in touch.

William Morris - Senior Design Development Engineer & Business Development Manager at Haughton Design Will Morris 1 April 2022


Get in Touch with Will Morris

Senior Design Development Engineer & Business Development Manager

Will graduated from the University of Wolverhampton with a degree in Product Design. Prior to Haughton Design, Will worked for Renishaw, where he led the industrial design for the current and next generation metal Additive Manufacturing machines. Will has a strong interest in Design for Sustainability, and the Circular Economy, looking to reduce companies’ environmental impact and often teaches about design engineering at local STEM events. Outside of work, Will enjoys Formula 1, rugby and travelling with friends.

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