New Design Guide preview: briefing

12 Jul 22

A well-prepared brief is vital to project success. It minimises design changes and reduces knock-on construction errors and the associated cost increases and delays. But how do you develop an effective brief and what should it cover? The revised GIRI Design Guide, which publishes later this year, provides an outline of the briefing process and practical steps to follow to achieve a well-defined brief that is comprehensive, timely, and collaborative.

A good project brief matters because it sets out the client’s needs and expectations and informs the design team of the project requirements. It is a strategic document that addresses the key issues and objectives related to the scale and complexity of the project. The development of it minimises misunderstandings that can lead to unnecessary design changes further down the line, therefore it is vital that sufficient time is allocated to this process and all relevant parties are involved. The project team should also ensure the deliverables of the brief reflect, and can adhere to, corporate governance requirements.

The following steps provide a guide to the briefing process.

Define the project requirements

Consider all aspects of a project when defining its requirements. This includes things like project use, sustainability goals, and future proofing, as well as cost-focussed targets. Clients must accept that the brief will adapt and develop as the project progresses. The designer should assist in the development of the brief to help balance the competing objectives of cost and aspiration to deliver best value.

Agree who will lead the briefing process

Experienced clients should initiate and lead the briefing process on major projects. In other cases, the client should encourage the lead designer to do so.

Define how the brief will be developed at an early stage. This will depend on the client as larger organisations with several stakeholders may require a longer consultation process. Identity and engage stakeholders and record and assess the requirements of all parties. It is equally important to determine the key individuals and identify who makes the decisions. All stakeholders should record a commitment to the brief.

Consider defining a vision statement

Define a vision statement at the outset, clearly stating objectives and aspirations. This will ensure that everyone involved in the project understands its goals.

Develop the brief

Unless there is a comprehensive evaluation of the client’s requirements, the brief will not reflect their expectations. Allow sufficient time for developing the brief and the associated evaluation to ensure all requirements have been considered and described. Input from all parties can help to support a collaborative mindset and collective project ownership.

Use standard model forms as guidance for developing the brief documents, creating bespoke versions for each project. This reduces the risk that some aspects may be overlooked.

Regularly review the brief

Present the brief to the client at the end of each stage to avoid misinterpretation and make sure expectations are met. This also allows the client to reassess their requirements. At the end of the process the client should present the brief back to the project team to ensure the content is fully understood and correct.

Test designs against the brief

Design teams should regularly review their designs against the brief and provide constructive input. A competent design consultant should independently review their understanding of the brief, service provided, and value added to the project, as this can help to improve the quality of the work as well as reinforce relationships.

A more detailed explanation of the briefing process is available in the revised GIRI Design Guide, which will be published later this year. Sign up to our newsletter to be notified once the guide is published.

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