Researching the graphic design brief

“What’s the brief?” is a fairly everyday question in graphic design studios. But there appears to be little research on design briefs and the briefing process, even when looking at wider design research discourse (Jones & Askland, 2012; Paton & Dorst, 2011). 

This is intriguing, considering how integral the brief is within so many design practices. At the same time, it’s also surprising how different the physical briefs and the briefing processes are within different design disciplines.

That said, once again, it’s important to realise that each design discipline is different. Indeed, the conceptual nature of briefs in communication design briefs allows them to be more creatively interpreted, setting them apart from the more formal models that technical design briefs draw from. And the operational briefs of architectural design (Blyth & Worthington, 2010; Khan, 2009), are different from those of software development or IT systems design.

The format of the design brief itself can also vary; sometimes only comprising of one page (Elebute, 2016; Nov & Jones, 2006) or one line (Jones & Askland, 2012). At other times the design brief may be a far more complex document (Ambrose, 2015; Patterson & Saville, 2012).

Clearly more work needs to be done in this area within graphic design. And perhaps we also need to be asking whether some form of standardisation needs to be considered, alongside the continuing evolution and struggle for professionalisation of graphic design within industry, as well as acceptance as a specific discipline within academia (Meron 2019, p65).

Ambrose, G. (2015). Design Thinking for Visual Communication: Fairchild Books.

Blyth, A., & Worthington, J. (2010). Managing the Brief for Better Design. New York: Routledge.

Elebute, A. (2016). Influence of layout and design on strategy and tactic for communicating advertising messages. Global Journal of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences, 4(6), 34-47. 

Jones, W. M., & Askland, H. H. (2012). Design briefs: is there a standard? Paper presented at the International conference on engineering and product design education, Artesis university college, Antwerp, Belgium. 

Khan, A. (2009). Better by Design: An Introduction to Planning and Designing a New Library Building. London: Facet Publishing.

Meron, Y. (2019). Strangely familiar: revisiting graphic designers’ perceptions of their relationships with stakeholders. (PhD). RMIT University. Retrieved from 

Meron, Y. (2021) “‘What’s the Brief?’: Building a Discourse around the Graphic Design Brief”, M/C Journal, 24(4). doi: 10.5204/mcj.2797

Nov, O., & Jones, M. (2006). Ordering creativity? Knowledge, creativity, and idea generation in the advertising industry. International Journal of Product Development 3, 3(2). 

Paton, B., & Dorst, K. (2011). Briefing and reframing: A situated practice. Design Studies, 32(6), 573-587. doi:

Patterson, J., & Saville, J. (2012). viscomm: A guide to Visual Communication Design VCE Units 1-4.