Co-design & building a discourse around the graphic design brief

I have previously posted about the lack of clarity and discourse around graphic design briefs – and even design briefs in the wider field of design and design research. I noted the lack of research, as well as professional inconsistencies, but I never reflected much deeper with regard to possible solutions.

I have since written an article that suggests that collaborative design principles, combined with experimental design research methodologies, may be the way forward for both the profession and academic study of graphic design, with regard to better understanding the graphic design brief.

Moreover, that a better understanding of the design brief can help to add value to graphic design in general.


“What’s the brief?” is an everyday question within the graphic design process. Moreover, the concept and importance of a design brief is overtly understood well beyond design practice itself – especially among stakeholders who work with designers, as well as clients who commission their services. As will be shown in this article, a design brief is often an assumed and expected physical or metaphoric artefact for guiding the creative process. When a design brief is lacking, incomplete, or unclear, it can render an often already ambiguous creative process and discipline even more fractured. However, while an apparently ubiquitous entity within industry and academia, the problematic position of the design brief appears to have remained hidden in plain sight. Even in wider design discourse, there appears to be little research on design briefs, the briefing process, as well as little consistency about the form that a brief takes. Indeed, it seems astonishing that, even by Peter Phillips 2014 edition of Creating the Perfect Design Brief, he feels compelled to comment that ‘there are still no books available about design briefs’ and that the topic is only ‘vaguely’ covered within professional design education (2014, p 21). While Phillips’ assertion is debatable, it is a cultural reality with which professional graphic designers are familiar. Further problematised by insufficient attention cast on graphic design itself as a specific discipline, this article explores existing literature and research and argues for academics, the design industry, and educationalists, to focus specific attention on the design brief. The article concludes by suggesting that combining experimental design research methods with collaborative design approaches offers potential for future research into the design brief, which in turn may provide opportunities to add value to both the professional practice and scholarly discipline of graphic design.

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 | PDF version | PDF download

Phillips, P. L. (2014). Creating the Perfect Design Brief : How to Manage Design for Strategic Advantage: Allworth Press.