Putting together a design brief

Whether you are working with an external agency or with an in house designer, you will need to develop a brief for the project.

Here is an outline of a brief that you might want to adapt for your own use.

Outline brief

Your brief should include the following elements:

  • Your organisation name  
  • Purpose of the brief, e.g. brief to develop a design style 
  • Background
  • Project brief
  • Tender responses



Who are you and what do you do?

  • What sort of organisation are you and how do you fit into the broader NHS? You may want to refer to the NHS choices website - www.nhs.uk, which explains the structure of the NHS and the role of different organisations (for example primary care trusts, strategic health authorities etc.).
  • What is your role? You may want to include your mission statement and vision if you have them, your priorities and the services you offer. You could include your latest annual report as an appendix.
  • What community or communities do you serve and what health and social issues do they face? 


The NHS identity

As an NHS organisation, you must base your local design style on the NHS identity:

  • The NHS logo has over 95% instant and unprompted recognition amongst the public.
  • The NHS identity carries with it very strong levels of trust and credibility.
  • The NHS is trusted as an impartial and credible deliverer of health information and health services.

You may want to refer your agency to the NHS Identity Website for full details on the NHS identity, values and communications principles or you could include them in the brief. 

Remember that a design style is not about creating a new brand or designing a new logo, but it is a way to create a distinctive look and feel relevant to local needs.


The rationale for this project

Some examples might be:

  • to raise awareness of your services;
  • to give your communications a clear, consistent and professional local design style, while remaining within the NHS Identity Guidelines;
  • to communicate better with the public, staff and stakeholders;
  • to produce materials that are easier to read, and more likely to be read. 

Project brief 



Clear, concise statement or points that need to be achieved, for example:

  • to help the local community recognise our communications and therefore gain a better understanding of who we are and what we do;
  • to enable our staff to feel proud as members of a local NHS organisation. 



Audience groups that the local design style needs to appeal to, for example:

  • the local community;
  • staff;
  • other stakeholders.

Include advice on how you wish to reflect the local community in the design style.

Should it reflect diversity or should it be generic enough to work across all communities?

Are there any particular cultural sensitivities, such as imagery to avoid, which the designers should be aware of? 



A list of communications materials that the design style needs to work across, for example:

  • patient information;
  • staff communications;
  • exhibition stands. 

Key considerations 

What factors do the designers need to take into account when developing a design style for you? Are there any specific problems that need to be addressed?  For example:

  • whether you wish to produce the materials in-house in the future;
  • how the design style must work: in 4-colour, 2-colour and mono;
  • who will approve the design style. 



Clearly state your budget for the project and what this must include, for example:

  • We have a set budget for this project of £x. excluding VAT.
  • Costs should be detailed and should include all fees and expenses. 



Use this section to set out all the relevant timings, eg if you are inviting agencies to tender, including:

  • when a response to this invitation to tender is due;
  • when will they be notified if a presentation is required (usually one or two days after);
  • when the presentations, if required, will be (give one or two dates the following week that they should keep clear just in case);
  • when the project will be awarded (usually that afternoon or following day);
  • when the project must be completed and any key dates. This may depend on the successful agency’s project plan, however you may already know some key dates, eg when you will need to present the project to the board. 



What are the end deliverables of this project? 

Deliverables might include: 

  • agreement of copyright;
  • CD containing all the elements of the design style and whatever else is required (e.g. Quark Xpress or InDesign templates), so that another design agency or printer can produce professional and consistent communications on your behalf;
  • clear set of guidelines explaining how to use the elements of the design style;
  • a set of simple Word templates so that your internal staff can produce good-quality internal communications (eg newsletter) and basic patient information (eg simple one-sided, mono, A4 sheet). 


Tender responses

Usually for work of this kind, it is necessary to invite a number of agencies to tender and you will need to follow the policy of your organisation. You should cover:

  • when they need to respond;
  • how they present or structure this response, including a proposal that sets out their plan of action to complete this project; key milestones; a clear breakdown of how they will allocate the budget; a brief summary of other relevant work experience and examples of it; a brief summary of who in their team who will be involved and that you may require them to follow up their response with a short presentation to gain a better understanding of their proposal and to meet the team;
  • how their response will be evaluated. 

Note that it is usually considered bad practice to ask design agencies to submit draft designs without payment as part of a tender. You should be able to assess the quality of their creative work from looking at their other work experience.

Last updated: 02/06/10

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