Everything Retailers Need to Know About Writing a Design Brief
Fundamental Elements to Design Briefs
The foundation of any design project is the design brief. The two major facets included in effective design briefs are the landlord/base building requirements and the client requirements. The information below briefly outlines the key elements required to rollout an existing retail design concept into a new or existing space.
What Makes a Successful Retail Rollout Design Brief?
A thorough design brief should provide the design team with all of the information required to execute the task as well as outline the full scope of the project including client expectations. The design brief should be focused on exactly what you want to achieve before any work on the project is started.
Landlord/Base Building Requirements
1. Design Criteria
The design criteria portion should outline what can and cannot be done from a design standpoint. This includes requests that are pertinent for the design team to know such as the mandatory use of glazing for a storefront design, or any restrictions in using specific finishes within the space.
The design criteria is typically communicated via PowerPoint presentation or is written in a Specifications Manual, sometimes referred to as Schedule C.
The street address and/or unit number, especially if within a mall environment, is very important. It allows the agency to look up the address online and view the location from a digital map. This also provides the agency with a sense of where the space is located in conjunction with major streets and/or the adjacent tenants. If there are no sidewalks or roads, thereby no visible pedestrian traffic, we know that applying signage to that particular elevation may not serve any value.
3. Existing Drawings
Drawings of the existing space are mandatory to include in a design brief. AutoCAD format is always preferred as it avoids the designer having to redraw an entire space. Alternatively, PDF format will work.
When asking for drawings of the existing space, the following drawings are particularly important to request:
- existing floor-plan
- existing elevations and building sections (interior/exterior)
- mechanical & electrical drawing
4. Existing Photos
Seeing is believing. It is essential that photos of the existing space be supplied in a design brief as it will give designers a sense of the existing conditions they are working with. It also allows the designer to look at the current space and detect any important structural or architectural elements, such as existing electrical panels or plumbing fixtures, to be aware of.
When asking for photos of the existing space, the following are important elements to capture:
- floors and ceilings
5. Landlord Supplied Items
Our philosophy and strategic design approach, ThinkBlink, is driven by a consumer’s motivation to make a purchase decision. Everything we do is geared to owning the at-purchase moment
As part of the real estate agreement, clients will always be given an outline of what the Landlord will supply within the space. With shell projects, it’s important to identify the allowances and responsibilities for new partitioning, carpets, lighting and paint.
Note that there will always be variations in individual tenant needs and with what landlords are willing to provide.
Electrical and mechanical expectations are very important to know as alterations to these elements can be extremely costly and time consuming.
If a client is able to confirm how much money they have budgeted from a design and construction standpoint, it is extremely helpful to include that information in the design brief.
Ensure that you ask your client to separate how much they have allowed for design fee costs versus construction costs.
2. Special Elements
Outside of a typical rollout, the design brief should include any special elements to the design or brand standards that the designer should follow (a.k.a. the “Client Wish List”). Key design elements will often vary depending on what type of space is being designed. Design elements, which will often change, are point of sale (POS) quantities, seating, standardized fixtures and back of house (BOH) requirements.
It is important that clients identify what changes need to be made to a typical design rollout, prior to starting a Blackline, in order to avoid scope crawl and additional services.
3. Project Life Cycle and Critical Dates
The client must supply a project life cycle, complete with milestones and the opening date. Critical dates are also necessary for instance when there is a need to apply for permits, tender, construction etc.
In some cases, generating the project life cycle is part of the agency’s scope, in which case the client must supply an open date in order for the agency to generate a work-back schedule.
Everything we do is geared to owning the “at-purchase” moment
To ensure there is a solid foundation and mutual understanding between the agency, landlords and clients, an informative design brief is essential.
It should be focused on what the end-results should be and effectively captures the landlord/base building requirements, including the design criteria, address, existing drawings, photos and items supplied by the landlord, as well as the client’s requirements, including the budget, personalized design elements and the critical dates. Remember, outlining the key elements will allow for a smooth rollout of a design concept into a new or existing space.