One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish…..What does a design brief look like?



Design briefs help the client and designer by honing in on many topics, like acceptance (the theme of my favorite childrens book).  Asking questions early in the process is very valuable since we want to uncover any “by the way” statements asap. The act of documenting the responses to these questions helps form the basis of many future decisions and make everyone’s life easier.

1. Let’s start with the basics

Names :

address :


email :


family or employees:

number of residents/employees, ages

further info about the user
2. Please describe the Scope of project– what are you planning to do and accommodate?, i.e A Master Bedroom addition, an office expansion for 4 persons.  Then we can delve further into how the space will be used:

3. We want to know if you have a preferable style? Are there ideas, magazine or website clippings, images you like? Does it fit in the neighborhood? Does it matter?  What type of building, site or interior makes you stop, and say ” “I want that”?


4. Accessibility? Vehicles, public transportation?

5. What is your budget? Does the project need a contingency line item? Do we foresee a lot of unknown factors?

6. What is your schedule? Are you familiar with the time needed to design, approve and build your project?

7. How about maintenance needs? Are you prone to hire someone or do it yourself?

8. Let’s drill down through some technical and administrative aspects:
-Are you fueled by oil or gas, LP?
-Does your waste water get handeled by sanitary-muni or septic?
-Is your supply water -municipally provided or from a drilled well?
-What level of security required?
-Do you have enough parking?
-Are any maintenance records available
-Can you describe any of the last 5 years- improvements?
-Do you have drawings or a survey available?
-What does you Certificate of occupancy state?
-Do you know any defects/ physical/ legal /violations or other issues we should be aware of?
-Are you aware of any special special acoustic needs?
-Do you have any handicapped accessibility needs?
-Do you have special drainage concerns?
-Is there a homeowners association? Are there any Restrictive covenants?
-Is there any Moratoria in effect?
-Are there any particular environmental concerns?
-Do you know if there are critically steep slopes? easements? wetlands present? floodzones?

9. Can you foresee yourself in this house or building 5 years from now? 10 years?

10. Will all the decision makers be present and accessible during the design period?

11.  Is there additional info we should know?