With very few exceptions, products aren’t just suddenly launched out of nowhere. Much like a new project needs the guidelines that a project brief would offer, you need to create a product brief for products in the design phase.
This is a walk-through of product brief basics you need to know and best practices to create them. Learn how you can make your own briefs, and what information needs to be included in a good product brief.
Keep reading to see a product brief in action as we put together a capsule collection for some friends. Learn more about how to create a product brief now, including:
Table of Contents
- What is a Product Brief?
- When to Use a Product Brief
- How to Create a Product Brief
- What to Include in a Product Brief
- Product Basics to Consider in a Product Brief
- How to Determine Quantity in a Product Brief
- How to Determine Pricing in a Product Brief
- Walk-through of a Product Brief
- Top Color-Match Tips for Your Product Brief
- Finishing up and Finalizing Your Product Brief
- Important Notes and Considerations to Think About
- Next Steps in Creating a Product Brief
What is a Product Brief?
More than anything, your product brief is a clear and detailed guide that provides everyone with approved design instructions for the build.
Whether you have your own team or you’re doing this with a client, you need a document where everyone can collate their resources and say “Hey, this is the approved thing that we want to do for XYZ product.”
When to Use a Product Brief
There are a few situations in which you’d need a product brief. The most obvious of these is to:
- Get designers started on actually designing or mocking up a product with a visual ID (if a product needs sketches or renderings).
- Allow a factory or broker to show options and begin pricing.
- Establish buy-in from stakeholders in a requirements document if a collaborative process.
How to Create a Product Brief
Once you’ve found a format that works for you, keep it consistent, and refer back to it often. This is especially true when placing repeat orders with overseas factories:
- A good product brief is an unambiguous and uncomplicated document.
- It doesn’t have to be long and it doesn’t have to be perfect:
- It can start out as shorthand, depending on expectations of who you’re working with.
- The more detailed it is, the better – especially when going direct-to-factory overseas.
- You can create a product brief in Keynote, PowerPoint, or Google Slides.
The actual design of the brief doesn’t matter; content does.
What to Include in a Product Brief
List out all the products that will be worked on and their components – packaging, accessories, anything in the box.
I do recommend if you’re going to a factory to make it super, super detailed and cover absolutely everything!
Product Basics to Consider in a Product Brief
Break down individual products with key notes, materials, visual examples, and links to references.
- Be specific about your line colors, textures, and sizes.
- Walk through primary product concept.
- Go through any standout functions or included technology that needs to be called out.
How to Determine Quantity in a Product Brief
- Follow MOQ (minimum order quantity) guidelines on supplier product pages.
- Include initial quantity desired.
How to Determine Pricing in a Product Brief
- If using a broker include target costs.
- If internal, map out final price points (don’t include to factory).
For the capsule collection we’re going to use a broker who already has existing relationships with a factory and they’re going to do some of the translation. We’re keeping this example a little more high level but you’ll get the gist.
Just a reminder that the design of the brief doesn’t really matter as long as it’s detailed and follows a logical flow. The content is what’s important here.
Walk-through of a Product Brief
First things first is to actually list out all the products that are going to be worked on and their components. In this example we’re doing a sunglass product, so we’ll need the sunglasses themselves, the removable strap, and a semi-hard case. We’re not boxing them but we may still need a manual.
This is listing out all of the different components inside your items so they know the entirety of what you’re looking to create. This is especially important when you’re creating a product line.
Next up, we focus on listing out the target quantities we want to do for each of the line items. You’ll want to put your quantities down so you actually know all the things that need to be included as a part of your product. You can check those off one by one inside the brief itself.
If you’re doing this internally and making your own products, you’ll have factories and stuff already in place. Here, I’d be putting in target hours or target price points but there’s no reason to send your target price points to your broker or your external factory. Focus them on the bottom line, sure, but let them price to you.
In our example brief for the capsule collection we’ve taken some inspiration from the brand Sporty and Rich because we really liked four of their colors. You can include color blocks in your product brief so the factory knows exactly which color you’re referring to.
Top Color-Match Tips for Your Product Brief
A good size block is about your average Post-It sized square measuring 3 x 3in.
You can watch the video to learn how to use the color picker to transfer colors from stock or product images to your sample block. However, this won’t give you the exact shade of color that inspired you to begin with. That’s why it’s best to use reference images and just crop the exact color or pattern that you want out of factory product images.
Finishing up and Finalizing Your Product Brief
Now that your product brief basics are down on paper (so to speak), it’s time to walk through your primary product concepts. You may have only one product; I like to work in product lines.
Having a product line lets you have a “hero” product, some secondary products (that aren’t scheduled to be the core seller), and then some accessories. These accessories are essentially products that people are going to add on to almost every purchase. This is your upsell, and it’s an overlooked gem.
Your next slide is going to just outline the top things you’re trying to achieve, like an overview of your vision. It makes sure everyone knows and is aligned on what you’re trying to do.
Then we get to the complicated parts, which includes any standout functions or technologies that are required.
You’ll actually need to detail this quite well so specify that these are technology examples, not visual examples. You don’t want to look like your competition; you just want to have some of the same tech they’re using to try and find something similar in what you’re putting together.
Next up: the style and any notes about the product itself. Get all the details that you want into the product notes. Again, not super-specified yet. No mock-ups; this is just getting the conversation started to get into pricing.
Include a secondary option in case they couldn’t get something that looked or was quite like what you envisioned first. Make sure you’ve included branding because it impacts the bottom line from a style and color perspective.
Important Notes and Considerations to Think About
When you’re pricing things you’ll want to take the “hidden” costs into account. This includes all the product packaging you’ll use (whether that’s individual, unit, box, or case sizes) and documentation.
For instance, sunglasses are probably going to need a small manual. You don’t want to forget that or else it’s going to cost extra and cause additional design time.
Include shipping and import fees, as well, so you get a real idea of what a price looks like when you do this.
Next Steps in Creating a Product Brief
Once you’ve broken down materials, visual examples, and links in your product brief it’s time to send your brief. Get on a call with your broker or the factory and walk them through it all so people can get a better idea.
Even if you already have a good, existing relationship with your broker or factory, you should still request a list of questions they have for you to answer. This process takes a day or two, and you’ll want to get all those out as quick as possible to move on to the next steps.
Discuss timelines and start assigning due dates. Build a chart of who’s doing what to get your quotes and your designs completed.
This video will walk you through my process, using sunglasses as an example product.
And that’s it!
Many people have many formats for how this works. I found that mine in particular is not too crazy. It gets all the product brief basics down, is perfect for getting the conversation started, and gets a ton of information out at once.
If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below.
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