October 27, 2014

The importance of the brief – In creating a successful project

It allows both client and designer to know and understand the expectations of the project, from simple operational requirements to the aspirations and vision of the client. To put it simply, it allows everyone to get on the same bus and head down the project road together.

Recently at a conference in Singapore, I was asked, “What is the one thing that is most critical to a successful project?”

The answer was simple – the brief.

In creating a brief, you are forming a document that defines and outlines the scope and aspirations of the project. The document should form a two-way conversation between the client and the designer to define all “knowns” at the commencement of the project.

It allows both client and designer to know and understand the expectations of the project, from simple operational requirements to the aspirations and vision of the client. To put it simply, it allows everyone to get on the same bus and head down the project road together. It is the best case for everyone arriving at the right destination happy and satisfied with the outcome.

There are many parts that fit together to form a detailed brief:

Client Objectives

The client needs to determine and outline their objectives to the designer, and they need to understand and communicate what it is they are hoping to achieve. From a fresh fast-food salad lunch concept, to a coffee roastery or a Mexican food truck – what is the vision for this project? When the client and designer both have an understanding of this, the objective can be fully realised.

Target Market

There needs to be an understanding of the audience that is going to use, engage, and occupy this space. Identifying the key customer market allows spatial qualities to be targeted towards this customer demographic. There is a growing market in customer data collection to measure and define customer needs and expectations in an ever changing hospitality market. If this project is to be part of the current F&B wave, then knowing your customer is critical.

Key Competitors

A review of the current market sector and who is delivering a successful product is really important to understand in order to quantify what your point of difference will be. Research any international precedents and benchmark your idea against the current offers to fully understand if this idea is going to fly.


Projects have been crippled by permit requirements, authority approvals, as well as the time and negotiation taken to obtain these. Site establishment or feasibility surveys undertaken directly after the briefing process can save an enormous amount of energy and dollars to establish what approvals are required and the possible limitations of the site in order to obtain these approvals. Identifying if this is required at the time of briefing can be critical to the success of a project.

Site/Existing Conditions

Working hand-in-hand with the Project Requirements, establishing the opportunities and constraints of the site at briefing can identify key factors that could need to be overcome or used as an opportunity within the design concept.

A functional example would be locating a kitchen in an area within the tenancy where services to accommodate it are already in place.

Aesthetically, sometimes there are opportunities to incorporate existing elements into the design as a point of difference. Retaining and reusing something can support a narrative within the space – by referencing the site context or history as a narrative within the space.


Not developing the full menu offer at the outset of a project can significantly impact the project delivery. Having to alter the layout of the cook-line once a project has begun construction can have a huge knock-on effect on the design and project cost. Also consider the lead times of individual equipment and that any additional equipment may impact the budget and timing.


The required seating numbers need to be established at the outset to ensure compliance for amenities. The style and type should also be discussed as a critical factor to reflect the overall ambience, flow and dining style.


The trick to timing a project is to be a realist – not an idealist! A realistic timeline for a project is primarily dependant on the permits required (which is why determining these from the outset is crucial) but also the entire project team’s ability to deliver their elements by the planned times. It is for this reason that choosing an experienced designer and builder/shopfitter is so important. Sometimes the cheapest quote may not result in the most cost-efficient outcome.


Outlining and discussing the project budget at briefing ensures that reasonable allocations are made for various aspects of the project. Using an experienced designer allows these figures to be assessed at the outset to ensure that the client funds are adequate for the scope outlined in the brief. Whilst sometimes budgets might be limited, it ensures that the scope of the project matches the funds available.

In Conclusion

A solid brief developed together between the client and designer builds a trusting relationship and ensures that all parties are clear on the defined outcome and aspirations of the project.

About the Author

Katherine Kemp, Director, ZWEI Interiors Architecture

ZWEI design inspiring, sensory interiors by enlisting a holistic method in close collaboration with our clients. Evolving from the creative partnership of Hanna Richardson (German) and Katherine Kemp in 2006, ZWEI (German for 2) are now an award winning, multidisciplinary team specialising in delivering hospitality and retail spaces.

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