Design Brief - Finding The Best Architect For Your Project

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Ian Mehrtens from the Royal Veterinary College was quoted in Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) publication titled Client Conversations: Insights into successful project outcomes, saying

"You need to spend this time to be sure that the architect really understands your intentions and vice versa so that you are able to test each other's conception, because otherwise you find out later that you are not getting what you want and you waste time and money doing redesign."


The above statement applies to first-time project owners as much as property developers. So how do you make sure you communicate your intentions? This is where the architectural design brief comes in. Depending on the size and aim of your project, defining a design brief can be as simple as an A4 sheet with bullet points to a thick document with hundreds of pages. In general, the more detailed the design brief is, the clearer the instruction and direction. However, it's important to know your must-have (highlight them in bold or with a highlighter!) and the parts that are your wish list. This way, it is not limiting and your design team can creatively deliver your project. There are two main types of design brief that we will focus on, as follows:


1. Domestic / Private client. For example, looking for an architect to have a home designed. This may be your first project and you have little or no experience of the architectural design and construction process. 

2. Commercial client. For example, property developer working on mixed-used developments. Your priorities will be different to a domestic client. 


Before starting a conversation with any design professionals (architect, engineer, surveyor, project manager, interior designer etc), understand that the design brief is not a static document; the design brief is continuously developed with the client and end-users.


"The brief is a starting point, and an important framework for selecting your design team. A brief does not need to be prescriptive, because freedom can be an important thing."

- Ian Selby from Lancashire Wildlife Trust was quoted in Royal Institute of British Architects' publication titled Client Conversations: Insights into successful project outcomes


For a domestic or private client, you may have many questions about how to compile a good design brief. Below are some questions to ask yourself and perhaps your family which will hopefully start to shape your design brief:

- At your current home, what do you like and dislike? 

- Are there any design features that are important to you? 

- For the site / property, is there a particular element that you like or dislike? 

- Do you have a preferred style, colour or material? Save your favourite images from the internet or magazines. 

- Who will be living in the house? Do you have any specific requirements, eg. accessibility, child or pet-friendly environment?

- Your preferences: Do you have a preference of the number of floors, orientation to the sun, the relationship of one space to another? 

- What is your project budget? Remember to clarify if you expect this amount to represent the total amount. Do not underestimate charges such as planning applications, professional fees etc.

- What is your ideal project timeline? 

- Is living sustainably important to you? From materials selection to energy efficiency, there are many aspects to consider. 

- Write down any specific requirements you can think of. For example, you have a home office, you like to work in a quiet environment and preferably with natural light, let your architect know so that he or she can design the acoustics and openings to build the perfect working conditions for you. 


On the other hand, for commercial clients, the questions asked differs. You may have the answers to most of them already, but feel free to browse through to check if you have missed out on any considerations. 

- What is the vision for the project? Why is it being developed? 

- Why was this site chosen? 

- What type of building?

- Any requirements in size or areas? 

- What are the access requirements for the site / project?

- Will you need to market the project, who are the end-users? 

- Who are the target market and demographics for the project? 

- What is the project budget? 

- What is the ideal project timeline? 

- What is the client's business vision and mission? 

- Is the client working towards a set of numbers, ie. to ensure the profitability of the project, what is that figure?

- Which professionals are required to form the design team for this project?  

- Would this project benefit from phasing? 

- Write down any specific requirements. For example, BREEAM / LEED requirements.


Finding the right architect and then hiring the right architect and design team is one of the most important parts in contributing to the success of any projects. It is key to take the time to formulate a clear list of requirements and aspirations to manage all parties' expectations.  


"Never assume your project team knows what you want. At Argent we hold a review day prior to the concept being fixed with the concept team, contractors' team, key supply chain, lettings agents and investment agent - a total review of the project."

- James Heather Argent Estates Limited was quoted in Royal Institute of British Architects' publication titled Client Conversations: Insights into successful project outcomes



If you would like assistance in preparing your design brief, please get in touch with Pitch Your Concepts' team at


We encourage discussions and would love to hear any questions, comments, and contributions to any topics discussed at


Yvonne Chua, Architect | 21st February 2020


Pitch Your Concepts is a pitch submission platform for property developers and architects, reducing risks of working with an incompatible team from day one.