Repurposing Architecting Skills: Assimilation of the Design Brief

Assimilation of the Design Brief is the sixth in the series unpacking how architects might use their intrinsic architectural skills to not just to make architecture but to do better in their practice of architecture.

Without a good Design Brief you might as well make it up as you go along.

The Brief is central to every design. It sets you up for success.

There’s a skill to assimilating all the client’s requirements into a comprehensive and coherent document. A good Brief covers the basic design requirements as well as high order requirements too. Becoming an evaluation and reference tool in the design process.

In its basic form the Brief might consist of three lists: the minimum requirements or Must Have, the Nice to Have and the In Our Dreams We Also Have (not to be dismissed as dreams come true with clever design and a little “Can if…” thinking).

The thing is, a Brief is a powerful generative tool. It requires consideration, forethought, and a desire for something in the future. Once set off on that path, it can be utilised to keep the design on track or lead to informed reconsideration.

I’m curious, as a skilled up architect, have you written a Design Brief for yourself, your work, or your practice?

If not why not? Do you have expectations about the work you’d like to be doing, where you’d like to go, or in a word, Goals?

A Design Brief is simply Goal Setting by another name.

If you don’t know where you’re going, how will you get there?

If you can help clients write their Design Brief (your Return Brief), you can write one for yourself and your practice. You can and you should.

So what is your personal brief, the brief for your practice? Here’s a way to start. Using the three lists I mentioned earlier as a guide, with clear intention, write down all your Goals, the things you want to do and achieve. Consider too the principles and values that your Goals must meet and will be shaped by. You now have a document to guide the design of the course of your year ahead, the next two years or perhaps five. Always keeping in mind with something this fluid, there’s value in reviewing where things are at along the way. Rewriting or tweaking your brief and subsequent design as necessary.

As with all things, the trick is to start.

What’s the Brief for yourself?


Hat tip to James Trevena for the observation that Brief Assimilation is a core architectural skill.


Previous posts in the Repurposing Architecting Skills series

Designing PossibilityFail and IterateMemory and Research, Critical Thinking, Design as Improvisation


Keen to develop a brief for yourself and/or your practice? Don’t know where to start? Please feel free to drop me a line. I’m here to support you in building a better practice, forging better human and professional skills, and developing architectural leadership.


Image by Gleb Vasylynka on Pexels [cropped]

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