Developing a Project Brief for the UT System

To improve our communication skills as designers, we’ve been tasked to go through an entire client process from brief to deliverables. This is helpful not only for us to see the entire design process from start to finish, but it also provides us with another opportunity to externalize the value of our work and the methods we employ. To get started, we were given a 2-page document that outlined the business situation and landscape, project objective, and challenge for a design project for the University of Texas system. 

After researching more into competency-based learning, the foundation of the project, we were tasked with creating a project brief. The goal of this brief is to provide a jumping-off point for working with our client, the UT system. 

The brief should include:

  • The purpose of the work: the business situation that drives the need for the work
  • The outcomes: the desired effect of the work and how success will be measured
  • The problem to be solved: a problem statement that succinctly synthesizes onboarding material and initial secondary research
  • The approach to the solution: an explanation of the methods we will employ – including a project plan
  • Explanation of deliverables: the artifacts we will make and how they will be used 
  • Assumptions: Any commitments from the client or data that is relevant

You can read my entire brief for the University of Texas system here. Now that this brief is complete, we’ll continue with the path we suggested to develop an Insights Presentation and lastly, a Design Presentation that shows completed work. 

Key Takeaways

I entered this project assuming that the brief would be simple and easy to compile. After all – we were given such a clear template. I was proven wrong very quickly. A key role of a designer is to tame complexity — and that takes time, energy, and a lot of effort. With pages and pages of notes from secondary research, a transcript from our Subject Matter Expert interview, and endless questions about the project, the real work began. Distilling all of my thoughts, questions, and suggestions into 12 digestible slides that I could read in 10 minutes was challenging. 

One of my key takeaways from this process is to focus on the complexity of the specific problem at hand. Rather than asking myself questions about the success of education overall, I needed to focus on questions related to progress tracking. It’s easy to get caught up in the meta, but focusing on one area and the hidden complexities is where we can truly provide value as designers.