How to create a great brief for an architect

In order to design your ideal house, there is no doubt that a great brief helps. Here are some thoughts on how we can help you arrive at this point, based on years of good, bad, indifferent and amazing briefs.

Traditionally, the process for coming up with an architectural brief has been short and simple.

An architect will ask you to provide answers to a handful of straightforward questions such as:

  • How many bedrooms do you want?

  • How many levels do you want?

  • What is your budget?

  • Do have any children (or plans for children) or extended family that you need to consider?

While these practical details are important, we’ve found that it doesn’t give us as a chance to get to know you, hear your vision for your future home, and in the end: present you with a design that you’ll love.

The process of creating a brief is a journey, and one that should be a collaboration between you and your architect.

In this article, we’ll explore three important steps of the briefing process that can help when you’re working with an architect to design your next home.

Step 1:
Have a conversation with your architect.

We like to sit down with our clients for a brainstorm together and get to know you better.

The purpose of this step is to ask you the types of questions that are difficult to discover in a questionnaire, but tend to come up naturally in conversation. For example:

- What time does your family get up?

- Do you like to have breakfast together?

- Do you hold frequent dinner parties?

- Are you avid cooks?

- Do you want your master bedroom to feel secluded, or connected to the rest of your home?

- Would you rather a visual or audible connection to your children around the house (or not!)?

Listening to your answers to these questions helps us to understand your lifestyle, vision and needs for the project.

During these early meetings, we might even explore quick sketches that will help to visualise different ideas for the project - which will often spark new insights from our clients.

Step 2:
Work out your negotiable and non-negotiables.

Once we are both on the same page about your brief, we’ll help you to work out your priorities for your new home within the limitations of budget, space and time.

For example, what is more important to you: having a large kitchen, or a spacious living room? Or do you want your kitchen to be one with your living room? Do you like for things to be overhead? Or low down?

Put simply, what are your non-negotiables?

Establishing the priorities for your house earlier rather than later will save a great deal of time, money, and frustration for both you and us, down the track.

Step 3:

Other than the pragmatic and measurable things, are there less tangible things that you want for your house? How do you want your house to feel? Should it be grand, quirky or humble? Do you have a personal aesthetic style? Is there a memory of a place or time that you’d like to reference in your house? Is there something or someone that particularly inspires you?

Some clients work well with words, others with images. If you are a visual person, a moodboard of images can be useful. Pinterest can be a great tool for this. If using images, it’s valuable to identify why that image resonates with you. Think about:

  • What do you like about them?

  • How do they speak to you?

  • What kind of mood do they provoke for you?

We’re primarily after what you take from the images, and how they resonate with you.

Some people will have more to share here than others, and it’s not essential that you share anything here at all if nothing comes to you. However, we invite all our clients to expand their brief beyond the concrete facts.

For example: a Scandinavian cabin overlooking a lake at sunset might be a beautiful image, but how does it make you feel? We want to know why it is inspiring for you, so that we can do our best to recreate that feeling in an original new design, tailored specifically for you and your home.


To arrive at the perfect brief, we first and foremost need to understand you and what you want to achieve.

While the traditional briefing questions about budget, rooms and spaces help to define the limitations of your brief - we are equally interested in the creative opportunities for your project that can arise out of a conversational and collaborative, but highly structured briefing process.

As a client, it’s important to prepare for the briefing process in three ways.

  1. Be ready for an open, wide-ranging briefing meeting where we’ll find out a great deal about you, your pet/partner/family and your goals.

  2. Be prepared to communicate the negotiable, and non-negotiable parts of your brief.

  3. Be ready to prune, then dig a little deeper into your collection of inspirational images/dot points so that they can clearly communicate your preferences and tastes to our team.

Most importantly, think about your “why”. Why are you creating this home, or undertaking this renovation? How does it tie in to your way of living? Is it to seek a calmer, more tranquil safe haven? Is it about creating a flexible space to connect with people and encourage interactions? Is it about living a simple lifestyle, in touch with nature? Is it to create the most beautiful escape from day to day life to the point where you want a resort for a home?

Quite often clients come to us with a set idea about a design that may have an underlying “why”, but they do not tell us this essential piece of information. Then we end up questioning this set idea with no sense of the compelling feeling beneath it. We love to have these deeper conversations and we love to hear your “why” and if you have some solutions to these “whys”, that is a great starting point. And if you don’t, maybe we can help guide you there.