Creating a Vision Brief

How to craft a compelling product vision and work backwards

I wish I’d read a post like this 10 years ago.

I used to really struggle when it came to pitching the long-term vision. I’d get lost in the details and focus on the data. I couldn’t create any buzz around a product concept because I was too preoccupied appealing to logic instead of inspiring through visuals. I’ll blame the ex-lawyer in me for that.

What I eventually realised is that you need to start at the end state and work backwards to rally folks around an idea. People want to see the glossy highlight reels, even if they say they want to read the dailies. That’s just human nature.

The best example that I’ve seen was with a team in Spotify who were just ace at crafting a vision. The lead designer would start every project with a polished video of the early product concept. It looked like a Hollywood trailer and it worked like magic. After the video they’d start the actual product discovery process. It was a phenomenal launchpad for any project.

So this is my attempt at explaining how to craft a compelling product vision. Hopefully after reading this, you’ll be able to share your early ideas with people in a novel format and get them excited. In this example, I’m actually using a real product idea I have for a B2C platform called ARRO. I’ll let the brief explain what it is and you can tell me if I’ve done a decent job at selling the long-term goal :)

🔮 Vision Brief Example


Group One - Privileged and Confidential - January 1, 2022

Achieve more from life working together. 

A product that inspires, guides and supports independent workers through improved goal setting, smarter planning and group accountability. 

Group One (NYSE:GRP) announced the launch of ARRO, an online planning and goal setting platform which was designed by leading experts in neuroscience and positive psychology. Combining the best elements of self-growth with group accountability, the service is targeted at independent workers around the world. ARRO is available exclusively through the web app at www.arro.co. It’s free to use for individuals and starts at $12/month for groups. 

Being self-employed is hard. You face constant battles and competing demands on your time from family, friends and customers. While at the same time, it’s a lonely existence.  It often means being a company of one without a trusted support network that you can rely on. COVID has forced us to find new ways to live, work and connect with others. Yet there’s still an ongoing struggle to find balance in our lives and a sense of belonging. Doing it alone is never easy. 

We need more guidance on how to spend our time, more support around our goals and more feedback so we can reach our true potential. ARRO has been created to cater to the multiple needs of independent workers through our four main features: 

  • Goal Setting -> We want you to capture your most ambitious goals and aspirations. You can then use our proprietary technology to break these down into manageable milestones and action points. Our service will provide frequent check-ins along the way to make sure that you tackle each goal systematically, ultimately leading to a successful outcome. 

  • Weekly and Daily Planning -> ARRO uses a planning template that has been designed by leading experts in neuroscience and positive psychology. In addition, our weekly and daily planners include space for reflection and feedback to help drive self-improvement. We also provide calendar integration to ensure that your time is aligned with your values. We want you to feel fully in control of your schedule.

  • Group Accountability -> ARRO works best when you share your goals with a support group who can act as accountability partners. You can create these from scratch and invite your network to participate or you can tap into a community of like-minded individuals who are already using the product. We also provide the surfaces for you to comment on and motivate each other through timely feedback. Being an independent worker no longer means that you have to work independently.

  • Coaching -> ARRO helps you identify what it is that you want from life and why. We do this by providing a marketplace of coaches that you can turn to if you’re stuck. Sometimes we need some outside support in order to see the bigger picture. All of our coaches are ICF accredited and trained in the ARRO methodology.

“We’re thrilled to beta launch ARRO at a time when we all need a little help in looking after ourselves and achieving our goals” said James Goodwin, VP of Product Development at Group One. “COVID has redefined what the workforce looks like and we want to help change the trajectory of this transition for the better. This is one of our most ambitious projects to date and we can’t wait to see the positive impact it will have as we roll it out across all of our global markets.” 

Accessing ARRO is easy. Just visit www.arro.co and sign up for the free individual plan or the paid group plan. It’s simple to get started and you’ll be tracking towards your first goal in minutes. You can also invite your peers or join an existing community in just a few clicks.  All the ARRO benefits are available through the dedicated web app which works on both desktop and mobile.

“I spent 5 years at my last design agency and became less engaged each year - my job was well paid but it lacked purpose” said Tracy Robinson, 28, from Brighton, UK. “When I found the ARRO community and everything that it stood for, I quit and went out on my own. Now I’m happier, more driven and actually better off financially. I have a trusted group of friends who I met on the platform and we motivate each other every week. I’d highly recommend ARRO to anyone who wants to join the freelancer movement.”

“I love my work but sometimes it doesn’t love me back” said Mark Simons, 37, from Austin Texas, US. “This is my second startup and I’ve learnt a lot from a darker period that I went through during my last business. This time I knew I wanted to be a solo founder and to bootstrap the business without outside funding. Sometimes that feels like I’m playing the game on hard-mode but I wouldn’t change a thing. I invited four other founder buddies onto ARRO and we embrace the startup peaks and troughs together. It’s been a great way to share my struggles and get motivated at the same time. It’s closer to a wellbeing product for me than a productivity tool - I’m a huge fan!”

If you want to make the first step towards a better and more productive 2022, visit www.arro.co today.


⚙️ How It Works

The vision brief is a narrative that explains the project vision using customer-centric language. It’s based on Amazon’s ‘working backwards’ framework. With the vision brief, you carry out a futurespective and imagine how you want customers to feel and what you want them to say when they experience the product, feature, or service that you want to create. It’s styled in the form of a press release which brings it to life and makes it feel more real. 

Writing a vision brief clarifies how customers will see the idea, not just how to think and speak about it internally. It is also a great tool to help drive the right conversations with development teams and stakeholders.

Suggested Outline

Heading — Headline information. 

  • Headline: Short, compelling description. (Tip: Include this last)

  • One-Sentence Summary: Describe what you’re launching and the most important benefit the customer will receive. (Tip: This is your elevator pitch)

  • Location & Date: Your location and launch date (e.g. June 1, 2022). This informs the reader that it hasn’t yet launched and sets the expectation when it will launch.

ARRO Example:

  • Achieve more from life working together. 

  • A product that inspires, guides and supports independent workers through improved goal setting, smarter planning and group accountability. 

  • NEW YORK -- (Business Wire) -- January 1, 2022


First Paragraph — Summary of what it is. The first paragraph should assume the person will not read the entire press release, so make it stand out. Use words your customer will understand. Describe what you’re launching and who the customer is. 

ARRO Example:

Group One (NYSE:GRP) announced the launch of ARRO, an online planning and goal setting platform which was designed by leading experts in neuroscience and positive psychology. Combining the best elements of self-growth with group accountability, the service is targeted at independent workers around the world. ARRO is available exclusively through the web app at www.arro.co. It’s free to use for individuals and starts at $12/month for groups. 


Second paragraph — The Opportunity or The Problem needs to be customer-focused. Clearly explain the opportunity or the problem that needs to be solved. Don’t waffle or make up a problem or opportunity. Make it relatable to the customer. 

ARRO Example:

Being self-employed is hard. You face constant battles and competing demands on your time from family, friends and customers. While at the same time, it’s a lonely existence.  It often means being a company of one without a trusted support network that you can rely on. COVID has forced us to find new ways to live, work and connect with others. Yet there’s still an ongoing struggle to find balance in our lives and a sense of belonging. Doing it alone is never easy. 


Third paragraph — The Approach or The Solution. Explain your vision for how to make the most of an opportunity that will benefit the customer or how you’ll solve the customer’s problem. (Tip: Keep it focused on the end customer.)

ARRO Example:

We need more guidance on how to spend our time, more support around our goals and more feedback so we can reach our true potential. ARRO has been created to cater to the multiple needs of independent workers through our four main features:

  • Goal Setting. We want you to capture your most ambitious goals and aspirations. You can then use our proprietary technology to break these down into manageable milestones and action points. Our service will provide frequent check-ins along the way to make sure that you tackle each goal systematically, ultimately leading to a successful outcome. 

  • Weekly and Daily Planning. ARRO uses a planning template that has been designed by leading experts in neuroscience and positive psychology. In addition, our weekly and daily planners include space for reflection and feedback to help drive self-improvement. We also provide calendar integration to ensure that your time is aligned with your values. We want you to feel fully in control of your schedule.

  • Group Accountability. ARRO works best when you share your goals with a support group who can act as accountability partners. You can create these from scratch and invite your network to participate or you can tap into a community of like-minded individuals who are already using the product. We also provide the surfaces for you to comment on and motivate each other through timely feedback. Being an independent worker no longer means that you have to work independently.

  • Coaching. ARRO helps you identify what it is that you want from life and why. We do this by providing a marketplace of coaches that you can turn to if you’re stuck. Sometimes we need some outside support in order to see the bigger picture. All of our coaches are ICF accredited and trained in the ARRO methodology.


Fourth paragraph — Quote a Company Leader. You can either make this up or get a real quote if possible. The leader quote should capture the value provided to the customer.

ARRO Example:

“We’re thrilled to beta launch ARRO at a time when we all need a little help in looking after ourselves and achieving our goals” said James Goodwin, VP of Product Development at Group One. “COVID has redefined what the workforce looks like and we want to help change the trajectory of this transition for the better. This is one of our most ambitious projects to date and we can’t wait to see the positive impact it will have as we roll it out across all of our global markets.” 


Fifth paragraph — The Customer Experience. Describe how customers will discover and use what you propose and the value they will gain. Your goal with this paragraph is to motivate the reader to want to try it out.

ARRO Example:

Accessing ARRO is easy. Just visit www.arro.co and sign up for the free individual plan or the paid group plan. It’s simple to get started and you’ll be tracking towards your first goal in minutes. You can also invite your peers or join an existing community in just a few clicks.  All the ARRO benefits are available through the dedicated web app which works on both desktop and mobile.


Sixth paragraph — A Customer Testimonial. Customer testimonials are fictitious but they should be believable. Use the testimonial to demonstrate why the customer cares about what you're launching. (Tip: To create an effective testimonial imagine how you want the customer to feel and how they would express their feelings in words.)

ARRO Example:

  • “I spent 5 years at my last design agency and became less engaged each year - my job was well paid but it lacked purpose” said Tracy Robinson, 28, from Brighton, UK. “When I found the ARRO community and everything that it stood for, I quit and went out on my own. Now I’m happier, more driven and actually better off financially. I have a trusted group of friends who I met on the platform and we motivate each other every week. I’d highly recommend ARRO to anyone who wants to join the freelancer movement.”

  • “I love my work but sometimes it doesn’t love me back” said Mark Simons, 37, from Austin Texas, US. “This is my second startup and I’ve learnt a lot from a darker period that I went through during my last business. This time I knew I wanted to be a solo founder and to bootstrap the business without outside funding. Sometimes that feels like I’m playing the game on hard-mode but I wouldn’t change a thing. I invited four other founder buddies onto ARRO and we embrace the startup peaks and troughs together. It’s been a great way to share my struggles and get motivated at the same time. It’s closer to a wellbeing product for me than a productivity tool - I’m a huge fan!”


Seventh paragraph — Call to Action. Direct the reader to where they can go to get started (e.g. a link).

ARRO Example:

If you want to make the first step towards a better and more productive 2022, visit www.arro.co today.


🎨 How to Use Visuals

Take advantage of the picture superiority effect from cognitive psychology. A picture truly is worth a thousand words. Use visuals to communicate what the customer experience looks like. Show what the customers will be able to do with it and how it improves their lives.

For your first version don’t worry about being an expert artist. Hand-drawn visuals are a fine way to start off. Saying that, I’d strongly advocate that you complete at least one high-fidelity visual artefact to help sell you vision during the exploration stage of the product discovery process. 

In my experience, this investment is always worth it - even if the visual is eventually left on the shelf as you falsify different assumptions. The design will help galvanise support and enthusiasm for your project during its most fragile state. If you don’t have the experience to mock up a visual yourself, partner with designers early on to help frame your vision.

Creating visuals

Visuals can take many forms — it may be a sketch on a whiteboard, a workflow diagram, storyboard, customer journey map, wireframe, prototype, video, mock website, technical architecture document or any other form that helps communicate the idea. Again, in my experience, the more life-like the vision, the more likely you are to get buy-in on the project.

Quick Start Guide

Your best tools for creating visuals are a whiteboard or piece of paper, a marker and a smartphone 

  1. Draw it on a whiteboard or piece of paper

  2. Take a picture with your phone

  3. Paste it in your doc 


Wireframes + Mocks

The best way to create wireframes + mocks is with Figma and the wireframe templates from the Figma community. Download Figma for free at www.figma.com.

Select a wireframe template that best suits your product. Create a low-fi mock up/prototype — even one screen will do at the start.

Work with a designer or do it yourself and turn your wireframe into a high-fi mock. Ideally, it should be clear enough to show off the main value props. Bonus points if it looks nice too!

Product Marketing Asset

Lastly, turn the mock into a full product marketing asset. I’ve found that creating the hero section of a landing page is usually the best way to show the visuals and give enough context with a short and snappy tagline. It’s also nice to see a real logo on the page as it starts to feel alive. Capturing it all in one visual can be powerful.


So this is the post I wish I’d read when I first set out to turn my ideas into *real* things. Hopefully it can also help you to take an abstract concept and turn it into something inspiring. Working backwards from success is a great way to start any project.

If you’d like to learn more about this framework, check out Product Buffs. Either way, I wish you all the best with your new venture 🤙

Cheers,

Craig.

Thanks to Tony Ennis, Phil Riordan, Mark McCartney, Richie Whelan and Jerome Ribot for their input and for testing the idea with me.