Have you ever struggled to communicate all the essential project information to a graphic designer or writer? Has a writer or designer delivered a piece of creative that missed the mark or was off-strategy?
A well-executed creative brief can minimize miscommunication and ensure that the most important information is delivered to the people executing your creative.
But what exactly is a creative brief? And how do you develop one?
Creative Brief Defined
A creative brief is a compact document, usually a page or two in length, that summarizes the key information a writer, designer, videographer or other creative professional needs to understand a project. Typically, a brief includes background information, project goals, strategy, deadlines and other salient details required to tackle the project. While most creative briefs are for internal use only, some are also designed to get buy-in from management or a client before the creative team gets involved (this practice is common in advertising agencies, for instance).
Who Are Briefs For? And Who Should Write Them?
As their name suggests, creative briefs are for anybody who will contribute creative services to a business project. Examples of so-called “creatives” include:
- Graphic designers
- UI and UX designers
- Data visualization specialists
While not intended to replace a formal project kickoff, a creative brief contains the key points and critical background information individuals need to reference as they work. In short, they are the guardrails that keep a project from wandering off track.
Who should write the creative brief? That will depend on the makeup of your team. If a project manager will be shepherding the contributors through the process, they can be a natural person to draft the brief, often in coordination with a strategist or brand manager. But it really doesn’t matter who writes the brief so long as they have both a big-picture perspective and a detailed understanding of the project.
Elements of a Creative Brief
There is no single, perfect, Platonic ideal of a creative brief. Its makeup will be guided by the information your team needs to complete the project. Different types of organizations produce different types of briefs. For instance, a marketing firm might need to provide background descriptions of each client and how they are positioned in the marketplace. A firm developing its own marketing materials, however, can often dispense with that sort of information because that sort of institutional knowledge is assumed to be understood by everyone on the team. But a firm that outsources its creative to a freelancer or agency might need to include basic background material to give the creative resource enough context to make smart decisions.
Below is a long list of elements you could include in a creative brief. Your brief is almost certainly going to include a subset of these, depending on your circumstances (see “Some Advice” below).
- Project name: Give your project an easy-to-understand name.
- Project team: Who’s on the project? What are their roles?
- Due date: This can be a single completion date or include a set of interim deadlines.
- Budget: Is there a stock photography budget? Are there any costs you want to control?
- Reference links: These could be links to relevant websites, reference materials, style guidelines, and more.
- Company profile: Background on the firm or client. Be sure to describe what they do and who they serve.
- Positioning: How is the organization positioned in the marketplace? How is it different from its competitors?
- Target audience(s): Who are you trying to reach with the piece? This could be one or more industries or roles in an organization. In some cases, you may want to include demographic, psychographic and geographic profiles of your audience(s).
- The problem: If you are addressing a specific challenge, what is it?
- Strategy: What is the big picture you are trying to achieve? Can you give the creative team guidance to get there? Don’t try to spell out a narrow solution. Instead, present the strategy at a high level, leaving the creatives room to explore a variety of options.
- Key competitors: List 2–6 important competitors. Include their websites so that people can check them out.
- Goals / campaign objectives: What is the piece (or campaign) trying to achieve?
- Design considerations: Are there any brand guidelines, colors, graphic elements, etc. that should be included in the design process?
- Editorial considerations: Are there any style, voice or personality factors the writer needs to know about?
- Key messages: What are the most important messages to convey to the end consumer?
- Scope: Are there limitations (such as number of pages, dimensions, word count, etc.) that the team needs to keep in mind?
- Call to action: Identify what you want your audience to do next, if anything.
- Keywords: If SEO is a consideration, what keywords does the writer need to incorporate?
Some Advice When Preparing Your Brief
When preparing a brief for the first time, your goal should not be to create a comprehensive backgrounder. Instead, you should aim to deliver the required information in as few sections, and as succinctly, as possible. A dense, multi-page document can be intimidating and discourage people from using it. It is called a brief for a reason, so keep it short!
Avoid including broad corporate statements such as your mission, vision, values and the like. Unless they are directly applicable to the project (unlikely), these materials just add noise to what should be a highly streamlined document.
A Creative Brief Example
Here is a fictional example of a creative brief for a simple corporate video project. In this case, the team is entirely internal, so no company overview is needed.
Project Name: Rogers & Wilco Corporate Overview Video
- Jim Simmons, Marketing Director & Producer
- Amy Jenkin, Project Manager
- James Wilks, Videographer & Editor
- Stephanie Burvis, Script writer
- Armando Cruz, Graphic Designer
- First cut: June 15
- Final cut: July 7
- On website: July 10
- Stock: $500 for supplemental stock footage
- Music: $750
- VO: $1,200
Target Length: 60 seconds
Brand Style Guidelines: rogerswilcolaw.com/brand
To create a short, high-energy 1-minute overview video of our firm to appear on the About Us page of our website. The video should explain what we do and describe how we are different from other similar law firms.
To counter our old image as a stodgy law firm, we want to present Rogers & Wilco as young and dynamic with our eyes clearly set on the future. Consider using quick cuts and other techniques to convey energy and excitement. The script should speak to the ways we are changing the lives and fortunes of our clients.
Call to Action:
Nothing explicit. We want the person watching the video to want to learn more about the firm and explore more pages on our website.
- We are the leading law firm advocating for the rights of indigenous people across North America.
- We change people’s lives for the better every day.
- We have offices in all 50 states and across Canada (optional)
We are open to shooting in our offices (especially our HQ in Wichita) and onsite at 1 or 2 reservations. Jim or Amy can help you get the necessary permissions to scout and shoot. We will need consent forms for any people who appear in the video.
Reference Competitor Videos:
- Competitor video 1
- Competitor video 2
- Competitor video 3
A Final Thought
A creative brief is a simple but powerful tool. In most cases, you will want to have a formal kickoff with the entire team to go over the project’s details and answer questions. The purpose of the brief is to capture the points that everyone needs to keep in mind as they work through the project. Make sure to emphasize that each person on the team is responsible for reading the brief and referring back to it periodically to make sure they haven’t veered off track.
If you haven’t used a creative brief before, you’ll love the organization and clarity it brings to your next project. Let me know how it works out for you!
How Hinge Can Help
Our designers collaborate daily with our strategy, marketing and writing teams to deliver the truly differentiated and multifaceted brands our clients need to elevate their businesses and build new audiences.
No matter what kinds of projects we tackle — from identity to print materials to video to websites — we coordinate top-drawer aesthetics with clearly-defined strategic goals.
Learn more about our design services here.