How to Create a Professional Creative Brief

In a previous article, we explored how top designers such as Tom Bassett, Frank Gehry, David Rockwell and Yves Béhar defined the creative brief. While there are many theories and debates about what should be included in the creative brief, there is one definition for the creative brief or the marketing brief –it is a communication document that includes required information about the project between all the stakeholders involved in the creative project.

The creative brief document makes sure of the clear understanding of the project and client requirements in relation to the creative process. While some creative briefs are detailed and include all the required information about the project, short or drafted creative briefs requires further meetings and communication with the creative team in order to identify the project’s further requirements.

While the creative brief acts like a communication contract that ensures all parties are on the same page of understanding the project details, it is a flexible document that can be updated during the progress of the project. All the involved parties should be aware of any updates.

** At the end of this article, you can download our free creative brief template and use it for both personal and commercial projects.

Who writes the creative brief?

Writing the creative brief is a collaborative operation between the involved stakeholders in the creative process. Putting the creative brief writing task in the wrong hand or excluding any of the stakeholders may lead to failure and lack of understanding. Designers and the creative team should take exclusive rule in the brief writing process. In his book, “Creating the Perfect Design Brief,” Peter L. Philips defines the relationship between the designer and the project owners more like a partnership than a client-employee relationship.

There is not specific title that should involve writing the creative brief, but generally, partners from different departments involved in the project should be part of the writing process. Generally, the client shared the project requirements and information with the representatives from the marketing team, creative team and executive managers.

Many designers believe that the creative brief is only used in large companies and teams. Based on the definition of the creative brief, it can be used with any size projects starting from individual freelance design that involves an information contract between the design and clients. While its importance increases when the team expands, it is still required at any size of a design project.

What to include in the creative brief?

There are different approaches to write the creative brief, it can be as simple as one sentence or a document of multiple pages. While there is shared information to add to the brief, some industries require specific information to be documented in the brief. For example, an interactive design project requires the brief to have in-depth technical information that effects the whole project process. The following general topics should be clarified in the creative brief.

Background overview

In the background overview, detailed information about the company and the project should be described in details. This section gives an idea for the team to understand the vision of the company and the targeted project. This part of the brief can include the following information:

Company portfolio

This section includes general information about the company that can help the team to learn more about their client. It can include previous projects and how the company brands its projects. This section helps the team to think in the same way as the client thinks and build the creative process based on the knowledge gained from reviewing the client history.

Project overview

The second part of the background section includes more detailed information about the project. What does the client need to do? What is expected from the team?  The project overview includes project information, deliverables, needs and requirements.

The project overview should also contain the goals that need to be achieved by the end of the project and who these goals are going to be assessed in the final outcome.

Objectives

A concise statement of the impact of the project on the end consumer should be described clearly and in detail. This provides a short sentence that defines the project that needs to be solved by the end of the project. For example, the objective can be “The primary objective is to persuade the consumer to buy X product and create a unique brand for the product to compete with existing competitors.”

Based on the Mini Cooper USA website, the objectives behind designing the first Mini car in 1959 was to create a fuel-efficient car. An “orderly saloon” car that can compete with fueled-efficient micro cars on the market. Later, the car becomes the first saloon sports car.

Target primary audience

For every product or advertising campaign, there should be a clear understanding about the targeted market segment. The marketing segmentation for the market helps the team to target one or more segment using specific language tones, colors and design style. The marketing research department is responsible to define the target market segment for the new product. The target audience section should include information about targeted consumer age, gender and education to describe the demographic, psychographic and technographic information. For example, Fanta Co’s targeted audience is described as following:

  • Segment: All people seeking soft drink for regular occasions and parties.
  • Targeted group: All age groups, lower, middle and upper class people
  • Positioning: Fun youth brand

Project timeline

The creative process is different from other predictables which takes place inside the company. Therefore, the creative team should have a clear understanding of the project timeline. Then, the creative process can be planned according to the overall project timeline. The creative process can involve multiple meetings for brainstorming to build creative ideas that are able to achieve client goals.

Project budget

The budget is another barrier for the creative process if not taken with precaution. Although innovation and creativity provide essential factors in project success, many ordinary managers who fall under a tight project budget reduce the budget required for innovation and creativity. Therefore, clear information about the project budget should be provided to the creative team in order to develop ideas accordingly.

Message tone and image

This second defines the creative message that should be used to achieve the client goals. The message’s tone and image for the project builds communication between the consumer and the brand which helps to form what the audience believes or thinks about the brand or product. The message can be funny, casual or formal….etc.

In Fanta Co.’s example, the message tone is more casual which is reflected not only in the colors and styles, but also the taglines such as “Bold Orange Fun”, “More Fanta, Less Serious” and “Taste that Makes You Jump”.

Design specifications

As mentioned earlier, some creative projects require the whole team to understand the design specifications and requirements. In mobile applications projects for example, both the developing team and design team should have clear information about the technical requirements such as compatibility with different devices.

If the marketing campaign is going to be displayed on both printed and digital media, specifications related to each delivery may need to be clarified in the creative brief.

Anything else

Who is responsible to update the creative brief? Is there a limit for client revisions? This section includes related information about the project to help achieve client goals. This part can include marketing research or data research results that can help the creative team to understand and deliver the client’s message successfully.

Conclusion

The creative brief bridges the communication between client and different stakeholders in the project. It ensures clear understanding of different project aspects, goals and deliveries. The creative brief’s length may vary from a few sentences to define broad project objectives or a few pages of a precise document with detailed information about the project objectives, requirement and related information.

The creative brief is not a fixed document. It can expand to cover all the project information by adding more sections to it. Additionally, the creative brief is a subject to change and update. In this respect, all the stakeholders should be updated with these changes that may affect the project flow.

The creative brief helps full understanding of the project goal and specifications. Therefore, building a successful creative brief leads to the project’s effectiveness and success in relation to client satisfaction from one side and creative innovation on the other.

Download Creative Brief Template

You can download our creative brief template from our Design Resources page. The template is in both Word Document and Adobe PDF format. You can use it for both personal and commercial purposes, you cannot republish it on public domains.


Rafiq Elmansy

Rafiq Elmansy is the founder of Designorate.com, author, and design and innovation consultant. He is an affiliated faculty teaching design at the American University in Cairo. He holds a master degree in Design Management with Distinction from Staffordshire University, UK. He has more than 17 years experience in the field of UXD and interaction design, and his books are published by John Wiley, O’Reilly Media and Taylor and Francis. He is also a contributor at the Design Management Review. Rafiq is a jury board member for the A'Design Awards, Poster for Tomorrow, and Adobe Achievements Awards. His design artwork was exhibited in many locations including Croatia, South Africa, Brazil, and Spain.