How Top Designers Define the Creative Brief

What is the creative brief? What does it include? The creative brief, also known as an innovation brief, in its simplest form is the communication document that details all the required information for the design team and the parties involved in the design process during an item’s production.

There are many debates about the content that should be included in the design brief and who should be involved in writing it. While some designers believe it should be as short as possible to give general guidelines for the design team, others consider it as a contract that describes the project in detail to make sure everyone has the proper instructions to adequately meet the client’s expectations.

In his short film, “Briefly,” Tom Bassett, the founder of Bassett & Partners, tries to explore the practical meaning behind the creative brief based on the thoughts of top creative designers and design leaders in the industry. Among the big names who shared their ideas are Frank Gehry, David Rockwell, illustrator Maira Kalman, and Yves Béhar, the founder of Fuse Project.

Bassett said the goal of the September 2014 production was to show young designers the dynamic meaning of the creative brief and how different companies look at it from different approaches.

The short film reiterates an idea that has been discussed previously by Peter Phillips in his book, “Creating the Perfect Design Brief,” that there is no magic formula or fixed structure to follow in writing the brief. It is more like a dynamic conversation to share project information and creative requirements.

The creative brief is key to different design projects from various industries. While I’ve noticed that most of the articles and books addressing the topic limit their content to the information required in product design and advertising projects, I believe other industries can modify the creative brief based on their needs. For example, digital design projects can use the creative brief to include project guidelines about the digital specifications stated by the client.

The most important outcome of the creative brief is that it should be clear and well-understood by the project stakeholders, including the client, the creative team, the marketing team, and upper management. Therefore all of these parties should contribute to the writing of this document.


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.