The Lost Art of the Creative Brief

Contributed by Anna-Lea Dieringer, Virtual Marketing Officer

Why doesn’t anyone write creative briefs anymore? Apparently, I’m old school; I am a strong believer in the creative brief. It’s a critically important document that outlines key elements of a design project, such as background, audience, goals, objectives, and requirements. Yes, it’s tedious, yet necessary for producing something useful.

I am part of a dwindling coalition of dedicated brief-writers. Over the past couple of years, I have noticed two things:

  1. Designers I work with are shockingly grateful for good creative briefs. They consistently comment on how thorough, clear, and helpful the information is, and how much easier it makes their job. Briefing designers, in my mind, is a mandatory part of the creative process. But, designers have come to expect little to no briefing materials at kick-off, other than rambling thoughts on a conference call and a few emailed links. (I almost typed ‘these days.’ Excuse me while I grab my cane and spectacles and tell you about how I used to walk 10 miles to school.)
  2. Very few people know how toor care towrite a brief well (these days). I have worked with many corporate and agency-side marketing professionals in many organizations. I can count the number of people who wrote good creative briefs well on one hand. Writing a killer creative brief requires focus, time, and understanding of myriad parts of the projectaudience segmentation, branding and marketing strategy, design basics for print and digital formats, and client process requirements. That means you need to have asked quite a few questions before you sit down to write, or you’ll quickly realize you can’t complete the document. I think maybe this feels like too much work to a lot of people (these days).

I’d like to bring the creative brief back into vogue. I think creative briefs are sexy. And fun. And that everyone working with designers of all kinds should be writing them. So I’m going to rave about how sexy and fun they are to everyone who will listen, starting here.

Cool people fill out this information. Before you select a designer, and definitely before your designer starts working, fill out a simple one- to two-page document that answers these basic questions. If you do this, I guarantee you will become smarter and more attractive (especially to designers).

  • What is/are the associated business/marketing goal that spurred the project?
  • What are the design project’s goals?
  • What are the design project’s objectives?
  • What is useful background information on this project?
  • Who are this project’s key audiences?
  • What is the main message, and supporting proof points?
  • What do you want those target audiences to think, feel, and do in response?
  • What are the design/project specifications, if known?
  • What are design/project requirements?
  • What design assets are being provided now or at kick-off?
  • What’s the draft design schedule?
  • What’s the project budget, if available?
  • How will you measure project success?

Not only will you become a world-class brief writer by following these steps (and let’s not forget wildly attractive per promise above), you’ll also be guaranteed a much more successful design product that creates value for people, companies, and communities.

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