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How to Write a Strong Creative Brief That Makes the Design Process Easier

Today, we’re going back to the basics to share why you need a creative brief and how to develop one.

The opportunity to produce strong and effective marketing content is an invitation to use creativity, imagination, and skill. Yet without proper direction and guidance, marketing and creative projects sometimes fall flat.

How do you avoid getting stuck in a rut during the creative process? How can you ensure that all of the key players are in alignment with one another? In most situations, a creative brief checks all the boxes for achieving purpose, clarity, and direction.

Today, we’re going back to the basics to share why you need a creative brief and how to develop one. Keep reading to discover the importance of a well-written creative brief and how you can produce one in six practical steps.

What is a Creative Brief?

A creative brief is a thorough and well-written roadmap for a future project or initiative. Creative briefs aren’t exclusive to a single department or team. Instead, creative briefs provide direction when multiple teams or players are tasked with presenting a polished final project collaboratively.

One of the benefits of using a creative brief system is that it isn’t exclusive to one type of project. Organizations can implement a creative brief system regardless of whether they need to produce advertisements, eBooks, digital courses, or just about anything else.

Creative brief sample template from Hubspot
This is an example of a creative brief template produced by Hubspot, an industry leader in marketing, sales, and customer conversion.

Important Elements of a Good Creative Brief

The reality is that a poorly written creative brief can just be as unhelpful as not having one at all. Remember – an effective brief should always add clarity and inspiration to any given project.

To maximize results (and to earn appreciation from fellow team members), always include the following elements in your creative brief setup.

  • Context – The brief should have adequate background information about the project, including why your company’s values align with it.
  • Demographic details – Most projects aren’t assigned in a vacuum. Why does this particular assignment matter to your target audience? Share everything that you already know about the customer or individual the project is designed to reach.
  • Tangible numbers – Since the creative brief sheds light on the scope of a project, get granular. Avoid confusion and missteps by clarifying how many deliverables, versions, drafts, pages, or designs you need for a given outcome.

What is the Purpose of a Creative Brief?

Whether it’s produced digitally or in print, the creative brief serves as the source of truth for creative questions about a specific project. At certain milestones, all contributing parties should have access to the same version of the brief and rely on it to clear up confusion or questions.

The purpose of the creative brief, therefore, is to point everyone in the direction they must go.

Not only does this help the entire team accomplish the ultimate goal, but it alleviates frustration, confusion, and mistakes along the way.

2 Black women working together to write a creative brief

Responsible Parties

Now that you’ve got the basics down, you might be wondering who is responsible for assembling the details in a creative brief. The responsible parties may change based on team structure and business type.

In many situations, the creative team leadership is responsible for generating a completed brief and distributing it to the necessary contributors.

  • In an agency setup, the project manager has direct influence in planning and publishing the brief.
  • In a situation that involves contractors, creating and sharing a creative brief could be a collaborative responsibility based on direct reports.
Desk with creative brief notes in notepad

6 Steps to Writing a Creative Brief

Although writing a creative brief takes diligence and attention to detail, it’s easy to achieve once you have the correct process. Use these six steps when assembling your next brief.

Step 1: Establish the Basics

It might seem obvious, but dedicate some space in your creative brief for basic information about the company, name of the project, departments involved, and general timeline.

The rule of thumb in this step is to resist making any assumptions about what team members do and do not know. This is especially important if you’re working with contributors who may not be full-time employees of the organization.

Arrow pointing to the creative brief objective

Step 2: Point to the Objective

What is the purpose of this creative project? Always highlight the end goal so that everyone understands why their part is important. Examples of strong objectives include:

  • Increasing conversion rate on a new landing page
  • Generating a set number of clicks per social media advertisement
  • Producing an evergreen piece of content for cross-channel publication

Answering the “why” of a specific project is a surefire way to boost commitment and support.

Baseball chair stands out like a project's creative brief

Step 3: Competitive Research

Occasionally, a creative brief may skip the competitive research stage. This information, however, is important in creating a project that is easily distinguished from others in the same industry or market.

What makes this particular project stand out? What are some comparable deliverables that other organizations are using?

By answering these questions, you can prepare your team to deliver a project that is unique, individual, and highly effective for reaching new customers.

Creative team drawing creative brief audience on white board

Step 4: Define the Audience and Benefit

Strong awareness of your ideal audience or target persona is critical for producing a deliverable that generates measurable results. Audience information also brings everyone up to speed on things like style, tone, and verbiage.

In addition to including details about the audience, take time to highlight the benefits. No matter whether these perks are immediate or long-term, a good creative brief always highlights a positive anticipated outcome.

Arrow on the ground representing CTA for creative brief

Step 5: Create a Call to Action

At the end of the journey, what action should this deliverable inspire? Use your creative brief to spell out (in clear, customer-centric language) an ideal CTA or next step.

Having this information helps each contributor design their part with the end result in mind. For example, copywriters can produce more detailed written directions, and web designers can better spotlight the information that a customer or prospect should see first.

Step 6: Make a Post-Launch Plan

The development process is only the first step in the creative design process. Next, everyone should be aware of how the project will reach its intended use and audience.

A launch or post-launch plan can define details such as:

  • Social media promotion
  • Email marketing
  • Internal sharing
  • Public relations opportunities

By highlighting these steps, you may be able to more easily identify additional team members you should include for the project final stage. For example, if you haven’t spoken to an email marketing strategist up until this point, asking for their input could accelerate your results.

Mistakes to Avoid in the Creative Brief Process

By now, you should have a good idea of what separates a great creative brief from those that are not very beneficial. To give your creative team even more of a boost, avoid these common mistakes.

  • Making a creative brief with multiple objectives – Each brief should serve one purpose and one goal; if your deliverable has too many objectives, try to simplify and re-evaluate how you could separate those into different projects.
  • Leaving sections blank – If you’re responsible for the brief’s completion, don’t share it until it’s totally complete. A creative brief with holes isn’t fair to your teammates, and it can cause disruptions later in the workflow process.
  • Relying solely on a template – Although it’s okay to duplicate an existing creative brief outline, always go back and reframe important details with new data. Each section should include as much unique information as possible.

Creative Brief Takeaways

One of the most helpful practices in any type of project management system is to “begin with the end in mind.” With a future-forward mindset towards creative briefs, you can more readily achieve goals and produce excellent work.

A creative brief allows an organization to begin with that anticipated end goal. Not only does this establish trust, but it fosters the type of communication you need to truly find success.

Partner with a Creative Team

Now you're armed with a better understanding of developing an awesome creative brief. If you’re ready to have the insight of a creative team on your next design project, reach out to Acton Circle today. We can turn your creative brief into a creative masterpiece and showcase your nonprofit's mission.


November 12, 2021