How To Write A Good Creative Brief

Behind any successful design project lies a concrete and concise creative brief.

Without these branding questions, it'd be difficult to create something that your design or marketing team can work with.In this article, my goal is to explain on how to write a creative brief.

In this article, my goal is to explain on how to write a creative brief.

Before you start asking around for design proposals, you should know certain things.

Check my top 9 questions to answer when writing your design brief.

Creative Brief Questions:

  1. How would you describe the product or service?
  2. What is the assignment? (scope of work)
  3. What's the background? (competition)
  4. Whom are we selling to? (target audience)
  5. What is the one main benefit of this product?
  6. What are the reasons to believe?
  7. What barriers to purchase do we need to overcome?
  8. What is the net takeaway?
  9. What is the desired response?

Writing a creative brief is mandatory before embarking on any type of design project.

However, if you're working on branding project, better yet develop your brand strategy.

What is Creative Brief?

This jointly authored statement of goals requires the designer and client to invest time and consideration into the project at the outset.

The creative brief, then, serves as a checkpoint for evaluating work as it progresses.

At Ebaqdesign I've developed a design process that uses the creative brief to inform every step of the design process, from generating concepts and conducting on-site research to producing brand identities.

I use this questionnaire as a starting point to help clients articulate their project's goals.

You can use it regardless whether you hire me or not - you will get a copy of your answers sent to your email.

So that you can just copy & paste the content into a word document to form a brief.

After my clients answer the questionnaire, I use my own immersive research to modify and inform the client's initial brief.

Sometime clients send me their own creative brief.

It is often better to ignore the client's brief and come back with a set of tough questions.

By combining my research with the client's feedback, I'm able to collaboratively generate effective, focused solutions.

If you stick to the process you will be able focus on the big picture.

Why You Need a Creative Brief

Though the power of design may not always be easily measured, there are some steps that practitioners can undertake to ensure that they are making informed communication choices, rather than producing artifacts rooted solely in aesthetics.

Creative briefs guide the actual designing.

Give the client a list of questions about the project.

You can do a questionnaire or you can interview the client on the phone or you can meet and have a workshop.

The questions will serve as a first draft of the creative brief.

Then act like a sponge.

Not like a cub-the-sink sponge but like a sea sponge.

Be actively absorbent, sifting for food, in this case for information.

Use your client as a partner, then update and refine your creative brief in response to what you have learned.

Whenever you're charged with expanding into a new market, you can't solve the problem if you don't do your homework.

Research frames the problem. It provides context.

The extra work is worth doing because it places your user at the center of your design process.

Design is about understanding.

Can I Do Without a Brief?

You may be able to recall many situations where you weren't set up to win because of incomplete information.

How many times have you had no idea what to do because the brief was either full of worthless information or so vague you were better off before you read it? I've been there myself.

The design you create have goals to achieve, is meant for a specific target, and will need to communicate visually and verbally, so it will be tough to do it successfully without a brief.

If you're given a brief, it should sufficiently cover the content I'll discuss.

If it doesn't, you may have difficulty creating viable solutions to the client problem.

This article will give you a guide to what clarifying questions you can ask to develop the brief you're given to a more complete state.

Different Types of Creative Briefs

Each organization is unique in the briefing process.

Each project's scope and objective will require unique considerations that will tailor a brief to a specific communications problem.

A brand built from scratch will need a more comprehensive brief than a rebrand.

When sitting down to write a brief, you'll need to clearly define goal or goals, a narrowly defined target, and some insight into what the target wants.

1. How would you describe the product or service?

This section must answer the question:

What are we selling?

Both literally and figuratively.

On the surface it might be a hair-growth formula for men and underneath the surface it may be liquid confidence.

You can pinpoint underlying motivations using Maslow's hierarchy of needs.

Using this hierarchy to describe the underlying motivation for buying the product or using the service will frame this in an interesting way for those reading the brief.

2. What is the assignment?

In other words:

What is the scope of work and timeline?

While outlining the scope, make sure that scope creep won't hijack the project.

If this ends up sounding like way too tall an order, or if something is out of balance, it's best to clarify now.

Detail any phases, additions, or subtractions in the client wish list as well.

Be brief yet specific enough not to be vague.

Also be clear on how much time you have to come up with everything listed in the assignment.

List any phases, and pad a day or two here or there.

You want to stay on topic and spend your time thoughfully.

3. What is the background?

Create an overview of the context that the product or brand is experiencing.

Is this a challenger brand or a leader in the category?

If you're working on a re-design, uncover what are the reasons to for doing so or what approaches were unsuccessful in the past.

Save yourself big headaches and delve into the marketing or business history of the brand or product here.

This is also the spot to include a written analysis of the top three competitors.

Doing so will help frame the product or service within the context of the client's competitive set.

Links to samples of existing creative solutions should be included for reference.

4. Whom are we selling to?

Once you craft target segments, you can begin to find directional insights embedded in their demographic, psychographic, or behavioral aspects.

Spending time getting to know your target is very important.

You channel recommendations, benefits, and messaging will all need to connect very closely to your target.

If your brief doesn't define target clearly or completely enough, you'll find yourself struggling with all phases of the creative solutions.

Segment your audience by dividing your target into groups based on such characteristics as demographics, the target's life stage, psychographics (the study of a target's interests, attitudes, and opinions) and the behaviors and actions a target takes.

After that choose a character from a TV show, movie or your family who would best represent the target and create a persona.

Choose three different dif personas and think who would be a best fit to sell or offer service to.

5. What is the one main benefit of the product?

This is where you articulate the selling proposition unique to this product or service.

Put yourself in the customer's shoes and determine what's in it for them.

What would be the visual and verbal messaging that differentiates the product from its competitors?It' obvious that consumers comparison shop to find the best value for their money.

To help you articulate that you will need to define features and benefits of a product or service you're designing for.

A feature is what a brand or product is, a corresponding benefit is what that product or brand does for its target audience (how it benefits them).

For example, when you're looking at your phone, it's touch screen, front-facing camera, storage benefits - these are all features.

These features enable specific benefits such as speed, ease of use, a visual and verbal communication, or the ability to take photos and make videos.

Determine which single benefit its most important or relevant to the target.

6. What are the reasons to believe?

What are the tangible features that will justify why someone should listen.

Find and focus on selling points in this section.

We're all bombarded with thousands of messages every day.

When the design gets your target's attention, you'd better have something true to say.

Format will dictate how much you can communicate (e.g. 30 sec. spot, a tagline etc.)

To find unbiased information, delve into blogs, reviews, and the social media conversations people are having beyond the company's website and press releases.

7. What are the barriers to make a purchase?

Actual or perceived, barriers are things that get in the way of someone choosing the product or service your client is offering.

Identify customer's barriers, so that you can overcome them.

In recent history Toyota had a series of automatic acceleration incidents, and that led to several recalls.

This was clearly a blow to the brand heritage and trust that Toyota built over the years.

Doubts about reliability and trust in the technology became a substantial disincentive to purchase.

8. What is the net takeaway?

When a customer interacts with a brand's marketing messages or uses the product, a moment of truth occurs.

The brand or product either lives up to the hype of it doesn't.

After the target consumer has come in contact with your design or advertising, what should he or she take away from that interaction?

In the car example, the key takeaway could be to re-establish trust through the value, innovation, and overall quality that Toyota is known for.

A simple and focused message presented within a well-designed experience over time will more than likely be remembered.

9. What is the desired response?

The customer will move on if you aren't clear in your creative executions about how to take adventage of what to offer.

Should your prospects call, click, visit, or all three?

Each brand is posturing for a share of the customer's wallet.

All brands that want to retain their current customers or convert prospects into customers should make it easy for people to respond.

This will depend largely on channel, creative format, and product.

Be specific in the wording of your call to action and be sure to allow prospects the ability to respond in multiple channels.

Whatever it is in your situation, be sure your call to action is compelling and clear.


The creative brief takes the research and everything you've learned about the client's business, it's industry and target audience and makes it actionable for the designer by connecting it to design deliverables.

Creative brief can be used to get a client's sign-off on strategy and conceptual direction before design begins.

Keep in mind that there's no one way to approach a creative brief os strategy document.

You may or may not include every section listed here.When determining the content of each brief, ask yourself:

Does it make strategic sense to omit or change the order of any sections?

If it does, make the case for why and take a chance.

Strive for clarity rather than uniformity.

Want to learn how run strategy workshops for yourself or your clients? – check out my brand strategy guide.

Hungry for more knowledge? – check the original book:

"Creative Strategy and the Business of Design" by Douglas Davis
Creative Strategy and the Business of Design—Douglas Davis.

This article was written based on the book “Creative Strategy and the Business of Design” by Douglas Davis.

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