5 tips on how to write the ultimate creative brief

creative brief

Sarah Sullivan


Posted on October 6, 2015

For anyone who hasn’t learnt how to use one well, the term ‘creative brief’ can be the trigger for much-frustrated groaning. Additional planning that adds to our workload can easily feel like an unnecessary complication.

But for those of us who’ve learnt how to make creative briefs our allies, the briefing process can be something exciting, inspiring, motivating, and, most importantly, pivotal to the success of our projects.

We want to help you put together creative briefs that leave your team buzzing, your project flying, and you endlessly glad you put the effort in.

What’s a creative brief?

Let’s start at the beginning. A creative brief is a document created through collaboration between clients and creative team members before any work begins. In its most basic form, it defines and agrees on the answers to some key questions, designed to guide the project and make sure everyone is on the same page:

  • Who’s the client?
  • What do they need us to create?
  • Why is this important?
  • What are we trying to achieve?
  • Who are the audience?
  • What are the project tasks and who’s in charge of what?
  • When should it be completed by?

But creative briefs don’t need to stop there. Used more expansively, creative briefs can use these questions as a springboard to provide insight, solve problems, analyse strengths and weaknesses, and massively speed up the design process. They can help avoid disappointments and lengthy ‘back to the drawing board’ reworkings and help steer everything towards an outcome that’s going to leave you all punching the air.

Just remember: the work you put into your creative brief will be reflected in what you get out of it.

What’s a good creative brief look like?

There are hundreds of different formats for creative briefs available on the web, and we’ll link you to our own shortly, but templates can only take you so far. Well-designed templates provide you with an opportunity to address your brief’s key questions, but you still need to fill them in well.

Here’s how:

1. Creative briefs should stay focused on their purpose

Let’s not get so caught up in our project objective that we forget that the creative brief has a job to do, too: it needs to inform, and it needs to inspire.

If your finished creative brief isn’t giving people all the information they need to do their job well, AND it isn’t leaving them feeling enthused and raring to go, it’s not good enough.

2. Creative briefs should identify problems and try to solve them

All good creative projects attempt to solve problems: problems are our project’s raison d’etre.

To end up with the right solution – the one that’s going to help us change something important –we need to focus on the right problems. What’s really getting in the way of the result we want? Why do these problems exist? What are the barriers to us solving them?

This leads us nicely to our next important feature.

3. Creative briefs should dig deep

Don’t get complacent. Your primary questions are important, but they’re not the only questions you should be asking. Don’t stick with the first thing you think of: keep digging under the surface.

4. Creative briefs should involve everyone

The most valuable creative briefs include input from all crucial stakeholders. Use your creative briefs as an opportunity to have conversations, to check in with everyone who’s involved, invite contributions and make use of their insight.

5. Creative briefs should be an end product in themselves

Remember that your creative brief represents the end-point of your planning, not a work-in-progress. If our aim is clarity, attention to detail, firm conclusions and organised ways forward, creative briefs can’t be muddled by lots of notes and multiple thought processes. They need to be short, simple and straight to the point.

Experiment with the content in note form first, perhaps using an idea-generating technique such as brainstorming, then question and refine your ideas till you’ve got a set of well-expressed plans and insights that everyone feels invested in. No gaps, no waffling, no confusion, no inconsistencies. Your whole team need to feel confident that the brief they’re working to is the best version of itself.

Our free, flexible template

With all this in mind, the best creative brief templates help keep you planning processes focused and consistent while still allowing you the freedom to run with whatever’s unique and special about an individual project.

Our creative brief template – the same one we use in our own project planning – will give you a simple framework to prioritise essential elements of a creative brief and provides prompts to guide your discussions.

We very much hope you find it useful.

Download our creative brief here and give it a try. Good luck!