Elevating Projects Through the Creative Brief

Kicking off a campaign, launch or site design is the undoubtedly one of the most optimistic points of a creative project’s lifecycle. There is a deep sense of possibility and excitement, along with a fresh new client relationship. Pencils are sharpened and it’s almost like the first day of school.

It’s easy to jump into a project, rushing with ideas and innovative approaches. At a project’s inception, everyone from the client to the designers seem to agree upon a process to move forward and before you know it, the team is off and running – sometimes in different directions. As the course of the project moves forward, inevitably, clients make changes, designers take liberties and as a result – the true message of the campaign can get lost in translation. This possibility for a communication breakdown can result in costly edits, time spent in development and meetings – or even worse, a stalled project.

Enter the creative brief. Ideally, this concise and to-the-point distillation of the goals, guidelines and overview of a project can help to achieve focus and direction. The main point of the creative brief is to illuminate the needs of both the project and client as well as the expected/required steps to deliver the ideal end result.

Many creatives bypass the use of a creative brief due to the fact that it can be a difficult task to accomplish. Paring gathered information down to simple and straightforward points can be a daunting task – simplicity is not easily accomplished. A few tried and tested guidelines and ‘who, what, where, when’s’ can help to structure information and get everyone on the ‘same page’. These implementations can be scaled for agency or integrated internal team use to improve workflow as a part of a project management process. A creative brief can be a set of questions posed to a client, or the union of information gathered by the agency presented to a client.

  • Establish Purpose Beginning with a succinct description of the brand and description of project and objectives – include about 2-3 sentences for each. This is much like writing for a tagline or mission statement. It’s critical that everyone engaging with the brief understand the project in the shortest amount of time possible. List stakeholders, applicable websites and contact information.
  • Understand the Market Include gathered information with regard to competition and target markets. Understanding the landscape relative to the market being approached is critical to brand cognition.
  • Project Objectives Getting to the core of the projects needs – spell out the objectives and steps needed to accomplish the desired end result.
  • Necessary Logistics Benchmarks, timelines and realistic delivery dates when drafts or samples are needed and/or when the project is expected/required to launch.

It’s important to know that a creative brief isn’t for everyone. The implementation of this methodology is a hotly contested debate and really comes down to the workflow and creative process of those involved in the project. Some see it as inhibiting the creative process, cumbersome or unnecessary. For many, it’s a quick and efficient way to get all stakeholders on the same page and a significant time saver. As with any new initiative,  you don’t know until you try, so it’s encouraged to conduct a trial use of the brief with an internal or small scale project.

Vanessa Petersen

As Executive Director of Brand Strategy based in ArtVersion’s Portland office, Vanessa manages both national and West Coast accounts. She brings with her a passion for strategy with extensive experience in creative marketing, brand growth and development. She is a true advocate of storytelling and brand building from the inside out, and her keen knowledge of the marketplace, trend patterns and usability lead her to identify opportunities that can inspire powerful design strategies.

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