A Creative Brief ...
- Inspires: it isn’t just a list of requirements, it is the expression of a vision which will excite people.
- Is honest: how open is the brief? how much freedom does the designer have? Map out the limitations and absolute requirements to avoid wasting time and money exploring blind alleys.
- Does not bluff: if you are not absolutely clear what you want to achieve, say so; you are paying your designers to address your communications problems, so use their expertise.
- Is consistent: the key messages expressed by the design must be consistent with the perceptions the brand aims to create.
- Considers the context: how does this piece of communication relate to the last contact you had with the target audience and to any other current campaigns in the media?
- Is fun: a boring brief leads to uninspiring creative work.
- Identifies a target, budget and a reasonable and realistic schedule – to be completed without cutting corners.
- Takes into account the concerns of other stakeholders.
Your designer will need basic background information in order to make appropriate design decisions.
This might include the following:
Describe context by explaining your activity – the product or service you deliver, and its market position. This is the time to focus on your objectives and values rather than the specifics of what you want the designers to produce. What is the main purpose of commissioning this design? Who are your main partners?
Explain where you stand in relation to your rivals (if any), and what the design is expected to achieve in terms of differentiation. If relevant, show the designer examples of your competitors products or services whose approach you particularly like or dislike.
Who are you aiming to have an impact on? Summarise what you know about this group of people.
Are there any particular commercial or cultural sensitivities of which the designer should be aware?
What message do you want to communicate, and what kind of response are you looking for? Direct response? Heightened awareness? Greater brand loyalty? A shift in perceptions and attitudes? What timescales do you allow for the achievement of these objectives? Specify the shelf-life of the design, and where it sits in the context of your other business objectives. Is it a one–off item, one of a series, or part of a package?
Broad description of messages, story, flavour, tone, exhibits, with examples.
Introductory list of target adjectives, e.g. The website will be arresting, informative, engaging, interactive, innovative.
List what the budget must cover in as much detail as possible, e.g.
- Design fees.
- Graphics and image reproduction.
- Photographic rights.
- Original photography, video, and more.
- Purchase of exhibits.
- Production of give–away items.
Decide whether you are going to tender on the basis of a fixed sum which is available for the project or on the basis of the most competitive price you can negotiate.
When do you need the finished product? Are there any interim deadlines of which the designer should be aware? If you plan to discuss initial concepts with colleagues, for example, allow time for group consideration and for any re–working as a result of their input.
Be realistic about timescales – do not expect an immediate solution. The designer’s working method should include a gestation period while the brief is assimilated and initial ideas sifted. Urgent deadlines may commit you to rush changes. Mistakes are also more likely.
List roles and who does what, e.g.
- Graphic designer.
- User Experience designer.
- Project manager.
- Contract manager.
Liaison and approvals
Let your designer know who the contact for day–to–day matters concerning the project will be, and who will finally approve the design.
Specify that you will issue an item agreement as soon as possible after the contract has been agreed verbally. The interim written agreement establishes a limited amount you agree to pay before signing the final contract. This is a crucial piece of risk management. A contract will be drawn up with a revised and agreed version of the brief.