If you’ve ever worked with a designer or design agency, you might have heard about the “creative brief” document.
Now tell me honestly: did you think that you definitely need that document, or you started questioning your designer. “Is she just trying to overcharge me for something I don’t need?”
No worries, a creative brief is a legit and important document that you need before every creative project you plan to dive into.
In this post I show you why a creative brief is essential before you or your designer grab a pencil to doodle the first logo sketch. I also tell you what are the 10 key elements that you have to include.
In addition, this post also comes with a free Make Your First Effective Creative Brief workbook.
TO START A PROJECT RIGHT, YOU FIRST HAVE TO…
To start a project right, you first have to summarize your thoughts.
I learned this during my university years, when I was a member in a student volunteer group. We organized summer camps, job fairs and seminars and at the beginning of each project we had a “project starting document”.
First, I was overwhelmed. My Google Drive was filled with my class assignments so the last thing I wanted was a zillion new files from the volunteer group. But soon I understood why these documents were crucial.
They set up the proper starting stone for the project. They were short enough so that every one of us could read them and throughout enough to answer key questions.
Same is true for a creative brief. It’s a document that helps to summarize your and your team’s thoughts for a creative project. This project can be a new book cover design, your new website make-over or your visual identity project.
A creative brief helps making order in the mess of information and data and makes it easy to reference back to key input factors at any point of your creative project.
BUT WHY DO I NEED IT IF I’M MY OWN DESIGNER?
Still not convinced?
You might think that you don’t need a creative brief, because you are the business owner and the designer in one person. You already have everything you need in your mind.
YOU STILL NEED A RECIPE
You still need the creative brief, even if you go solo in your big website rebrand or logo design project.
Think about it like this: the creative brief is like the ingredient list in a recipe for a quite complicated meal. For quick projects, like a new blog post cover image you can wing it, the same way as you would do with a quick breakfast omelette. But with a complex project (redesigning your website, defining your visual identity) you can’t just throw in random stuff and hope for a yummy outcome.
You wouldn’t start a Boeuf Bourguignon without grabbing Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking and see what exactly you need to nail the recipe.
IT HELPS YOU MAKE STRATEGIC DECISIONS
No matter who works on your visual identity, you or a designer or an agency, there will be times when you’ll face tough decisions. You’ll need to choose from several logo options, color options, font options, etc.
Whenever you’re in doubt, the creative brief will help you. It will be a reminder of your company’s core purpose, your brand voice and your target audience’s preferences.
For these reasons, even if you go solo and build your first logo design yourself, I recommend you to first summarize your thoughts in a creative brief.
10 KEY ELEMENTS OF A SUCCESSFUL CREATIVE BRIEF
Next, I’m going to show you the 10 key elements that you must include in your creative brief. If you want more guidance, download the free Make Your First Effective Creative Brief workbook and fill each section with your answers. By the end of the workbook, you’ll have your first creative brief.
#1 – SUMMARIZE YOUR PROJECT
Start by explaining what the project is about and why you need it. Are you planning to redo your website? Are you refreshing your profile images in all of your social media accounts?
#2 – YOUR OBJECTIVES
What are you hoping to achieve with the project? What are your goals with it? Are there problems you want to solve? Last but not least, how will you measure if your project was successful?
This is very important information that will help you (or your designer) address all the problems and will set a clear end for the project.
#3 – THE DELIVERABLES
Describe the files that you want to get at the end of the projects in as many details as possible:
What file format do you need? (JPG, PNG, EPS, PDF, PSD, AI…)
What size do you need?
Is it for print usage, digital or both? Design files are different depending on how you want to use them. You need at least 300dpi, CMYK files for print and 72dpi, RGB for digital usage.
Animated or static?
Vector or raster graphic?
Plus any other file features that you want at the end of the project
#4 – YOUR COMPANY
What is the WHY, HOW and WHAT of your company? What are your core values? What are the products / services? Do you have sub-divisions (that might need sub-branding with a logo and visual identity for each division)? Summarize your thoughts so that they help you along your design journey.
#5 – YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE
Who are you selling to? How do you want these people to see your company? Share both demographic and behavioral / psychographic information about your target market. If you haven’t defined your ideal customers (ICA) yet, check out my previous posts about why you need an ICA and how to define your ICA.
#6 – YOUR COMPETITION
Who are your competitors? How do you want to differentiate yourself from them? What are the current trends and market standards that you want to follow? What are the things you’ve learned from the competition that you want to do differently?
#7 – YOUR TONE, MESSAGE AND STYLE
What’s your key message that you want to use to inform your target market? How do you want to call them to action? What tone do you want to apply to communicate your message? For example, do you can have an outcome that’s fun and witty or one that is serious and formal.
For the style: What are your initial design preferences? Is there a color, font or illustration style that you want to experiment with during the project? Is there a style that you want to exclude because it’s not relevant to your brand?
Read this article on Entrepreneur.com to understand the meaning of brand tone, voice, message and style.
#8 – TIMELINE
What is the project due date and when each of the milestones should be accomplished? This will also help you set up the step-by-step tasks for your creative project in your project management tool (e.g. Asana).
You can also define here the number of revisions and the date of these revisions. You can write for example that you want to finish the initial logo sketches by March 1, refine 3 digitized, black & white logo options by March 8, and create the final logo design by March 15.
#9 – BUDGET
How big is your budget for your creative project? Don’t forget, even if you will be the one who designs the new logo, website or business cards, you’ll need time to do it. You won’t be able to work on your products or offer services while you’re executing this project. Also, you’ll have to calculate extra graphic assets (fonts, stock photos etc.) into this budget.
#10 – CONTACTS
This is more important if you work in a team or you hire out the project to a designer. In this section you define the key stakeholders. These people will provide feedback during the project and they will choose from the initial design concepts. During the project, if the designer has any questions, she’ll be able to contact these stakeholders.
If you are going to be your own designer, you can define here the people who’ll provide you feedback on your sketches and design concepts (e.g. an honest business friend, spouse or entrepreneur Facebook Group)
READY TO WRITE YOUR FIRST CREATIVE BRIEF?
I hope this post helped you see that the creative brief isn’t a very complicated document. You most probably know all its required elements. It’s just time to summarize your thoughts.
Don’t forget to download the free Make Your First Effective Creative Brief workbook that’s going to guide you through the above steps and as always, send me any questions you have in the comment section below.