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Free Template: The Creative Brief

If you haven't worked with a professional advertising or creative agency, you might not be familiar with the concept of a creative brief. Essentially, it is a document that sums up the scope of a new campaign or design project so that the person working on the creative components has clarity on the underlying objectives.

Having worked in a large marketing department with an external advertising agency, Megan knows first hand that the creative brief is an invaluable tool for communicating the need-to-know details to anyone touching the project who might not already be intimately familiar with it.

Imagine someone asks you to bake them a cake for their upcoming celebration. They don't tell you what flavors to use or if there is a theme for the decorations. They don't tell you what time the celebration begins or where it's taking place. They also don't tell you how many people will be there to enjoy the cake. That's kind of what it's like to ask someone to design something for you without providing the critical "ingredients" for the project.

As a marketing partner for our clients, we regularly use the creative brief as a punch list of questions and information to gather from our clients prior to starting their projects. It ensures we have a clear understanding of what our client is looking for, so we don't waste time developing materials that don't match their objectives.

While this might seem like a waste of your already limited time, it's a great practice to get into and will eventually become second nature. Whether utilizing an outside resource like Solutions On 2nd, or your own internal assistant, think of the creative brief as a way to dump all of your ideas and objectives for the new project on paper, so others can help you realize your vision.

The Creative Brief can be as basic or robust as you would like to make it, and depending on the scope of the project some items may be more critical than others. In any case, it's a good practice to go over these items at the beginning of each new project to gain clarity on what you are trying to accomplish.

The Ingredients of a Creative Brief:

1. Basic Contact Info

If you are working with an external partner, such as freelance designer or an advertising agency, this is critical information. It tells the external team who the project is for and the point person in the event they need additional information or clarification. If you are preparing design briefs for internal use, this area can be scaled back to a less formal section.

2. The Project Overview

Here you will describe in one or more sentences the purpose of the project.

3. The Objective

What is your project working to achieve?

4. The Target Audience

From a design perspective how you talk to an audience made up of middle-aged women will be different than how you speak to men in their 20s. The target audience tells the designer who to create the elements for.

5. The Message

What is the specific takeaway you want your audience to have?

6. The Deliverables & Format

Different methods for advertising may have different criteria that will impact design. For example: the same creative brief can be used for a complete advertising campaign that spans web, social, print ads and email, but the size and file types for each of these areas may differ. Communicating this in advance allows right-sized designs and copy density to be used for the various areas the message will be shared.

7. The Schedule

If you are working on a deadline for something specific (an ad placement deadline, an upcoming event) it is important for your designer to know.

Extra Credit:

If working with a new partner or designer, include supplemental information such as brand attitude, colors, specific design guidelines and the target metric for success. The more understanding your designer has about the project, the better they can provide you with solutions to match your brand and meet your needs.


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