What Is a Creative Brief?

By Sunjay Armstead |
February 27, 2020
a man and woman meeting for business

When you plan to hire a graphic designer to create a new brand for you, or redesign your existing one, chances are they will walk you through a creative brief. In this post, I’ll help you navigate this important document and give you some next steps in your design process.

What is a creative brief?

A creative brief, also called a brand or design brief, is a tool to organize your creative process. Creating something from scratch is an unpredictable activity, so the brief allows you and your designer to build some guardrails for the journey ahead. Creative briefs vary in their form, but below are some common sections you may find:

1. Background

In this section, your designer is challenging you to think strategically. You may be asked to provide your mission statement, your vision, and your core values. The purpose of this section is to introduce your company to your designer. They want to understand what makes you tick and what keeps you up on a Thursday night.

2. Project Overview

This section outlines your expectations for the project. You may be asked what your project goals are and why you want to take on the project. The purpose of this section is to give your designer an idea of what is driving you to this endeavor. It gives important direction and meaning to your project.

3. Target Audience

In this section, your designer wants to know the demographics of your target audience (age, gender, socio-economic status, market behaviors, etc.). The purpose of this section is to provide context to the design project. Every project has an audience. Knowing this audience well can help your project have a great return on your investment.

4. Voice

This section details your brand’s current or future messaging and tone of voice. Is your brand serious and academic, or light-hearted and witty? Your brand voice should ooze out from every design you create. This section helps your designer create pieces relevant to your organization.

5. Visual Identity

Whether you know it or not, there is a certain look you’re going for with your creative project. In this section, your designer may ask you about this expected look and other brands that inspire your rationale. The purpose of this section is to help your designer meet your spoken and unspoken visual expectations for the project.

6. Colors

Color theory is a whole other animal in itself. Blue, for example, communicates something different than red. Red typically makes you hungry. Have you ever noticed that quick service restaurants like Chick-fil-A, Wendy’s, and McDonald’s incorporate red colors in their branding? Blue typically communicates trust. Have you ever noticed that tech companies like Facebook and Twitter use blue colors in their branding? Thus, the color section helps your designer understand how you hope to make your audience feel when they think about you and see your brand.

7. Deliverables and Timeline

This section helps you agree with your designer on a list of items to work on in a certain timeframe. This helps them quote you an accurate and fair price. It also allows you and your designer to have shared expectations for the project.

Next Steps

As you can see, there is quite a lot your designer is thinking about at the onset of your next big creative project. What steps can you take to start your project on the right foot?

Take the time to prepare.

You are likely a very busy leader. Yet, your next design project will flounder without your full attention during the planning phases. Carve out some time to think through the common creative brief sections to help your designer make magic happen.

Create a team.

Regardless of the size of your organization, surround yourself with other people who can help you make creative decisions. If you are a small business, ask some friends and family to volunteer to help you. If you are in a large organization, consider forming a committee to track with your designer through the creative process.

Get real about expectations.

I’ve mentioned before that you get what you pay for. That’s payment of time and money. A fast turnaround time, while permissible in most scenarios, can potentially squeeze a project of its creativity and ingenuity. Your designer needs space to research and think about how to best solve your design problems. A tight budget, likewise, can limit the potential of your creative pursuits. It is certainly possible to hire a cheap designer to make something quick. But to get the best value, expect to hire a designer who is committed to the longevity of your brand over a quick buck. You’ll be glad you did.

In this article we’ve looked into what a creative brief is and some ways to prepare for your next design project. What questions do you have about the creative process and hiring a designer? Send me a message. I’d love to chat!