Write A Creative Brief That Gets You The Best Designs

For every graphic design project, there can be a ton of different options to explore. But chances are you’ve got a budget and a timeline in mind that are going to act as constraints. So how do you get your designs completed, exactly as you need them? By learning how to write a creative brief that gets you results! 

It doesn’t matter whether you’re trying to design a new logo, a landing page, video, banner, flyer, or ebook. A well written creative brief will help you clearly identify the problem you’re trying to solve. And it gets your designer on the same page too.

You can think of a creative brief as functioning like a GPS. The clearer the instructions, the more likely your designer will get to where you need them to. 

So, what should you include in a creative brief? Below is a comprehensive list you can use. Keep in mind, that if you’re working with the same designer or designers on an ongoing basis you might be able to skip a few of these items.

Overview: How To Write A Creative Brief

Here’s an overview of the key features that should be included when you write a creative brief.

  • Project name
  • Project objective
  • Budget
  • Timeline
  • Key stakeholders
  • Brand guidelines
  • The target audience
  • Competitors
  • Publication channels
  • Project assets
  • Project deliverables
  • Design preferences
  • Reference designs

Now let’s break down these features into the details required for each.

1) The Basics

Let’s start off with project name, project objective, budget, timeline and key stakeholders. Your project name is straightforward enough. Try to keep it short, and to the point. If you’re already using a particular name in planning or strategy documents, for consistency’s sake use the same name with your designer or design team as well.

Your project objective should explain the goal of your design. If it seems complicated or confusing, take a step back and consider whether your request needs to be broken down into more than one request. For example, if you’re designing a series of promotional posts and each post has a different goal (e.g. highlighting a product feature, sharing client reviews, etc), a separate brief for each would be helpful.

Details around your budget, timeline and key stakeholders will help your designer or design team understand the constraints for the project. Budget and timeline can be fairly straightforward, especially if you’ve signed up for a flat fee design subscription like Kimp. 😉 When it comes to stakeholders, these are all the people who need to be involved in the review process. Letting your creative team know from the get go that revisions can only proceed once X, y, and z have reviewed the design will keep things running smoothly.

2) Your Brand Guidelines & Target Audience

When you write a creative brief it’s important to share your brand guidelines. Even if you haven’t had the opportunity to create a polished style guide. You can still let your designer know of your preferences by writing them out, and/or sharing past designs, screenshots, and screen recordings. However you can, sharing your preferences for your brand is the only sure shot way they’ll be incorporated into your design.

Along with your brand guidelines, sharing information about your target audience is crucial! This will help your designer create a piece that will engage them best. So share as much as you can about the demographics of your audience. This includes details like age, gender, geography, but also paint points, influences and motivational factors.

3) Your Competitors

Providing your designer with some information about your competitors will help them get an appreciation for what works well in your niche. This can be as simple as sharing their names and/or websites. From there your designer can do a little digging to find out how they might be able to improve on the strategies that are already being used to reach your target audience.

You can also use this section, when you write a creative brief, to outline how you differentiate yourself from your competitors. This could be a matter of your branding or even differences in your product or service. Whatever it is, let your designer know so that they can highlight those components where possible.

4) Publication Channels

Where is your design going to be published? How will it be used? Print or digital? Multiple formats and sizes? Let your designer know so that they can use best practices for each particular platform or placement.

For example, using too much text in a Facebook ad can impact its reach and how well the ad performs. By sharing that a design is required for a Facebook ad, your designer will know to minimize the amount of space that the text takes up accordingly.

Providing links to your existing content, or access files from previous designs can be very helpful in this section. This way your designer can get a sense of how the piece they’re designing needs to fit into the whole. For example, if you’re getting Instagram posts designed – provide a link to your account! Or if you’re just getting started on building out your grid, share the link to an account that has the look and feel you’d like.

5) Project Assets & Deliverables

When you write your creative brief, you’ll want to include the assets your designer will need to complete the design. This could mean things like your logo or branded images. Make sure you provide high resolution images/files, and the source files for any assets that you have.

Providing source files (i.e. the editable files), will allow your designer to have the most flexibility when it comes to manipulating your design assets. If there are any limits on the extent to which your projects assets can be edited, be sure to let your designer know.

Project deliverables are the formats in which you’d like your designs provided to you. This is where you’ll want to let your designer know that you’ll require your designs in PSD, AI, INDD, JPG, PNG, PDF – or some combination of these formats (e.g. PSD and JPG).

6) Design Preferences & Reference Designs

Your design preferences are the styles you like and want to see incorporated in your design. Design preferences can vary widely, just as design trends do. And your designer will try to figure out how to incorporate elements of the styles you like, while following your brand guidelines. In some cases they may have to let you know if it’s just not possible and provide recommendations for alternative approaches. To make the most of your designer’s expertise, be sure to let them know you’re open to suggestions.

A lot can get lost in translation when trying to describe what you’re looking for. This is where reference designs come in. Share examples of designs you like, and mention which aspects of them you think are great. Maybe it’s just the font, or the use of certain elements. A screen recording can be a great tool to explain what you’re looking for to your creative team. Consider including one alongside your written brief!

Remember – Nothing Is Set In Stone

Coming up with a creative brief may seem intimidating – especially if you haven’t made a lot of design requests. But that’s ok. Figuring out the best way to lay one out comes with experience. Practice writing out your ideas using clear and direct language, and always ask your designer to confirm if any of the details are not clear. You can also ask them for recommendations to improve your brief. And soon enough you’ll be able to write a creative brief with the best of them. 😀