What is a creative brief?

And why you need one when you work with a designer.

The world of design remains a mystery for many business owners. With the importance of brand and design in the success of companies, I want to help you become familiar with the process.

I've been on both sides of the process, both as a CPG business owner and as a designer. I want to make it easier for everyone involved and explain more of what happens behind the scenes of a design project. Let's start with the first step, the creative brief.

So what exactly is a creative brief?

A creative brief is a document used between a designer and a client that provides details about the client's company and goals for the project.

Secondly, why does a designer need a creative brief?

This goes back to defining good design. A good design solution doesn't just look pretty; it should solve problems and be a tool for your business's growth. The more detailed the creative brief gets, the easier it is for the designer to understand business goals and brand positioning to create solutions that address them appropriately.

When I work on brand design projects with clients, I prefer to lead the creative brief process, so I get as much information as possible. I do this by sending a questionnaire to my clients after an introductory phone call. That way I already have some context into the project and their company and can tailor questions for even more in-depth info.

However, some designers will ask you as the client to provide the creative brief. If it is you are not familiar with design, it may seem a little daunting. Don’t worry! I’ll walk you through the key categories so you can feel confident you haven’t missed anything.

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Let’s get started!

This list contains my essential topics of a creative brief along with why a designer needs to know them.

1. Company mission

This is the core of your company and why you exist. All design solutions should align and express the mission.

2. What problem is your company solving?

Understanding the need for the service or product you offer helps a designer highlight your unique solutions.

2. Target customer

This is one of the most important categories, so get as specific as you can. Final designs need to speak to the customer in a voice that speaks to them directly. The more context you give, the more the designer has to tailor the design for your audience.

4. Competitors

It's essential for the designer to understand the market to ensure their solution is different from what else is available.

5. Key differentiators

You know what makes your company unique so make sure your designer knows this too. They will be able to highlight these qualities, so your customers will also quickly understand what makes you special.

6. Brand standards

The key to establishing brand recognition is consistency. Saying the same message, in the same way, ensures your customer easily remembers you and what you offer. Let your designer know if you have established standards around brand voice, colors, and messaging so they can incorporate these same standards into the work.

6. Expected deliverables

Be clear in exactly what you expect to be handed over. Every company has slightly different needs so don't assume your designer know exactly what you expect. Avoid confusion down the line by being on the same page.

7. Visual examples related to the project that you like

This one may be a little controversial. I know some designers would rather leave this out. However, I find this useful to make sure you both understand each other before work gets started.

Some clients may be looking for the designer to determine direction while others have a clear aesthetic look they want. Words can be subjective, and it's often easier to talk about design direction if you both have examples in front of you. Start the conversation with your designer sooner rather than later to make sure you both understand each other's expectations.

If you already have a brand strategy,

Good for you! That makes the creative brief process easier because you’ll have many of these answers ready to go. That work put you put in upfront is already paying off.

Every project is different so this list might differ depending on the designer and the deliverable. However, this is the core of the creative brief. Now the designer has the basis to build a plan to execute designs that will work for your business.

As a client, coming to a project with clarity you are more likely to end up with something you are happy with and will make the whole process run more smoothly.