The Creative Brief: Why it's More Important than Ever
December 18, 2019

Why the creative brief is more important than ever (with free template)

By Ben Child, Executive Creative Director


As free and flowing as creative marketing can be, all that innovation and artistry still needs a plan with clear objectives. In the end, creative work needs to serve a purpose, hit its targets, and bring organizations results. 

Certainly, there are circumstances where a full brief may not be necessary—a simple banner resize or text edit, or perhaps an add-on to an existing project that’s been vetted. But in the majority of cases, entering into a project without a brief is like flying blind. With many marketing departments producing high volumes of collateral and needing to be as agile as possible in their delivery, it’s critical that the process be as efficient as possible. And that starts with a well-written brief.

Why creative briefs matter.

You need a plan.

Obviously, you can’t design something you don’t understand. Your project needs a purpose, objectives, expectations, and a clear reason for existing. In a creative brief, you articulate your vision and justify its benefits, as well as plan how you will target your audience. From the beginning, a creative brief puts everyone on the same page before launching a project. 

A well-written creative brief will save you time.

Your brief isn’t just a document, it’s a tool that facilitates clear and thorough communication from the beginning of the design process. A clear brief can prevent last-minute project changes, misunderstandings, and conflicting objectives—all of which will cost your team valuable time and money. 

You’ll maintain accountability and communication.

Agreeing on your scope, deliverables, objectives, persona, and execution of a project will help anchor your team and your stakeholders. Establishing parameters and, perhaps most importantly, building trust at the outset will go a long way toward smoother processes. 

Requests and approvals will get processed faster.

Ambiguous goals are difficult to achieve. Consider vague requests like, "I just want a really clean-looking design." While some of this is simply a fact of life for design professionals, a creative brief forces clarity upstream, minimizing difficult confrontations during the review and approval cycle. The briefing process is as much about anticipating obstacles as understanding and aligning objectives. Better to get clarification during the planning phase than when you’re in the middle of proofing.

The final product will be higher quality.

This is a direct result of setting clear objectives, aligning with business objectives, and vetting expectations up front. When everyone’s time is valued and expectations are made clear, it’s easier for the team to hit their mark, remain invested, motivated, and proud of their work.

As David Trott, author of Creative Mischief says, “The brief was always supposed to be a springboard for great work. Not a straitjacket.” So let the design brief act as your guiding instrument and understand that time spent on a well-designed brief is an investment that pays off in the end with a greatly improved process, a higher quality of output, and, ultimately, a more trusting relationship between your team and client.

3 creative brief must-haves.

Most importantly, be sure you don’t miss the following three items that get left out of creative briefs far too often. Believe it or not, these items can make the difference between a struggling content project and highly effective one.


Listen to our on-demand webinar, "Marketing Project Management 101" to learn how project management best practices will also help you stay ahead of the game with creative processes.


1. Due date.

You would be surprised how many creative briefs leave out the critical piece, whether because the team is focused entirely on the deliverables or because they’re not asking. Remember that the content you’re creating ties into a campaign with concrete launch dates and your delivery date will become a critical component of its success. You need to know and be able to work with this project constraint, setting it in the creative brief

2. Core business objective.

Before we get into the work of shaping content, we need to have clarity on its reason for being. Unless it’s meeting a business objective, even the most dazzling projects risks failing at its ultimate goal of creating value. This is something you should discuss thoroughly with your team and stakeholders at the outset, ensuring that creative projects aren’t just window dressing, but high-contributing parts of a larger strategy. Ultimately, when a creative asset is produced with the business objective top of mind, defending aesthetic choices becomes easier.

3. Publication or promotion venue.

Context is crucial in content. Different venues carry unique audience expectations and ways of engagement. You’d never, for example, write a print ad the same way you write a social post. Where your content appears will determine it’s design, tone, style, size and scale, and how it moves users to the next point on the customer journey. Be sure to hone in on where your end user will engage with your final product.

Like so much in content, the perfect content creative brief template is not built in a day. It takes continual feedback and fine-tuning to match your organization's needs. To get a head start, download our content creative brief template.


Read "Mastering creative briefs: best practices for eliminating ambiguity" to find out how to make the most of your content creative briefs.


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