The Why and How of a Creative Brief

A field of dandelions.

We spend a lot of time in the weeds.

That’s one of the things about working on such a small team. Each person knows with excruciating detail the ins and outs of our product and process.

Which isn’t always a bad thing — until it is.

Until we have to take a step back to figure out our next move for lead-gen, but can’t stop focusing on the specs of the admin onboarding UX.

Until we have to determine whether the targeting for that marketing campaign was right, but keep coming up with use cases for every audience.

Until we have to give a 15-minute pitch to a potential new client, but are feeling overwhelmed trying to determine which details to share in that precious little time (because every detail feels important).

Not to mention that we each still bring our own internalized ideas and biases to those details — often with the assumption that our teammates think/feel the same way. The good news is that, when those things happen, we’re able to turn back to our creative brief to make sure we’re on the right track.

A creative brief is a document that strategically outlines the direction of a project. It’s loaded with prompts that force your team to think about every angle of your work, and then to develop succinct descriptions for each prompt. It covers everything from objective to audience, it ensures that everyone buys into the same vision, and it allows your team to map a path forward.

Once we developed the concept for our software, we dove immediately into writing a CB, and we’ve come back to it time and time again. For any creative project, we recommend you do the same. Here are the pieces we use to put together a strong creative brief:

Logistics

Name your product, and outline your rough launch timing.

Overview

Explain what your product/service is in just a couple of sentences.

Objective

Describe the goal of this particular project in one (short) paragraph.

Challenge

Outline any potential barriers to success, both internal & external (i.e. lack of awareness, misperception, market competition, etc.).

Target Audience(s)

In general terms, describe for whom you are you building this product/service.

Buyer Persona(s)

Okay, so this is arguably the most important part of your creative brief. Look at that target audience, and now think about an actual buyer. Give him/her a name. Who is going to buy your product/service, and why are they going to buy it? What is their life like, and how will your product/service improve it? Try writing from this buyer’s first-person perspective, and do this for two or three personas.

Action Insight

Prepare a concise statement outlining the drivers for, and barriers to, action, again in the voice of a buyer.

Ideal User Flow

Describe what an ideal user experience looks like, step by step, and what content helps to guide that experience.

I’m not going to lie — writing a creative brief isn’t easy; it will take revisions and time and more revisions and more time. But when your team needs an anchor point when planning your next steps, the creative brief can (and should) be that pillar you can all agree on and understand.