Step 1: A Jargon Free Anatomy of a Creative Brief

Briefs can be big or small, loose or tight. OK, we’re not talking about your underwear here, we’re examining the main elements that make up a creative brief, how to make it the touchstone for your creative project and what your Unique Super Power is all about.

A creative brief is a document that can be shared between different teams to capture the essence of your idea and how to make it great. It can be short or long, but its main purpose it to focus your thinking and make sure everyone involved understands the project and its purpose. You’ve heard the expression, ‘make sure everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet’, well this is the hymn sheet, and also the musical score.

Who Should Write It?

Some people believe this is solely down to the client, others solely down to the creative agency. A good creative brief should be a collaborative effort, which nails down the purpose of the relationship and what exactly the collaboration should bring in terms of results. As it is a touchstone of the creative project, it makes sense to spend time and effort on it and involve key decision makers in the project to make sure it fits with the vision.

What Is Its Purpose?

A good brief should be inspirational, it should open the door to creative possibilities, it should filter noise and distill information, and allow you to examine the efficacy of your idea in a structured way. It shouldn’t contain marketing babble, and it shouldn’t tend towards information overload, it should instead present a concise problem that needs to be solved if possible.

What Format Should It Be In?

There are many templates on the web, some are bold and bright, some are minimalist. You can use Word, Google Docs, or make it all graphical and colourful, as long as it doesn’t detract from the information, and is easily editable. What it should not be is overly long, a couple of pages is good, a couple of dozen pages is not.

What Should It Contain?

This is the big question, and while each creative project is different, there are some main areas that can be found in most creative briefs:

1) A Description Of The Creative Venture – The Dream.

Try and put your dream into ten words if you have one already. Then try and make those ten words inspire. The description in your brief can of course be longer, but by defining it in such constrained terms you are forced to boil it down and find the essence. Earlier on we mentioned ‘tight’ and ‘loose’ briefs. A ‘tight brief’ will have much more detail in it, normally when the client already has a very concrete idea of exactly what they need, such as ‘make our website mobile responsive and load in under 3 seconds’, a loose brief normally allows for more creativity, such as ‘we want a digital installation at an event that wows the public’ or ‘we want to create an event experience that will engage the public and give us a good push on social media’.

2) The Project’s Purpose

This is where you get to fill in the blank ‘what is the purpose of the creative project’ and what is the problem that needs to be solved. You may find at this stage that the purpose of the project and the early stage ideas are somewhat misaligned, that’s fine and why you’re doing this exercise in the first place. As with point one, boil it down, don’t generalize.

3) Outcomes That Should Be Achieved

By defining your goals early on, you are zeroing in on your dream and already testing whether it has ‘legs’. If your goals and your dream are strongly misaligned rethink.  And again, make sure they are concrete, not ‘get people to understand that exercise is good for them’, but ‘get 10,000 people to download our 5K running app and have 90% of them complete the couch to 5K challenge’.

4) Your Superpower

Although USP is commonly referred to as the Unique Selling Point, I think it is more fun to think of it as the Unique Super Power. What is going to make this creative project stand up and be counted, what is going to make it ride the channel from thought to feeling to action in those that see it?

5) Audience

Who is this project for and how are you going to reach them? The most amazing idea won’t be so amazing if it doesn’t reach out to people and touch them in a memorable way. You need to make people think, feel, and act, but with so many things vying for our short attention spans, exactly who are those people, what do they like seeing, reading or listening to and how are you going to reach out to them?

6) Budget

The scope of what you set out to achieve is to a large part dictated by your budget, is it realistic, and does it allow you to create something of quality that you will be proud of? It is good to discuss this early, especially if you are bringing in additional expertise or need to look at equipment hire.

7) Timeline

Many creative agencies work to seemingly impossible deadlines, the job comes in and a quote needs to be turned around the same day. Normally a tighter deadline will mean more expense as everyone puts in more hours to ‘make it’. Make sure the timeframe is achievable, even if not wholly comfortable!

8) Deliverables

If it is digital work, which format(s) should it be in, resolution, file size etc. If it is an installation piece, does it just need to last the two weeks of the installation or will it be re-purposed, transported, etc.


At this stage everything should hopefully align, the project looks achievable with the time and budget available, the brief is exciting, contains some killer insights, and everyone feels inspired. If this isn’t the case, revisit it and work out why not, if it is, then you are ready to move onto step two… creative brainstorming.

One parting tip though: Even though your brief is a touchstone, it is not set in stone, deadlines may move, budgets shrink or grow, the creative scope of the project may expand if the killer idea doesn’t align with the other elements. Be flexible and consider this as a spark to help light up your creative project.

If you need a hand with writing a creative brief or if you would like Developing Dreams to help you bring your idea to life or facilitate a brainstorm, then please get in touch.

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