A well-written creative brief can be the difference between a delightful collaboration and an overly-drawn-out, costly, unsatisfying nightmare.
And in 2022, there’s really no reason for creative briefs to look exactly as they did 20 years ago. That is, single page word documents—maybe with some images poorly copy-pasted in at low resolution.
While my goal here is to help you write a clear creative brief for your next project, it’s also to open things up a little. To explore the prospect of using dynamic creative briefs in tools like Notion to achieve not only an impressive on-boarding experience—but to actually be more effective in how you communicate information about a project...
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start from the beginning, as they say.
What is a creative brief?
There are plenty of ways to communicate your brand and project goals. A creative brief is simply an effort to do so concisely.
That’s because a creative brief helps to make a few things clear, upfront. Things like:
What you’re trying to achieve (mission);
Who you are (your company, your brand, your values); and
How exactly you’re going to get there (project specifications).
When you do this well, the designer, writer, photographer, animator, videographer (talent, writ large) will have all the information they need to go forward, confidently.
What a successful creative brief looks like to you: You’re confident that anyone who is working on the project has the information they need to really get it.
What it looks like to the creative talent: ‘Oh, that actually makes sense. Cool, I can work with this’
Result: Everyone on the same page.
Why is a creative brief important?
A few key reasons, really:
Saves time on back and forth;
Sets clear expectations and specifications for the project outcomes;
Communicates company and project background, concisely; and
Gives the creative talent an opportunity, upfront, to identify any missing details that would be useful.
In short: it’s a tremendous timesaver, which more than compensates for the effort upfront.
But enough about that. Let’s get into it.
How to write a creative brief (and what should it include?)
Before taking a closer a look at each, here’s an outline for the dynamic creative brief template linked:
This is the skeleton of your brief. Since we’re building ours in Notion, each bullet point will be it’s own linked workspace. However, if you’re typing this out in a single document, you can think of these as sections (or, perhaps, pages).
About (Company Background)
While working as a copywriter, one of the first things I would do for any client project was browse their website. This helped me with a few things, which turned out to be vital:
Figure out what this company actually does;
e.g. What products do they make?
Who are their customers?
How do they sell their stuff?
How long have they been around?
And, just generally, what are the vibes I’m getting from them, as a company?
These serve as the backdrop for any creative project. The talent needs to understand the basics about who you are, what you do, and who you do it for—before they have any chance of producing something useful toward those ends.
As mentioned above, any creative project will necessarily come into contact with people.
Customers. Employees. Community members. Stakeholders.
Whoever it is that the project intends to serve, it’s worth making that explicit.
If you already have developed User Personas within your team or business, this is a space to share those. If you don’t have them, you can also just start from the template included within this template (user persona inception). You can also learn more about that template, here.
The main function of the ‘Who For?’ section is to make it clear who the project deliverables will interact with. The clearer you can be about this, upfront, the better.
Right after I checked out my client’s website, I would go do some research on competitors and similar players in the market. Sometimes, my client was kind enough to provide some useful competitors upfront—this was always a blessing, since they of course know their market far more intimately than I ever could as an outsider.
The ‘Our Market’ section is an opportunity to quickly provide this gift to your talent. Help them understand who the main players are in your industry. Help them spy on them. Steal from them. Leave comments on those you like, and those you think aren’t worth emulating.
Leave notes on where you feel the opportunities are (’All our competitors write these boringblogs, but our customers listen to podcasts!’).
The beauty of dedicating an entire workspace to ‘Our Market’ is that you can quickly jot down all the things you already know about your market, but the talent does not. If you were to do this is a word document, it would be rambling... but when you have it organized into workspaces by default, anyone can navigate your thoughts easily, and it simply adds detail without creating too much noise.
Any creative brief must be clear about two things:
The desired outcomes; and
The key deliverables.
If you have a clear timeline and budget, add these explicitly, too.
Desired outcomes: This is a summary of the things you are actually trying to achieve. Things like ‘Improve our website experience for visitors’ or ‘Grow website traffic by 50%’.
Deliverables: This is what the creative talent is actually responsible for handing over. While you hope a brand new shiny website will lead to the desired outcome above, it may not. Deliverables are for what the creative is responsible to deliver. Outcomes are what we all hope will come of it.
More often than not, providing some examples of:
Can be the quickest way to communicate your ‘taste’ or ‘preference’ to the talent. They don’t need to listen to it. But it’s always helpful to know where you are coming from, and to provide any background brand assets that will be helpful as a starting point.
Speaking of background info...
No project exists in a vacuum. Chances are, you’ve been thinking about this ‘new website build’ / ‘blog update’ / ‘rebrand’ / [insert project here] for a while. You’ve had meetings about it. Written down notes. Explored first concepts with other agencies, even.
List all the relevant project background documents and details in this section. It will save everyone a whole lot of back and forth. Trust me.
This is pretty straightforward. But I like to always include a section for this. Just so everyone is absolutely certain they know what’s coming up next. (And party A is left waiting awkwardly for party B do take action X in the meanwhile...)
Since this Notion workspace is dynamic and filled with multiple pages—that isn’t always the easiest thing to copy-paste, if you’re not sharing it via Notion, that is.
If you’d like to create a single PDF document from the brief, you can do so in this One-Pager document.
Using The Template Generator
Quick word of warning: you will need to duplicate this template once again if you’d like to start fresh. Do not copy-paste this template, otherwise the synced menu will just link back to the original (e.g. you make one doc ‘Creative Brief no. 1’ and copy-paste another ‘Creative Brief no. 2’... all the links in no. 2 will just → link back to no. 1... not ideal!
Solution: Use the ‘template’ button in the left menu to spawn a brand new fresh Dynamic Template whenever you need it.
Creative briefs are the unsung heroes of successful creative projects. They make life easier for all parties involved by being upfront about expectations, desired outcomes and deliverables.
If you’re looking to evolve your creative brief game, consider using the Notion Creative Brief Template linked to this page. It might just become your new favorite document 👀
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