Notebook

A creative brief is the fastest way to communicate with a freelancer just how you want a project completed. It outlines the final product you expect, ensuring that you and the creatives you’re working with wind up on the same page. It can take a little time to put together a thorough creative brief, but the effort pays off in the time you’ll save explaining the style of copy you want to a writer or the feel and look of a website you expect from a designer.

Overview

The first section of a creative brief is the overview. It should cover general project information, such as the final product you expect – like a brochure or a website – as well as what you expect that product to do. If the objective of a new website is to increase sales by 20%, that information needs to be in the project overview. You should keep the overview only to a paragraph or two, however: you have plenty of information to cover in your creative brief and the overview is just a starting point.

Primary Audience

Any project is created with a primary audience in mind. If your audience is too broad, like individuals who use the Internet, your creative may not be able to complete a project that appeals to the whole audience. Instead, you want to focus in on a very specific audience and describe a typical member:

  • Age range
  • Gender
  • Occupation
  • Any other relevant demographic information

Having such information is crucial to deciding what sort of language to use to communicate with your target audience, as well as making aesthetic decisions. If you know of any stereotypes that should be avoided when thinking about and communicating to an audience, include those in your creative brief as well.

You should also describe how you expect your audience to find and use the product. Getting an individual to pick up a brochure in an office requires a very different approach than mass mailing a newsletter.

Tone and Image

In this section, you should include any information and expectations you have for the style or slant of the piece. Do you want something formal? Something humorous? Share that information with your creative, along with any specific imagery or catch phrases you’d like to use in conjunction with the campaign.

While this section of your creative brief may seem simple, it’s an opportunity for you to share your vision of the final result with the writer or designer responsible for implementing it.

Technical Information

Depending on the project you’re putting together, you may have specs that will govern how the project is executed. If you work with a particular mailing house on a direct mailing piece, for instance, it may only be able to handle materials that are folded in a certain way. This is information your designer needs to have from the start. You may have certain requirements within your own office, as well. You may only be able to open and review files in a specific way.

You may have other technical details relating to design that can help your creative work faster. If you use one particular shade of blue for your logo – or you have a logo to use on all projects – tell your designer how you intend to provide him that information.

Message

If you can give a starting point – a description of what your target audience believes or thinks before you communicate with them – as well as a message you want to share with that audience, you can smooth out the entire creative process. Be sure to give enough depth for your message: don’t just describe the value of your product or service. Put together a list of top features and other facts. Compare your business or organization to the competition. Describe all your major points.

Budget and Schedule

Ensuring that your creatives stick to a budget and schedule is easier if you can lay out both the budget and the schedule from the start. In your creative brief, make sure to note the due date for the finished project, as well as milestones along the way. If there’s a particular event or date that the project is expected to launch by, include that information as well.

If your budget or schedule is only tentative, it’s still important to include it in your creative brief. However, make a note of what information has been set in stone and what information is still subject to change.

Process

For those projects that must go through multiple layers of approval, outline that process in this section. Make it clear who needs to sign off at what milestone – and include their contact information, so that your creative can contact them directly in order to get approval. You can also set out details relating to closing out the project: if you need your designer to send the finalized files to the printer, or set up web hosting, or any other details that may be a condition of what you consider a final project, describe those details.

Image credit: wolv / iStockphoto

###