Updated on:
April 22, 2022

How to write a Creative Brief

If you are not from a creative background it will probably seem confusing, daunting and pretty hard to tell the difference between one design agency and another, and what they are offering you.

This guide will give you the steps to write a brief that will help you understand what you want, and clearly convey that information to the creative agencies you are approaching.

The Creative Brief

All good design or creative companies will ask you lots of questions.

We do this to get to know you, your company, and what your aims and goals are. The creative brief will provide a means for you to get this intonation clearly defined so that you are giving each agency the same information and therefore their proposals are like for like.

You can still pick up the phone, you can have a chat directly with the agency. But you can also email the brief and this will give them a chance to see your requirements, hear about your company, work out potential solutions, and most importantly, put a price to it.

A proper creative brief will save you money in the long run, because the better an agency understands your requirements, the more accurately they can plan a solution.

So what exactly do we need to include in a creative brief? Well, every brief is different, just as every client is unique. Use this guide as a starting point and add or omit information as you feel appropriate.

1. About your Business

We want to know your company’s history, its present positioning, and where you want it to go. A good design company will use all of this information to tailor a unique solution for your project. 

When writing your creative brief, think about including the following information

  • Tell us about your company. (100-250 words)
  • How large is your company?
  • How many people work for you?
  • How long have you been in business?
  • Describe your services or products
  • What makes you different. (Your USP)

Customer buying flower from a florist
Identify your audience. Know your current and future customers

2. Your Audience

Tell us who your audience is.

Describe your current audience, but also tell us about any new audience you want to attract with your new design. We don’t want to lose current audiences with a new design that doesn’t cater for them, but in order to grow, we may need to target new audiences. So a balance is key.

  • Clearly list your current audiences, and list their attributes (Age, gender, location, interests, plus any other distinguishing attributes)
  • At the same time, describe your NEW TARGET audiences and their attributes 

3. Your current design

To develop a new and effective design for your project, we need to know what doesn’t work as well as what does. Tell us about what you think is wrong with what you already have.

The answers to questions like these will help us form a picture of your ultimate goals;

  • What do you consider is wrong with the current design?
  • What do you think works well with it?
  • How old is this current design?
  • How much web traffic (visitors) do you get? (For social media & websites)
  • How do you update content on it? (For websites)

Woman drinking coffer while working
Think about that you want to achieve with your new project.

4. Your New Project

OK, now we can get into the Nitty-Gritty

You started this project because you had several reasons as to why you felt it needed to change. This is the time to outline your aims.

  • What do you want your new design/project to achieve?
  • Who are your main competitors, both locally, and nationally
  • Do you want to rebrand, or stick with the existing brand?
  • Will you be adding new content as part of the redesign?
  • Who will be creating this new content?
  • Who will supply any photography needed?
  • FOR WEBSITES: What do you want the new website to do?
  • Increase your web traffic
  • Increase your brand awareness
  • Add new functionality, such as eCommerce or Blog
  • Make more sales
  • A booking system
  • More intuitive contact forms
  • How many pages do you think the new site will require? Is this more or less than your current website design?

5. Examples and reference

With design being so subjective, your opinion is crucial.

Once we have been appointed to do your work, we would have more in-depth chats with you about what you want out of this project, but from the outset, one thing that can help us to gauge your personal preferences is to see what you like. With this in mind please provide:

  • 2 or 3 examples of designs you like and why
  • Do you like the images or colours used?
  • Perhaps you admire the tone of voice they use to engage visitors?
  • Specifically for websites, is it the navigation or the movement on the pages?
  • Specifically for brand, is it the minimalist style, mascot, ornate form, or something else
  • Specifically for printing, maybe you like the unusual shape of the die-cut.

These do not have to be from your industry at all, and it can be helpful if they are not, as we don’t want to be too similar to your competitors. A wider view is far more informative to us. But the key here is to be as specific as possible.

It can also be helpful to send a few examples of things you really do not like.It is important to remember thou, that these are only a guide for us to set off on the right track. Whilst we want you to love every aspect of your new design, some things just aren’t appropriate in certain cases. A high-end antique business with a mascot logo, in hot pink, probably wouldn’t work, even if you do love the colour.

Young woman sitting in a shop, browsing social media on her phone
Eye-catching graphics for social media can really grab the attention of your audience.

6. Other supporting activities

Once your new project is live, you may need other things to support this.

How are you thinking of letting current, and new, customers know about your project? Tell us as much information as you can.

Now, if your project is an advertising campaign, this kind of explains itself. So this is a section that will not need to be completed in all cases. But maybe the project is creating branding new product. How will you show it to your audience?

  • Will you need social media graphics?
  • Will you need print or press advertising?
  • Will you need packaging?
  • If you need your designs printed, you will need to give details on quantities and specifications if known
  • With regards to Websites:
  • If you are mainly a Content Marketing based strategy you may need additional Articles, Industry News or Video
  • Email marketing
  • Google PPC (Pay-per-click)

Equally, you can be more general with your information here and we would then develop our own proposal for this. For example, you may know you want to advertise your product, but have no idea where or through which channels. Your agency can handle this for you.

Two people working on finance at a desk
A realistic budget can ensure you and your agency are on the same page.

7. Your Budget

Although this may not seem too significant, it is actually very important to a creative agency.

It’s natural to want to keep things like budget close to your chest, but sharing this information will help you get what you are looking for. 

Firstly it helps make sure you and your chosen agency are a match. There are a great many creative agencies that only work with large businesses and wouldn’t really be interested in your budget is lower than, say £10,000. Knowing the budget up-front helps avoid wasted time and ensures you end up working with the right agency.

But as a client, sharing your budget can be incredibly beneficial as it can save you a lot of time, energy, and ultimately costs.

It’s fair to assume that many people who are not from a creative background may not have a clue how much a project will cost. This isn’t made any easier when you can see the cost of a logo design on the internet can range from £5 to more than £1000. The difference is likely going to be the quality of the logo you receive as well as how unique and appropriate it is to your business. 

In which case, providing a price bracket is a great option. You may have a budget of £150 - £600 for your new logo, or have set aside £2,000 – £3,000 – for a new website. These will be a great indication of the scope of work the agency will be able to provide you. You may have set aside £8,000 – £12,000 for the same website, and this could mean you end up coming in under budget (which is always nice) or that you will be able to have more advanced features that you didn’t think you would be able to afford. 

With an open declaration of your budget range, and the same brief sent to each design company, you should get a similar quote, but potentially with very different solutions.

Don’t forget to include:

  • Remember printing is a cost that will be added on top of design fees
  • What budget do you have in place for the design of your new project?
  • Will you require support, or maintenance moving forward?
  • Is training or maintenance required?

An hourglass on a wooden table in front of many alarm clocks
Avoid any last minute panic by defining your deadline from the offset.

8. Your Deadline

Everybody will have a target that they would like to aim for, it may be tight, or it may be far in the future, but without it, we have no destination to focus on.

In some cases, a short deadline is just not possible. Some deadlines are set in stone, and some are more flexible. But in the majority of instances, we will work with you and review your requirements to ensure we can deliver on time. 

Maybe you are tying in the launch of a new website to coincide with a new product launch, exhibition, or seasonal event? Perhaps you need your branding to be completed in time for an investors’ meeting. Be as clear and honest as possible so that we can manage expectations and don’t get stung with any nasty surprises. In the case of some projects, we can also set milestones, or phases to keep work on track.

  • Provide a clear deadline date
  • Clarify if this date is absolute, or flexible (and explain why)

Don't forget that missing a general deadline by a day may not cause a big problem, but missing a deadline for an event such as a one day exhibition could be a disaster. Particularly if the project was to create the exhibition stand for the event. So be sure to give context.

To meet some deadlines your agency may need to hire extra staff, or freelancers which can affect the cost, so these details are important to be clear upfront. It is far better to let them know now so the costs can be factored in (and at a discount), rather than to be caught out by a surprise deadline and have to pay through the nose for last minute, expedited work from contractors etc.

Photographs take time to research. Text, headlines, calls to action and a marketing strategy for new web pages take time to create, amend and settle on.

In Summary

The more information that you can provide your design agency with, the quicker you will get a thorough reply and the more accurate the costing will be.

As every project is unique, a working proposal can take many hours to prepare as we research all the potential solutions to your brief. We will provide you with similar details and questions to these:

  • A thorough timetable of how the project
  • A full breakdown of costs
  • Anything we need you, the client, to supply or find out.
  • Assets we require from you
  • Logo Files, preferably in EPS or PDF format
  • Images you have purchased, and the licences that accompany them
  • Additional content should you be providing any
  • Your current website hosting provider
  • Who owns the domain name? Do you need us to source one?
  • Will you need an optional maintenance package, detailing all costs, and provisions, should you not have a designated employee to maintain the new website.

Remember you are outlining what you want from this particular project. It is down to the creative agency to work out how best to achieve these results. That’s what you are paying them for. So try not to focus too much on what you want your design to look like. The information you have provided will help your agency form an impression of what you want to craft something tailored specifically to your needs.

There will likely be elements that you forget to add, or that you didn’t even consider. But this is where the benefits of an agency start to become clear. With vast experience, we would know where items need to be added or can be streamlined. All to provide you with the results you want within the budgets you have provided.

With all the information above you are now in a prime position to provide any design company with a full, rounded brief. A good creative brief will likely save you money. But even if it doesn’t, it will ensure that every agency you approach has the same information and will be giving you estimates that are 100% comparable. It will enable your design company to provide you with a design that exceeds your expectations and will help ensure the success of your project.

Remember you are outlining what you want from this particular project. It is down to the creative agency to work out how best to achieve these results. That’s what you are paying them for. So try not to focus too much on what you want your design to look like. The information you have provided will help your agency form an impression of what you want and craft something tailored specifically to your needs.

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