How to Write an Effective Creative Brief [+ Free Template]

Alex Antolino, Creative Director
Alex Antolino, Creative Director • Apr 30th, 2020

Writing an effective creative brief is one of the crucial stages in the creative development of a project. Whether that's your new website, your marketing campaign or your content marketing strategy, get the brief right, and you'll be increasing your chances of doing great creative work.

In this article, you'll learn:

  • What is a creative brief?
  • The purpose of a creative brief.
  • The structure of a brief
  • Creative Brief Template
  • 3 Key elements of a great creative brief

What is a creative brief? 

The creative brief is a short written document that describes the essential aspects of a creative opportunity a business or studio has identified. 

It clearly specifies the goal a company wants to achieve and describes the context. The creative brief becomes the document the creative team will refer to when defining and proposing their solutions. 

What is a creative brief not? 

A creative brief is not the prescription of a solution or an asset checklist. Many briefs tend to be too output-oriented. Those might look something like: "we need a bold website with engaging visuals and good browsing experience, so our products sell more." 

Wrong. By doing this, you would be limiting the potential of an unexpected solution that could help you achieve your real goal in a much more successful way. In this example: sell more products. 

What is a creative brief for? 

The purpose of a creative brief is to inspire one or more creative professionals in identifying and producing a solution for a business goal. It defines a creative project.

Let's stop here for a second. 

A good creative brief is as descriptive as it is inspiring. It's the document that kicks off the creative process, so it needs to build some momentum and get people excited. Talk about the possibilities you could achieve together, and be specific about the essential parts that need to be delivered for the project to be a success. 

The structure of a brief

Let's get something straight: each creative brief should be unique to the project it's describing. It should be written in a style that sets the tone for the project. It should also make emphasis on t

The creative brief for the home page of a funeral home has to be different from the brief of the social media launch campaign of Dua Lipa's latest album. Makes sense, right?

That being said, there's a blueprint you can follow as a starting point to make sure all essential aspects of the project are covered. 

Over the last years, this creative brief template has been handy to me. 

1. Project specifics 

2. Context

3. Proposition

4. Objective

5. Criteria

6. Target Audience

7. Deliverables

8. Resources

1. Project specifics

This section works as a header for the brief. It's a summary of all the technical aspects of the project. No descriptions here, just data. 

Include things like a deadline, budget, and names of each team member involved.

2. Context

Describe the context in which this opportunity has been identified. A bit of background of what has happened recently and the motivation behind the project. 

3. Proposition

This section is the core of your brief. State in one single sentence what you are trying to accomplish. Go deep. Don't stay on the surface with something like: "grow our Instagram account to 10k followers". Find and define the core motivation in just a few words. I strongly recommend using a question format following IDEO's ideation formula: "How could we...?". 

Be mindful here. Remember the old say: there're no wrong answers, just wrong questions. 

4. Objective

Now that our motivation has been clearly stated, you can get a bit more specific on what are your project goals.

To make things easy, I usually fill in the blanks of the following sentence.  

We want to _______ by _________ because _________ . We will be happy when _________ .

5. Criteria

Agreeing to specific criteria is a way to leave the door open to any possible solution, always knowing there're are some boundaries creatives need to work within. It helps you adjust expectations and gives the team something to hold on to. 

6. Target Audience

Probably the other most relevant section of the brief beside the proposition. Avoid falling in cliches or simply copy-pasting a description of your ideal customer profile. The more specific this section is, the more relevant the solution is going to be for your audience. 

7. Deliverables

Let the creative team know the deliverables you have in mind by creating a simple checklist of assets if that's possible. This checklist is not a dogma and can always be rewritten in the future. However, it's useful for creatives to know what you're expecting. 

8. Resources

It's a good practice to provide references, or other resources you have, to put creatives in the right mindset to get started. 

Your company style guide will be essential for graphic design. An article which point of view you find interesting can inspire your copywriters, and even a book you think is relevant can unlock new ideas. 

Creative brief template

Here's a template for the creative brief I've just described. 

Try it live 👇

There're many creative brief examples on the internet, just a google search away from you. However, the right way to write a brief is that one that works for you and the creatives who are going to work on it. Feel free to use this free creative brief template and adapt it to make it yours. 

3 Key elements of a great creative brief

Most people in marketing teams begin writing a brief by jumping into a text document and start dropping words of what they want someone else to do. Don't be that person. 

Ironically enough, the most important thing to do when writing a brief is to listen. 

Before you get started, here are some recommendations I've learned along the way:

1. Capture the big picture. Talk with as many people as you can to get a holistic view of the context and the business goal you're trying to achieve. 

2. Write for creatives, not for yourself. Put yourself in the shoes of the creative team who is going read and work with this brief. Whether that's an internal team or an advertising agency, make sure you're empathetic when writing it. Is it clear enough? Does it point in the right direction? Does it provide valuable information avoiding cliches? 

3. Keep it short. Here's my golden rule: a brief should never, under any circumstances, be more than two A4 pages long.

Following these guides has been really useful for my creative team to understand better our stakeholders and deliver better results. Hopefully, these tips will help you too kick off projects with better alignment with your teams.

Go ahead and make the template your own. And remember, it's called brief for a reason! ;)

Alex Antolino

Creative director, content creator, and overnight music producer. 

In his Instagram account (@antolino) he shares powerful branding insights and actionable strategies on how to build meaningful brands that lead to business growth.

Antolino co-founded MMMIND Studio, where he spent five years creating online content and commercials for well-known fashion and tech brands. As Typeform’s Creative Director, he has defined the creative vision of the brand and has led the creative team in implementing it through content and design. https://www.alexantolino.com/