The creative brief: A roadmap to success

The Creative Brief for graphic designers- Roadmap to SuccessEverybody feels good when a design hits the mark – it looks good and, more importantly, it gets the job done. But that success isn’t by accident. A successful design project will have started with a tool that clearly communicates what the project is, its goals and background information. In advertising and marketing this document is referred to as the creative brief.

The real purpose of the brief is to improve communication so everybody knows what is expected, saving a lot of time, energy and patience.

What goes into the brief? Quite a bit, actually.

  • Background information: First, the brief should set the stage: describe the organization or business the work is being done for. It does not need to be extensive. Where there is a long-standing relationship, you might skip this, but it does put everybody on the same page.
  • A description of the project at hand: This is a simple statement of fact – e.g. A quarter page display ad.
  • The environment: What is it for? if a display is for a noisy and crowded trade show or a qiuet showroom, it will make a difference. For a print ad, is it going to be in a classifieds listing full of ads vying for attention, or will it be placed exclusively?
  • Technical requirements: This would include technical details such as exact dimensions, colour vs. black and white, and the like. (Did you know not all quarter page ads are the same size? It depends on the physical size of the publication and the layout style.)
  • Audience: Who is the piece intended for? A newsletter for your staff is going to be different from one for your clients. Not only will the stories be different, but so will the tone of writing, photos and even the overall look and feel .
  • Goals/Purpose: What do you realistically want to happen as a result of this? Is this a piece for general brand awareness, is there a call to action to visit a web site, or is the user interacting with it, such as filling out a form? Also, the more multipurpose the project will be, the less effective it could be.
  • Underlying message: We’ve all heard about body language, those subtle non-verbal cues tha communicate a message. Well, marketing pieces also have a body language of their own. The underlying tone and unspoken message needs to be clear,too.
  • Must-have elements: What are key things that the piece must include? These are often things like a web address, logo. tagline and telephone number. But it may also include specific messages, such as recognition if it is a sponsorship ad at a charity event. It’s also good to prioritize these elements. Not everything can pop out!

A creative brief need not be a long and formal affair, but it is important. It can be an email message or even a telephone conversation (which gets documented). But with a roadmap, you’re sure to get to your destination.

What do you think? Join the conversation.

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