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What a Creative Brief is, Why You Need One, and the Essential Elements to Create a Successful Brief

As an in-house web and graphic designer I deal with colleagues requesting resources from the creative team every week. These requests offer the marketing team a wide range of options for future work. From sales enablement PowerPoints to updating HR email templates, most public-facing documents hit our desk at one point or another. With the introduction of the creative brief, our marketing team aims to add some structure to this process. In this post, I will explain what a creative brief is, why you need one, and the essential elements to create a successful brief.

What is a Creative Brief

A creative brief is a short 1-2 page document, utilized by the creative team, that outlines a given project’s desired goals, scope, strategy, and delivery. It is a guiding force that defines possible paths to success while also surfacing pitfalls to avoid. At minimum, it should include client ideas and a vision for the brand, product, or service.

Why You Need a Creative Brief

The brief is the first interaction between the customer and designer. As such you want the initial interaction to go as smooth as possible. The creative brief provides that structure. Without it, multiple emails and miscommunication is inevitable. This document, at its core, provides clarity and encourages alignment across all departments involved. If successful, the creative brief will enlighten both the customer and the creative team at the same time. Think of it as an initial touch point that will set expectations on a wide variety of subjects – all vital to a project’s success. All this while giving the creative team a broad vision and inviting inspiration to allow the best idea to win.

Essential Elements to Create a Successful Brief

In my research most creative briefs include the same core information. The following bullets will show up on a brief in one form or another. Please note this list will be quite different than one for an external third-party. For our purposes, both parties within the company already understand the brand essence, the main competitors, etc.

The internal checklist items are as follows:

  • First Draft / final due date (Creative Team Deadline)
  • Lists names of Requestor, Creative Director, and Key Stakeholders
  • A brief overview of the campaign’s background and objectives
  • Key challenges that the campaign aims to resolve
  • Target audience for the campaign
  • Primary message describing the brand’s values and market positioning
  • Company strength to be highlighted
  • Tone of message
  • Scope of the engagement
  • Desired file format and delivery date
  • Distribution channel where the campaign will run
  • A section to supply any copy, documents, or links that may prove valuable


In the short time we’ve been beta testing the creative brief, our marketing and creative teams have found it to be quite a valuable asset. It has reduced unwanted questions, given a voice to the requester, and provided a sense of direction for the creatives. It has also allowed us to fully understand the project before taking it on. Any creative team looking for structure and process to help streamline their workflow should look no further. The creative brief is that asset. It’s proven to be foundational to our team’s success moving forward and I look forward to making it a permanent fixture in our process.