Your creative brief is the cornerstone of every project. Whatever form it may take, the success of a project depends on it to define the direction. As we know, poorly communicated projects can lead to extended deadlines and empty wallets. Starting off on the right foot means better working relationships for everyone and a better outcome for your project. However, putting together a proper creative brief for the first time can feel daunting. Whether you or a teammate are developing the brief, there are often multiple people involved and a lot of ground to cover. It’s easy to become caught in the chasm of “Have I covered too much?”, or “Have I not covered enough?” While that answer may change for each project, there are five rules you can follow to ensure the effectiveness of your creative brief.

1. Define the space

The space is the product, service or environment that requires a creative solution. It’s the reason why you are writing the brief in the first place. Take this time to define the project: Introduce the brand, define the technology, or outline the features of the website or app you are developing. Then, illustrate the “why.” A well-defined space will create the context around the creative issues that need to be addressed, and explain why the project is the solution to the problem.

If you are the account manager, extract as much information as you possibly can from the client. Before moving forward, make sure you understand the target audience and the product.

2. State the issue(s) clearly

Make sure that the problem/issue you are solving for is well-defined, no matter how numerous, simple or complex. It’s important to be clear about the reason the project is needed so give the full background and/or history of the issue. The more information you have, the fewer assumptions there will be when it comes to finding solutions, and the easier it will be to make sure that your project stays on target.

If possible, try to connect your problem to an opportunity. Your issue may not always be completely negative, and finding the positive in it may speed up the time it takes to get to a solution.

3. Share your thoughts

This aspect of the brief is often overlooked. As a stakeholder, your personal thoughts and opinions are very important to the team solving the problems. Take the time to express what you are hoping to see as a possible solution. Share your expectations, and come forward with any elements that are non-negotiable: like a key visual, a specific color, or a tagline. Wishes can’t be respected if no one knows what they are.

4. Decide on deliverables

Whether it’s a digital file or a physical object, in the end you’ll be receiving something when the project is complete. Be specific about what file types you would like to receive. What are the final output dimensions?

Delivery methods are particularly important especially when it comes to digital items. Be sure to share preferred file transferring services, and if necessary provide credentials for company cloud service accounts or VPN access for projects that require more security.

5. Know when to start and end

Without a deadline, a project can either fizzle or flame on for far too long leaving the team burnt out. The schedule can be detailed and complex if the project requires it, or if it’s the culture of the group, but don’t underestimate the power of a clearly defined start and end date.

If your schedule is loose and your timeline is long, be sure to plan for regular check-ins and have milestone goals in mind. If it’s a rush job, be honest about it and express the reasons for the urgency. However you prepare it, the schedule manages expectations, prioritizes tasks and sets the wheel in motion.

When it’s all polished and put together, the only thing left is to do is present. Presenting a creative brief should always be done in person or through a trusted conferencing tool where you can express yourself clearly and provide feedback for any questions. Don’t worry if your creative brief is too long or too short. What matters is hitting the right points. If you cover the bases with these five rules you’ll put yourself on the right path.

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