How to Write a Creative Brief (And Why Doing it Right Matters)

June 30, 2023 - By Kelly Lineman


A creative brief is a document that details a design project. It serves as a roadmap, addressing the who, the what, the why and the when. Typically, the recipient of the project’s output will provide the raw input for the design team to synthesize into a document for review.

Simple enough, right? You’d think so, but a creative brief blends unmistakable clarity and uninterpretable detail. That’s sometimes harder to do than it sounds.

Here’s how we work with our clients to craft creative briefs.

Assume No Prior Knowledge

It’s easy for the creative brief writer to omit details they themselves are already familiar with, but it’s super important to write as if your audience has no prior knowledge of the project.

Be crystal clear in defining the project, its purpose and what the expected milestones, deliverables and timelines are.

If there are relevant background materials such as brand guides or established documentation, include links to those items along with contextual notes.

Lots of Short Sentences > Long Meandering Paragraphs

Again, it’s all about clarity. Designers that execute creative briefs appreciate bite-sized direction. It establishes guardrails. It leaves less room for interpretation. (See what I’m doing here? 😉)

Use Design Elements!

Design is communication and a creative brief is the perfect place to apply some. Utilize different font sizes to establish sections. Use bullets and numbering. Better yet, design a template for your creative briefs. This way the brief is quick and simple to navigate, digest and reference.

If Appropriate, Assign Roles and Responsibilities

Defining who will do what (and in what sequence) will ensure that everyone on the project knows both what they’re responsible for and what they’re not responsible for. (The latter there is just as important as the former.) The more a creative brief can establish accountability and clarity around expectations, the better.

Share Your First Draft with Someone Not Involved in the Project

Does it make sense to them? Can they accurately understand the objectives, the process and the roles? Does anything strike them as ambiguous or open-ended? Ask someone not involved in the project to read the creative brief and describe in their own words what it says. If you pass that test, you’re likely in good shape. And if you don’t, better to know now instead of later!