Published on 11 July 2012 (Updated 11 July 2012)
The creative brief is – along with the specifications – one of the essential elements in a good client/supplier relationship. It defines the customer’s requirements and needs in writing. It serves as the reference document for all graphic, aesthetic and ergonomic decisions concerning the project. As such, the creative brief provides objective criteria for the artistic direction to be taken and removes any subjective criteria (no more arguments such as “I put green because it’s pretty”; let’s go for “green meets your need to be identified as…”).
The real expertise of a creative team (art director, graphic designer, web designer) lies in its ability to provide a visual response to a communication issue. Indeed, nothing is left to chance: a designer’s job is to play with graphic codes, the semiology of shapes, colors, and typography, to best convey the image a company wishes to convey. The designer is the partner of the communication strategy, the messenger. Therefore, verbalizing these directions upstream of the creative process is essential as a creative brief.
Established and validated jointly with the customer, the project manager, and the art director, the creative brief must be exhaustive and documented. It is the foundation of the creative process, the reference document from which all choices are made.
Focus on the target
If there’s one thing to always keep in mind when setting up a communications strategy – including the creative process ( monitoring, setting up a graphic universe, graphic research, creation) and the various agency/client exchanges – who do we communicate for ? You don’t create a design to please a particular customer, or to please your superior. You don’t make a color choice for fun. Everything has to be weighed up, justified, and reasoned, to reach the real end-customer: the target.
Full permission is a poisoned gift
There’s a preconceived notion that’s unfortunately well entrenched: that designers like to have a free hand. We often extol the virtues of this or that graphic designer, saying that “his creativity knows no bounds, whatever the subject”, and even more so in the absence of constraints. However, this is not the case: creativity needs to be stimulated, and new ideas never come from nothing. The brief is important because it lays the foundations on which everyone can build. Brainstorming always starts with a word, an idea, a value. Creativity is self-stimulating: each new concept leads to another, and each idea is richer than the last. But without a starting point, there’s often nothing.
Constraints, a vector of creativity!
The brief doesn’t have to be “all roses”; on the contrary, it has to be perfectly in tune with the reality of the request. Budgets are rarely unlimited, and media have their own technical specificities, so you have to know how to work with the time available. In a brief, nothing should be taboo, and all these factors, which can be perceived as “blocking”, can on the contrary lead to proposing unexpected things, and thinking outside the box. Indeed, constraints must never be seen as constraints: they must be challenged and countered. The result is often beyond our expectations.
Talking about competition
What makes a company different from its competitors? Should it stand out, propose an innovative message, and play on its difference? Or should it stick as closely as possible to the industry codes? Is the target group sufficiently open to change?
“You have to be close to your friends, but even closer to your enemies”.
Finally, this quote is easily transposable to the business world. Indeed, knowing your competitors well, being able to talk about them, knowing how their communication works, makes it easier to implement a communication strategy.
There’s no creative brief without a positioning and a solid strategy
Positioning is undoubtedly the most difficult aspect of setting up a business. We mentioned positioning in relation to competitors, but a multitude of factors need to be taken into account to achieve effective communication. However, the creative brief should only be implemented once this positioning has been defined and validated by all those involved in the project. Designers are not there to create a positioning from scratch, but to create a visual and relevant universe around this positioning so that the image perceived by the consumer corresponds in every way to the image desired by the company.
What a “good” creative brief should contain
1- The company
- Description of business sector
- Company organization and any subsidiaries
- Geographical area
- Culture, values and history
- Brand strategy and positioning in detail
- Main competitors (strategy, positioning, perception)
- Brand perception in relation to competitors
- Products and services (features, benefits, plus products)
- Industry trends and how they may affect the project
- Company business model
2- The history of communication
- Communication history and developments
- The influence of this history on the project
- Principles to be respected in relation to existing communications
Targets should be as detailed as possible. Considering the creation of personas can help project stakeholders into a realistic image of the target.
4- Project stakes
- The problem to be solved
- Expected benefits
- Understanding the need for the project
- How the company should be perceived
- The message to be conveyed
- Main competitors (strategy, positioning, perception)
- How the company will communicate, and through what media
- Expected deliverables
5- Project scope
- Key contacts
In short, a design brief provides an objective approach when you’re tempted to remain subjective. Indeed, a design can be easily “judged”, since it is generally seen as the overall aesthetics. “I like it” and “I don’t like it” are notions we’ll obviously have to come to terms with, but a well-thought-out design, whose choices are justified and adapted to the communication issue, helps to anticipate subjective remarks. By asking yourself whether the person who “doesn’t like” is someone “in the target audience”, you’re already asking the right questions. The next step is to be able to respond intelligently, without imposing your own vision of things, and to work with all parties involved in the project, without ever forgetting the target.
Are you planning to create or modernize your visual identity? Send us a message, we’ll be delighted to discuss your project together 🙂