In most of my Graphic Design classes I require that my students start each project by writing a Creative/Concept Brief. I usually try and explain what that means and how the Creative Brief is used in the industry. I give each student a handout that I reprint from an article from Before & After magazine. This article talks about the Creative Brief and it’s importance in the Design process.

Read the entire article here.

Another great source for information about creative briefs can be found at this website.

Here are some examples, tips and tricks from that site.

“A creative brief is like a road map. A great brief leads to imaginative and persuasive ads, Web sites or videos. And gets you there quickly. A bad creative brief starts you off in the wrong direction. So you have to stop, figure out where the heck you’re going, and start again. Or worse, you follow that brief to Trash Town, a total waste of time.”


Client / Client contact information:
Name, phone number and email address for the person or the team on the client side.

Example: “New campaign to test “CitiClick” for Citibank.”

Prepared by:
Name, phone number and email address for the person or team members who are responsible for writing the brief.

1 Background / Overview:

What’s the big picture? What’s going on in the market? Anything happening on the client side that the creative team should know about? Any opportunities or problems in the market?

This is where you introduce the project to the creative team. You’ll go over this again in the briefing session, but write it down as well.

For an overview, state, “Who is the ad talking to, and what is the one main thing we want to say?”

Example: This is a test campaign to a selection of Citibank customers. We want them to try Citibank’s new “CitiClick” – which is available as an app and a widget – that makes online purchases easier and more secure – and we’ve got a $1 pizza offer to get them started.

2) What is the objective, the purpose of the ad?

A concise statement of the effect the ad should have on consumers. Typically expressed as an action. And frequently focused on what the ad should make the audience think, feel, or do.

Example: We want people to download the free app and use it within 10 days to buy the special offer, a $1 family size pizza from Papa John’s.

3) Target audience: who are we talking to?

The more precise and detailed the better. Go beyond age and sex to describe demographics and psychographics. Explain how the audience currently thinks, feels and behaves in relation to the product category, the client’s brand, and the client’s specific product or service. > See consumer involvement theory.

Example: This campaign will be aimed exclusively at existing Citibank customers in three test markets: Sacramento, CA, Houston, TX, and Washington DC.

The primary target will be segments of our customer database: male and female, 20 to 35 YO, with at least one Citibank credit card. The target will be approximately 70% married, with combined HH incomes of $85k on average.

This audience is comfortable with new technology, and quick to test new smart phone apps or widgets that leverage their time. They like to be among the first to have the latest and greatest electronics. They make multiple online purchases monthly. We will call our representative persona “Joe”.

4) What’s the single most important thing to say?

What’s the single most persuasive or most compelling statement we can make to achieve the objective?

This should be a simple sentence. No more than a few sentences if absolutely necessary. Avoid generalities.

Example: “Joe – CitiClick will simplify and speed all of your online purchases, while providing increased security.”

5) What are the supporting rational and emotional ‘reasons to believe and buy?’

Explain why the consumer should believe what we say, and why they should buy.

Include all the major copy points, in order of relative importance to the consumer. In other words, ‘What else can we say and show to achieve the objective?’


1) It’s free, from Citibank – your trusted financial partner.

2) Get a PJ pizza for $1.

3) Backed with a 100% purchase protection guarantee.

4) It has earned rave reviews from real users. (See attached quotes.)

5) Takes just seconds to select from multiple pre-personalized download options via your online account.

6) What else will assist creative development?

Here’s where you can include consumer insights, a description of the brand personality, positioning tag lines, creative thought starters, terms of the direct response offer, result expectations, and mandatory elements such as the logo and Web address.

Be sure to include sources for additional research information, customer quotes, and certainly at least one consumer insight.

– User quote: “I see. I want. I click. I get.”

– More info: Call Bill in research 555 8888 for full research report.

– Insight: “People don’t like to input their credit card and shipping details over and over when making online purchases. But they also don’t like feeling their credit card information is vulnerable to theft.”

Creative Brief Tips & Tricks:

Most creative briefs are simply a list of questions. And most advertising or design shops have one brief. Unfortunately, one size does not fit all. There is no such thing as a single “perfect brief.”

What you need in a creative brief is flexibility. You need the flexibility to select questions appropriate to any type of ad or campaign, in any medium. That could be a print ad or mailer or video. And that project could be either direct response or brand focused. Also, you might be working with a client you know well, or a new client that you do not know at all.

Clearly, you need a different brief – a different set of questions – for a new business pitch compared to a Facebook page compared to a TV campaign.

So dump those old writ-in-stone pre-printed briefs. Better to place the brief – the list of questions – on your computer. Then, for each new project, select the questions that are appropriate to the client and the project.

Sure, you’ll have some “basic” briefs. But you and your team will also have the flexibility to better handle a wider range of projects, and importantly, to evolve with rapidly changing marketing environments.


The creative brief is a very important first step in the creative development process. Spend a little time, give it some thought, do a little research, be specific and create a good road map for your project’s creative journey.