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What is a Creative Brief?

This was the very question we googled when we first started UnderBelly Creative. And the truth of the matter is, a creative brief is not one set thing but rather a process or system of asking the right questions.

Okay, so that’s not really any clearer so let’s dive into it.

At it’s core, the Creative Brief is going to be the document that acts as a foundation for the rest of the project, or your guiding light if you will. The Creative Brief should always be one of the first deliverables you create and you should create it with your client. The goal of the Creative Brief is to ensure everyone who is involved on the project, including your team, your client’s team and any outside contractors, knows the goals and direction of a given project.

Creating your Creative Brief is kind of like your own special blend of tea. It will consist of the tools you use, the questions you ask, the way in which you ask the questions, and how you organize and synthesis the information to be accessible to all. But because we are not about shying away from specifics, we’ll outline our secret blend of herbs and spices.

The Tools

These are the tools we use for the Creative Brief

  • Zoom: As a fully-remote team, most of our client meetings happen over Zoom. We definitely rely on seeing faces and expressions to ensure we’re not missing non-verbal cues from our client.

  • HolaBrief: We’ve talked about Holabrief in the past but it’s a fantastic tool that is designed by designers explicitly to help with the Creative Brief process. It’s fully customizable which means once you get your flow and set of questions, you don’t have to recreate it for every new project. HolaBrief also makes it easy to take the answers from the questions and turn into a PDF or presentation to share.

The Questions

These are the base questions we ask during our Creative Brief meeting.

  • What is your business and why does it exist?

  • Who is your target audience? Who is this product for?

  • Are there any timelines we should know about?

  • What are goals of the project?

  • Who are you competitors?

  • What brands or designs inspire you?

  • What brands or designs do you dislike?

  • What is your brand voice? What 5 or so words describe how you want customers to feel when they engage with your brand?

  • What are the final set of deliverables that need to be completed at the end of this project? What deliverables are the ‘nice to haves’?

How do we ask?

During the Creative Brief meeting, I am writing notes in real time over a shared screen in order for our clients to follow along. We are always aiming for our questions to be open-ended. We never know which question is going to create that magic ‘ah-ha’ moment.

Most of our clients have never analyzed their brand or designs in the way that we’re asking them to. By giving enough space and guidance, clients will start saying words and phrases that can offer moments of great insight. We’ve found asking our clients questions about how do they want people to feel often gets them out of their own head

How do we synthesize the info?

The final step of our Creative Brief is to take the word salad that we created in real time during our meeting, and cleaning it up. We fill in any missing details and make sure a clear and explicit story is being told. We want the document to strike a fine balance between reading as a story and as an actionable manual.

We then build out a detailed timeline that we use for the Project Manager, update the list of final deliverables , and add a final project proposal that reflects the timeline and deliverables. We have all of this information in a handy-dandy PDF labeled ‘[Client Name] [Service Name] Creative Brief’. This cleaned up document is then shared with the client and anyone else that is going to be a part of the project.

In conclusion

A Creative Brief is not simply a document that outlines the final deliverables. It’s your process to kicking off a project and ensuring everyone is on the same page. And just like any good process, it will shift and change as find better tools and learn to ask better questions.


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