If you are not a seasoned marketer or have never commissioned a graphic designer before, the thought of start writing a creative brief may fill you with dread. We hope this article helps you to reduce the fear of the blank page.
The creative brief is an important document as it is clear instruction to your designer outlining what you want to achieve. If your designer doesn’t deliver what you were expecting it may be because your creative brief wasn’t clear enough or that the designer hasn’t followed or interpreted the brief correctly. If your selected designer hasn’t followed the brief as indicated you have a document to refer to which will allow you to get everyone back on track.
We have written some headings to help you to start formulating a creative brief:
- Project requirements? Detail what the requirements are. e.g. design of poster, brand building, website design etc. Also mention here your objectives and goals for the design project.
- How will it be used? State here any specifics on use e.g. poster will be outdoor, leaflets will be in display units, print requirements or on-line details including social media.
- Who are we talking to? (the decision makers and their market). This is probably one of the most important questions. It defines the target audience so your designer will be able to create something that ‘speaks’ to your audience. E.g. A design for theatre goers is going to be different to a design for solicitors. Mention if you are a Business to Business (B2B) or Business to Consumer (B2C) organisation. The buying habits of consumers are different to the buying habits of businesses. B2B means you are a business selling products or services to another businesses. B2C means you are a business selling products or services to consumers. Don’t suggest ‘everyone’. It has been proven that targeted campaigns are more successful and will achieve a higher return on investment (ROI). Is your product or service more suited to men or women? Your audience may be geographically defined or a specific age group.
- Is there a single most important point to make? If yes is there any evidence to support this? If there is a message that you want to get out there, now is the time to decide what it is. Most messages are better backed up with evidence. E.g. ‘Our face cream is proven to reduce age spots’ what hard evidence to you have to make this claim?
- What “tone of voice” should we use? When we talk about tone of voice we are not just talking about the words themselves, however, these are important. We are also talking about the visual tone of voice. E.g. a solicitor practice “tone of voice” may be; professional, honest, integrity, transparent.
- Is there an existing house style? A house style is your brand and branding guidelines. You may have a document that can be sent out to your designer so they are aware of the rules of your brand. If no guidelines exist then just send the logo, colours and fonts you normally use for communication. Brand guidelines usually cover things like:
- Logo use
- Image style
- Tone of Voice
- Values of the business
Larger companies tend to have comprehensive guidelines which you should supply to your designer. Smaller companies may just have an A4 sheet that was produced when the branding was created. Without a house style the designer will be free to choose colours, images, fonts that will fit the target audience but not necessarily your brand.
- Is the content (e.g. copywriting / photography) supplied, if not who will provide it and when? It is important for the designer to know if copy and images will be supplied. This will affect your quotation you receive from them. Good agencies and designers will be able to source a copywriter or photographer and be able to manage the process for you if required.
- Is there a rigid format? (e.g. size of document, number of colours and quantities?) You may be asking your designer to design a brochure for you. If this is the case and you want the print to be a particular size, say for postage, now is the time to tell your designer. Also, number of colours and quantities will affect your print quotation if you have asked for one. Most print is produced in CMYK now as print is much more competitively priced than it used to be. Printing in just two colours used to a be cheaper option in the past. Plus, you may want your brand colour to be a special ink so the colour is exactly as it should be. This may require a 6-colour job which would be CMYK + your brand colour. Also mention if the piece of design is required digitally. Digital images are normally RGB (Red, Green, Blue) when used on-line. CMYK is a print process using the colours; Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black to produce a range of colours.
- Call to action. What do you want your potential client to do? Visit a web page? Email you for a quote or buy a product/service? Call to action is crucial in any communication.
- Other relevant information? It may be worthwhile writing an ‘about us’ section if you don’t already have one. This will save money as the designer will have less research to do on your business. Also add other requests such as ‘text needs to be accessible’ or ‘images of people need to be diverse in culture’. List your company values.
- Project deadline & Budget? Give your designer a deadline. Preferably a couple of days before you actually need your design. This will give you some breathing space if your designer doesn’t get it right first time or if there are a lot of amends to do. Your designer should produce a time schedule so everyone involved in the project knows when milestones of the project are going to happen. E.g. first stage visuals, amends stage, sign off, send to print or for digital, a live date or campaign start date. Be transparent about your budget. Don’t make your designer guess how much money you have allocated. Give your designer an idea of budget so they can quote accurately. Not all designers will quote up to your budget. Working to an agreed budget before the designer is invited to quote will save time and money. With no budget guidelines quoting for design is a bit like ‘how long is a piece of string’ as there are many variables. The budget will tell the designer what they have to allocate to production and how many hours they can spend on the project.
We hope this article will encourage you to make a start on that brief you have been putting off and get it out there. Remember your brief can be short as long as it has all the correct and relevant information. Try not to waffle, a shorter brief with all the points covered will be more appreciated and translated better by your designer.
Reform offer a brief writing/checking service if you get really stuck.
Coming soon! Specific brief writing for websites.