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A design environment is exciting as there is always a million and one things going on. One minute you are working on a website, the next you are working on a billboard design and then as you think you can sit down at your desk and catch up on emails someone calls you over to their drawing board and you have to proof read the ad that needs to go out ASAP.

However if you have a detailed, organised and clearly written brief it can be the saving grace in multi tasking as you can dip in and out of it at any point and not feel like the world is coming to an end if you happen to lose track of where you are.

A creative brief can be tackled in several ways: Most of the time it will either be from the clients point of view or the account handlers standpoint.

The CuCo team has got together to discuss what we think makes a good brief and what to consider when writing a brief. We have tried to approach this from both the clients and the account handlers viewpoint.

The most important thing is to have clear objectives such as:

What is the aim or purpose for the brief?

What is the reasoning for the campaign / advert etc.

What is the project?

It is vital to be clear on what the desired outcome is. Not all designers get to meet the client or the person that wrote the brief, hence have to rely on the brief to guide them. The brief will need to explain and clearly communicate what the aim of the campaign is to avoid confusion.

Things to consider are:


Who is the brief aimed for / targeted audience:

You need to find out what customer group to target and how to approach them. Reaching the right audience with the correct medium and message is what is going to make the difference between a successful campaign and or a disastrous one. A good brief will enable the designers to understand this and then they really can get their teeth stuck into the design best fit for that chosen segmentation.

What is the product / service about:

As human beings we don’t buy things unless we understand what we are buying. Hence explaining what the product/service is and what is unique about it will not only aid the design department but also speak volume to the targeted customer group who will be exposed to the creatives.

What is the competitor doing to avoid doing the same:

Competitor analysis is always helpful, understanding what your opponent is doing can help you and everyone else understand how you can communicate effectively and differently, or even better than them. What an opportunity to be even more successful. Probably best not to go as far as Samsung and Apple went in 2012 though, and stick to companies such as Pepsi and Coca Cola that both use American pop sensations to push their brand without saying one is better than the other! They both have figured out that pop type of advertising works for their products hence so similar. After all they are selling the same product just with a different taste.

What has been done before and worked or didn’t work:

Understanding what has been done before and worked or didn’t work, can sometimes be a saving grace. Take for example Nike and their “Just do it” tag line. There would be no real reason to remove that slogan as millions of people around the globe will know it without seeing the Nike logo. Hence worth utilising for a new campaign.

The other side of the coin are things like the major Coca Cola flop – New Taste vs Classic – Coca Cola thankfully readdressed the feedback and brought back the classic taste and made millions. They learnt from their mistake, and since then they have always kept the original coke and simply brought out additional variations such as Cherry Coke. Their focus remains Coca Cola original.

Do your fact findings.

  • Is there a corporate identity that is important to follow?
  • Colours that need to be incorporated?
  • Elements of a logo that can’t be edited?
  • Messages that need to be avoided?
  • Legals to be considered?

It is important to do your homework to avoid any grey areas. Can you imagine the whole advertising going to print and then realising you can’t actually use the finalised product! Or publishing your campaign and then having to retract it like Weetabix had to with their slow energy release campaign.


This is so important to designers. They need to know the deadline for the project. They are no different to the rest of us, as in they will have ample of plates to spin. They are a very passionate punch and therefore really appreciate it when you give them time to research. This will enable them to trial several design concepts.


Optional things to consider are:


We recommend to follow the brief with a face to face meeting where possible. Also, good practise that most of the time has gotten us out of a sticky situation, is having a follow up meeting/conference call between the person that wrote the brief and the creative director who will be responsible for the execution, to see how the project is proceeding. Some designers can get annoyed at this as they feel you are butting in but when you explain that you want to keep them in the loop they will soon see the benefit of you getting in touch.

When appropriate take a risk:

Sometimes a client, the boss or decision maker will be adamant that they don’t want a specific overall message, but your market research indicates they would be better off sticking to it. In situations like that we always mention it in the brief so that the designer can be aware of all angles, and if he/she so decided to give an extra example of a campaign they can decide to do so. We have had a client do exactly that to us, but after our research we realised it would be better if they stuck to their previous message. Hence we delivered our five promised design concepts, but showed the sixth element at the end explaining we knew this wasn’t what they wanted but if we could explain our reasons they would see why, and voila they went with the last one. It is still standing strong. This doesn’t always happen but can, hence important to include it if you feel strongly enough to stand your corner.


Most importantly:

Keep it brief – after all it is a brief!


Suggested brief structure


 Part 1.

Name of Project:

Date of receiving the brief:


Job Number

Approval team:


Further in depth information

Part 2.


Background/ market info:

Target audience:

What is their main issue/ use for this product?

What is your Unique Selling Point?

What is the desired response/outcome?

What has worked / hasn’t?

Are there any incentives/ promotions/ timescales?:

 Part 3.

Who are your competitors:

What is their Unique Selling Point?

What makes them different?

What have they done that worked / didn’t work?

 Part 4.

Is there a specific format required?

Any limitations/ guidelines?

How will we track response and success?

Production details:

Any other important information

This is simply a guide and it is important to remember that each company will have it’s own style, It’s own preferred method of how best to write a brief and this is simply our guide in case it can help.


Hope you have enjoyed this brief encounter.


The CuCo Team