Writing An Effective Creative Brief

How to write a creative brief that sets up everyone for success.

Missed part 1 of this series? Check out Choosing The Right Creative Agency For You.

Want to minimize churn and get back wow-level work? Perfect the skill of writing a creative brief. It’s a lot easier than you think, especially with some friendly and knowledgeable advice from Expand Creative Group’s Co-Founders. Nelson Holland and Tracy Shaw each have 20+ years of experience translating objectives and initial direction into designs that win over marketing teams and their customers. And they’re here to help you pick up practical tips for how to write a creative brief that informs and inspires.

What is a creative brief?

Think of a creative brief as the graphic designer or writer’s version of a marketing plan or development requirements. These guiding documents are as much about measurable goals, concrete deliverables, and hard data as they are creative flair.

You don’t need to be “an artist” to learn how to provide clear direction and key info to designers, writers, and other stakeholders. Once you know what goes into writing a good creative brief, everyone on the team will have a strong playbook for any creative project.

Why are creative briefs important?

By effectively writing a creative brief, your projects will run smoother and you’ll get back stronger work that better helps you meet your goals. How so? The clearer the initial input, the sharper the creative output. 

A little alignment and definition upfront goes a long way towards successful projects and easier collaboration. With a well-defined creative brief, all stakeholders for the project have a central source of truth, which helps inspire the creative team and avoid confusion and misunderstandings across the wider project team. Especially when you’re working cross-functionally, it helps to spell things out so assumptions don’t get in the way of shared clarity. Plus, the simple act of proactively putting down initial direction for others can help you spot holes and fill in gaps, such as a critical objective or a helpful reference point.

What to include in a creative brief?

This list might seem like a lot, but it’s not. Sure, you might not always have every element available. That’s okay, share as complete a picture as possible upfront. As you apply these tips for how to write a creative brief, resist the temptation to try building everything in flight, because it’s hard (if not impossible) for a project to even get off the ground without most of this critical info.

  • High-level details: Project title and overview
  • What to accomplish: Objectives and goals
  • What to deliver: Deliverables and related assets
  • When it’s due: Timing for key milestones
  • Who it’s for: Audience and segments
  • Who’s involved: Stakeholders
  • What to convey: Concept and messaging
  • How to look and sound: Brand/style and voice/tone guidelines
  • Other considerations: Things to ensure/avoid and competitor info

Project title and overview

Name your project something clear and distinct, no need to get clever here. Your overview should be a brief high-level description of what’s needed and why. Basically, what you’d tell someone if you had 1-2 sentences to describe the project.

Objectives and goals

What’s the business need for the project? What should it accomplish, and how will success be measured? When writing a creative brief, include specific metrics and what numbers you’re looking to hit, so everyone is clear on what to reach for as part of their work. To help, try using the SMART framework for goal setting.

Deliverables and assets

List and describe each item to be created as part of the project, including any specs or other requirements. For instance, your project might be a display ad. If you need two different sizes or versions, list them separately and include the dimensions, elements, and other key details for each. Not sure what details are needed? this is a great time to check with the relevant stakeholder. When budget is involved, such as for printing costs or swag for an event, mention that here too.


At the very least, you’ll need to tell everyone when the deliverables need to be finalized. When writing a creative brief, break out key milestones and their respective dates, especially when you have multiple stakeholders and teams involved. If there are dependencies, list those too. The more specific you can be about timing and steps along the way, the better your project allies can meet their deadlines and keep you apprised of any conflicts or delays along the way.


Provide whatever context you can to help your creative team personalize their efforts for the particular audience. If you have demographics like age ranges or income level, share them. When you have audience personas, definitely share those too. For sub-segments to the audience, outline whatever commonalities and differences they have. 

Other aspects to include when writing your creative brief are anything pertaining to the audience’s goals, values, motivations, and pain points. Are they current customers or are you trying to turn them into customers? Share whatever insights you can, so everyone is on the same page about who you’re trying to reach and what’s in it for them.


They say it takes a village. Help your villagers know who else is involved by listing out each project stakeholder and what their role is. This way, everyone knows who to go for whatever situation arises. 

Most creative projects involve multiple doers, such as a graphic designer, writer, developer, etc. You might also need certain stakeholders to review the work from the doers, while other stakeholders might provide support, such as analytics. 

Concept and messaging

Already have a concept or two in mind when writing your creative brief? Bring them up here, to help give your creatives some initial direction. Don’t be surprised if they come back with ideas that hit the brief as well as some alternatives that you might never have considered (after all, this is their specialty). If you need to put rails up to establish any boundaries, this is the time to do it so no one wastes time exploring no-go areas. Conversely, if there are prime areas for exploration, say that too.

When it comes to messaging, lay out whatever key points need to be communicated with the audience. For instance, what’s the key takeaway people should walk away with? What action should they take? What supporting points help instill confidence for making that choice?

Brand/style and voice/tone guidelines

Your brand has guidelines for a reason: they maintain consistency for how your brand looks and sounds, which builds awareness and trust with your (potential) audience. For in-house projects, chances are your creative stakeholders might already have access to these guidelines, but it doesn’t hurt to include links or instructions on how to find these guidelines in your brief. And when working with an agency, freelancers, or other outside help, definitely provide all relevant brand guidelines and any other direction you can for staying brand compliant.

Other considerations

This is a good time to outline any other important things folks should know. Are there problematic things to avoid, such as phrases or types of images not to include? For that matter, is there anything to make sure to do that you didn’t cover elsewhere? What about sensitive or strategic factors to keep in mind?

This can also be a good place to mention competitive research or market analysis you have available. Part of your project’s success hinges on what others in your space are doing (or not doing). 

So your brief is ready, now what?

Congrats! Now that you know how to write a creative brief, it’s time to kick off your project. Share out the brief ahead of your meeting, so folks can digest ahead of time if possible. Regardless, cover the key details in the kickoff meeting and make sure everyone is aligned on objectives, timing, workflow, and other fun stuff that brings your project to life. 

Have questions about writing a creative brief?

We’re here to help! Feel free to contact us and we’ll do our best to share additional insights we’ve learned from decades on the creative side of briefs. 

While you’re here, why not visit our portfolio to see the kind of work we do when fine folks like you put together snazzy creative briefs?  

You may also like...

CopyWeb Design

UX Writing Tips: 5 Ways to Create Interactive Copy That Works

For clearer user experience writing that seamlessly guides people, follow these practical UX concepts and tips.

Logos We're Lovin': Burger King's New Logo & More

To help get the word out, we’re highlighting some of the logos — and their designers — that are inspiring us at this moment.

Contact Us

Howdy! Share a few quick details so we can help you.

    We respect your privacy and time. For details, check out our Privacy Policy.

    For general inquiries, email us at hello@expandcreativegroup.com