The Benefits of a Creative Brief – and why every web project needs one

A Creative Brief sets your web designers down the right path

The Creative Brief is a one-page document created during the “Definition” phase of website development. The primary goal of a Creative Brief is to inspire creativity in your design team and inform them about your branding, marketing, and demographics. It helps lay the foundation for the creative professionals to develop creative deliverables for the client.

Unlike technical programming, creative design is very amorphous. For example, it’s a no-brainer that the “home page” button will link you to the home page, but there’s no right answer to how that button will look. In our creative process, we would explore questions like: What shape and size should the button be? Will the client’s brand be reflected in the button color or text treatment? Is there a sound or animation connected to the button? As you can see the creative definition is not as defined a process, even with something as simple as a button.

A good creative brief will answer these basic questions:

  • What is this project?
  • Who is it for?
  • Why are we doing it?
  • What needs to be done?

Sometimes clients will come to us with a Creative Brief already written as part of their requirements documents. If not, we collaborate with the client in order to develop one. A Creative Brief benefits both the client as well as the design agency.

creative brief benefits diagram

Client Benefits

  • Clarifies the goals and objectives
  • Articulates facts and assumptions
  • All stakeholders can provide input
  • Builds consensus
 within the client company.
  • Provides criteria for evaluation
  • Holds the designer accountable
  • Indicates metrics for success

Design Team Benefits

  • Provides background for design
  • Uncovers truths and insights
 about the brand.
  • Reveals personality and values of the client
  • Emphasizes buy-in by client
  • Justifies designs and helps to avoid scope creep
  • Informs all members of the team
  • Provides criteria for evaluation

“No creative brief should ever be more than one page. Ever. And if it is, then your agency isn’t done yet.

If the brief is ten pages long, the creative team will hardly be inspired and may not read any of it.”

–   Will Burns

A Creative Brief is purposely limited to one page. This is because most designers would not be inspired if they had to digest many pages describing the project. It would stifle their creative mojo and lead to a mediocre project. But, this being said, there can be accompanying documents that will provide more details for the design team.

Following is a list of a few ancillary documents that help add more specifics to the Creative Brief.

  • Background — what is the background of the project? Why is it being done? Is there any research that helps to describe the situation?

  • Target audience — who are they? what do they already think about this subject? Is there anything that should be avoided?

  • Competitors: Who is the competition? What are they telling the audience that we should be telling them?

  • Mandatory elements — such as the client’s logo and brand style guide.

  • Timeline — how soon is this needed? How many rounds (revisions) will this project undergo?

  • Budget — how much can be spent to get this developed?
  • Approvals — who needs to give the “okay” on the client side, what is the approval process?

Perhaps the most famous Creative Brief is the one Mick Jagger sent to Andy Warhol for the cover of their album, “Sticky Fingers.”

creative brief example


To recap, a Creative Brief can benefit any project, whether for the design for a single email campaign or for a complete website design and development project. Most design agencies will have their own version of a Creative Brief. You can download ours here. If you have questions about website creative or would like more information, please contact us.

Richard Parr
by Richard Parr
Posted: January 25, 2016