When getting dressed to go to work in the morning, most people start with the basics: their underwear. And I’m not talking socks here, I’m talking briefs. Underpants. It’s your base layer. It’s important to start with this layer first, as it ensures that everything you put on afterwards fits on top neatly. So briefs first, dressing up second. Unless you are Superman of course, in which case briefs go on the outside. 

It’s no different in a creative process. The creative process is a complicated one and, writers, designers and developers work hard to get to an end result. Usually they have to work with vague descriptions of what the end product should look like. They’ll ask difficult questions to understand the needs of the request better, but too often people asking for copy, an illustration or feature are a little unclear themselves what it is they are looking for.

The creative will get to work with whatever information they have managed to extract from their ‘client’ and, some time later, present the end result. Sometimes the feedback is positive, but generally it’s disappointing. “This is a nice bicycle, but I want a train.”, “I like what you did there, but what I really need is this.” or “This looks great, now can you just change this one little thing please? And also this one, and this one, and that one…”.

During those feedback rounds, that’s when the real brief becomes clear. Unfortunately creatives aren’t Supermen and Superwomen, so giving them briefs after they’ve finished their work is completely useless and, to be frank, a huge waste of time.

The thing with creative briefs is that it’s not really as difficult as you may think it is. It can actually be exciting to write one, as it gives you so much insight in what you are doing. It’s not just a way to help creative people produce better outputs, it is mostly a tool that can help you (yes, you) gain clarity on the project you are working on. 

Indeed, it’ll take some time. And you really need this copy / illustration / feature as soon as possible, but consider it an opportunity to look at every aspect of your project. Who is your audience? Think about the tone they’ll respond to, what core message you want to give them and what you want them to take away. It’s important to get this right. Not just to get better creative output, but to make your project succeed.
If you want to get stuff right the first time, a brief will definitely help you get there quicker, with less revisions and a happier creative team to boot. It helps you produce better content, as well as assuring that you are connecting with your audience. That’s triple awesome points for you!

Set clear goals. What are you trying to achieve? Be specific with the details, but leave room for the team to come up with creative ideas to execute these. Creative ideas is what creatives do best. Describe what it is you want, for whom and what you’d like that audience to do with it. That sets boundaries for the creative team to work within. They can then figure out how it’s made, in what colour and decide on the exact wording.  

Apart from being clear, it’s also important to be realistic. Creative processes take time, and your in-house team of creatives work on many projects, not just the ones you need them to work on. So an achievable deadline is key. Also plan time for translations, (print) production, and so on. The product is not always finished when a creative team has done its job. 

I could write a comprehensive list of things that should or could be included in a briefing, but there are already many good articles written on how to brief a team, and what to consider while doing so. I recommend  The killer creative brief as well as 10 things it must include. Within Akvo, the Marketing and Communications team is implementing a briefing form that will help team members formulate their briefs step by step. That way we can produce awesome work together. Like Superman, but with our briefs on the inside instead of on the outside. 

Linda Leunissen is Akvo’s art director, based in London. You can follow her on Twitter (@lindadutches).