For years, social media has been abuzz over the necessity of a design brief when producing a creative marketing asset. Writing these briefs has always been a critical best practice for design projects. This is especially true when it comes to reaching a target audience—no one’s disputing that fact.
Recently, the discussions have shifted and some design professionals are writing creative briefs less frequently. Why? They simply struggle to find the time to get it done. In addition, marketing departments are becoming busier and briefs can feel extra time-consuming and inconvenient, maybe even bureaucratic.
Certainly there are circumstances where a brief may not be necessary. For example, you could skip a creative brief for very simple projects or an add-on to an existing and well-vetted project. And when a designer and client develop a deep trust and clear expectations, it can be easier to work without a formal brief. But in the majority of cases, entering into a design project without a brief can feel like flying blind.
One could argue that’s a creative brief is more important than ever before. After all, flying blind simply isn’t a sustainable in design. Let’s set aside the social media beef for a second and take a look at five reasons a brief is essential in the production of marketing assets.
5 Reasons a Creative Brief is Vital for Marketing Asset Creation
There is an increased demand for marketing departments to produce large volumes of marketing assets. In response, those teams must be super agile in their methods for delivering those assets, so it’s critical the process is extremely efficient. And that starts with a well-written brief.
Here are the reasons a well-produced creative brief is a critical step in the marketing asset creation process:
The details are opaque.
Let’s start with the obvious: You can’t design something you don’t really understand. What problem is this project solving? What are the objectives and expectations? Does the client have a vision in mind and is it realistic? A design brief puts everyone on the same page.
If a design project is unsuccessful, the chances are good that the brief was insufficient or nonexistent. In addition, if you want to reach your target audience (and who doesn’t?), it can only help to spend a few minutes at the very beginning of your project thinking about how to do that.
A creative brief shortens the project completion time.
A well-written creative brief ultimately shortens the time it takes to complete a project. It’s a tool that facilitates clear and thorough communication at the beginning of the design process. This helps head off the inevitable revisions and course corrections that are a natural byproduct of poor planning. You may regret cutting corners upfront to save time because of the time it takes to fix things after you’ve finished the project.
There’s a greater understanding of a client’s goals.
Marketing teams today exist in an age of growing accountability. Every bit of content produced today can be tracked through a code, followed via analytics, measured through an open rate and monitored through views and downloads. Like never before, marketing projects must demonstrate their contribution in achieving business objectives. The design brief that clearly articulates those objectives serves as an anchor for the design team: do not stray from what is important.
The approval process is much shorter.
Ambiguous goals and unclear objectives coupled with vague statements like, “I’d like a really clean-looking design for this brochure,” are a fact of life for design professionals. Working with management or clients during the briefing process forces clarity upstream which minimizes difficult confrontations during the review and approval cycle. Plus, defending design aesthetic choices becomes easier when a creative asset is produced with the ultimate business objective top of mind.
Suggesting to the CEO that the font he likes better is not consistent with what appeals to the target persona brings the discussion right back to what is important: designing an asset that is consistent with business objectives. The briefing process is as much about anticipating obstacles as it is about understanding and aligning objectives. It’s Better to get clarification during the planning phase than when you’re in the middle of proofing.
The end product will be higher quality.
A higher quality product is a direct result of setting clear objectives, aligning with business objectives, and vetting expectations up front.
If you’re a project manager who is in charge of marketing campaigns, higher quality is exactly what you’re going for. But — let’s be honest — the entire creative team should want that as well. Each person on the team has a vested interest in producing quality work for the sake of keeping their job. (Not to mention, everyone feels more motivated if they have a chance to be proud of their work.)
As David Trott, author of Creative Mischief says, “The brief was always supposed to be a springboard for great work. Not a straitjacket.” So let the design brief act as your guiding instrument. Remember, time spent on a well-designed brief is an investment paying handsome dividends: a greatly improved process, a higher quality of output, and, ultimately, a more trusting relationship with your team or client.
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