how to create a solid brief

How to create a solid brief

By Liz

So you’ve sent work for approval and the feedback you receive is finally a description of what was required in the first place. We’ve all been there – whether it’s with a client or within your own team. A solid brief can determine the success of a project but is often not given proper attention because communicating properly takes effort. Here is a look at how to create a good brief and some practical tips for extracting one.

What is a brief?

A brief is a set of instructions given to a person about a job or task. The principles outlined below are relevant to both external (between your team and clients) and internal (between team members) briefs.

Why is a solid brief important?

  • It is the foundation of any project and has a huge impact on your relationship
  • It saves everyone time and money
  • It leads to better, more effective work that clearly delivers a return on investment

How to create a good brief

A brief usually has two parts:

1. Problem-solving

A good question to hold in your mind during this phase is:

“Where are we now, and where do we want to be?”

In this question, ‘now’ refers to background information – everything that you need to make strategic decisions. ‘Want to be’ refers to business and marketing goals.

This is the conceptual stage of the brief which takes into account the growth that this activity will generate. The goals of the work are established in this part of the brief. Dream big about these goals, have a brainstorming session and throw everything out there.

2. Practical expectations

A good question to hold in your mind during this phase is:

“What are we doing to get there and how will we know when we have arrived?”

In this questions ‘what are we doing’ refers to the strategy and audience to achieve the goals articulated above and arriving refers to success criteria. This is when you pick your best ideas from the conceptual stage and turn them into a plan. When putting this plan together, consider the basic questions: who, when, what, how, where.

This is the practical stage of the brief. You know you have a good brief when expectations for both parties are clear. This is a useful checklist to ensure you’ve got everything covered:

  1. Clearly defined objectives of the project
  2. Well articulated target audience
  3. Detailed scope of the work
  4. Design/tone considerations
  5. Timeframes
  6. Success criteria
  7. Budget


1.Get the brief written down and approved

It’s crucial to have something written down. This means that a team has to arrive at a consensus before briefing you and it means you have something to refer to if the scope of the job starts to creep. Even if you have to interpret what you’ve been given into a document and get that signed off, it’s worth it. Be clear and concise but thorough.

2. Get additional resources to help communicate

Getting a person’s vision out of their head and onto paper can be very difficult but it’s important because it’s what they’re expecting from you. This can also help ensure consensus if you’re receiving a brief from a team. Ask for alternative resources to help communication such as:

  • References/example links
  • Mock ups
  • Hand-drawn sketches
  • Screenshots

3. Feedback

Explain the process of client feedback clearly and give instructions about what format you need it in. Get everything in writing. Even if you have a conversation on the phone, follow up with an email.

4. Stick to your guns

Don’t quote or start working until you have the right information to be able to do a good job. Explain why the brief is important in terms that are attractive (e.g. “The fuller the brief, the more accurately I can quote”). Use a form or document that you fill in together.

– Liz