As a designer (in-house or otherwise), you need to know what to ask your client, and you need a good understanding of what can truly be achieved through design. For those wanting design work, you need to be clear about the problem you want solved through graphic design. Then each party must come together with their respective expertise, desires, and understanding and devise a visual design strategy that achieves what you mutually agree is the best approach. This process, in essence, is what a creative brief formalizes in writing.
When you start to write the creative brief, you want to write in a way that specifies what you understand is the achievable goal, and the path to getting there. After doing this, the document must be provided to the other party to scrutinize and suggest adjustments. In this way, you each can ensure that the goals are understood at a rudimentary level. Finally, at the end of the process, the client (and sometimes the designer) should sign it to ratify that each party understands what is to be expected, and what constitutes success and completion.
Here are some elements that need to be considered:
- What needs to be designed and why? What problems will the design solve?
- Who is the audience, and why should they care? What do you want them to do as a result?
- What are the legal, cost, size, etc., limitations and stipulations that need to be adhered to?
- How will this design be used?
- What will make this design successful? (For designers, consider the impact of color, cultural and visual trends, how long the design needs to last, and its usage.)
- What is the timeline or milestones that should be anticipated during the design process?
- How will we know when the project is complete? (Such as when the design is delivered, or the website goes up live.)
The creative brief will help avoid a lot of miscommunication. However, with anything in this world, it isn't fool-proof. There will be times when you may find that something just wasn't anticipated fully, you forgot an important detail, or that a disagreement comes up regardless of what the brief says. What do you do then?
Let's save that for next time.
In the meantime, check out a few useful resources on this subject:
What to ask design clients
Writing project outlines
Writing a creative brief