Strategies For Solving A Creative Brief


In commercial creative work you are paid to find ways to communicate successfully with an audience. Your job is to ensure that your client’s audience ‘gets the message’ you have been employed to send.

One the hardest things to do as a creative is to come up with ideas in a pressure environment. However, I find that by breaking down the process of tackling a brief into stages, you can reduce the risk of becoming overwhelmed by the task you have been assigned.

1. Do not ‘think outside the box’
For me, this is an utterly meaningless statement. When I receive a brief I break it down into its component parts. It’s a process of simplification that can best be achieved when you cut away anything irrelevant. Think only about the message you have been asked to communicate to a particular audience and why.

During the briefing, don’t be afraid to ask questions, even ones you think might seem stupid.

2. Take your time to study the brief
Every brief comes with a deadline, however, I’ve always felt that with proper effort in the early stages of planning for a brief, you can save vast amounts of time later on. As philosopher John Dewey said “A problem well stated is half-solved”.

When I was studying for my Art Degree my tutor would always encourage me to follow a process of responding to questions I have posed myself using sketchbooks. ‘What if…? or ‘Why does…?’
Once this process has been completed and every idea explored it is then time to work the ideas up into a larger piece of work. Although I find the process quicker now that I work with design briefs it’s a very similar principle.

Most briefs require asking yourself these simple questions:

  • What is the purpose of this brief?
  • What is the message I have been asked to send?
  • Who are the people I have been asked to send it to?
  • What is my client’s need?

3. Ask yourself why the obvious is significant and try to understand it.

What are your initial thoughts? What are your instincts telling you. Write them down or make visuals if you can. A quick doodle or sketch will help continually throughout the process by sparking new ideas. With enough of these early ideas you can pick out the common theme or what is connecting them.

(Keep these sketches and ideas safe, you never know when they might be useful later on!)

4. Know the product
The goal for anyone working in marketing should be to grow the business they’re working for. It’s really important to do your homework on what they sell and get hands-on experience if you can. Know anyone who uses it? It really pays to speak to people and gauge their feelings on it.

5. Know your audience, know your audience and know your audience
So critical I wrote it three times. It amazes me how many advertisements, websites or other creative work I regularly see which seem to fall short at this stage. Simply put, it’s about putting yourself in the position of a potential customer or user. It’s about knowing the difference between the decisions they make during a purchase (for example) and the decisions others might make. What is informing them?
You say “Know your”, I say “audience”, and repeat.

6. Have fun
After you’ve brought everything together it’s now time to use what you have learnt to act as a catalyst for creating ideas. As a designer this is usually the part of the process that drives you and makes you want to improve on your last brief. Use your own rhythm, listen to your own instincts and take the idea forward.


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