"Just make it look pretty". I can’t begin to count how many times I’ve heard these words. Fighting the urge to run for the hills, I take a deep breath and begin the process of filtering out what is meant by “pretty.“
Usually this statement boils down to a few key points, make it functional, easy to read, pleasing to look at and elicit a response from the viewer (aka “actionable”).
These key points are great, but just part of the puzzle. It doesn’t answer the who, what, when, where, why and how questions—all necessary and relevant to designing creative content. How are these questions best answered? Typically via a Creative Brief, ideally put together by the Client (sometimes the Designer) or in the best case scenario by both parties. This process gives everyone a chance to add relevant information to create an easy reference tool for use during the project cycle.
A creative brief is important for both Designer and Client. It will have background information about the project, such as why the product/service was created. It will also include any branding or creative information about the product/service, such as taglines, logos or boilerplates and list any key stakeholders or decision makers in the project. Most importantly, it will have answers to questions such as who is the target audience? What are the benefits and features of the product or service? When is the project due? Where is the product/service available? Why is this product/service desirable? Lastly, it will also state what is the “actionable" goal or objective of the project. How does the viewer interact with the final creative? Ideally this would be a short sentence of the kind of response the creative should elicit the viewer to do, feel or think.
In short, the Creative Brief serves as a road map for the creative direction of the project. It can also be used to measure the effectiveness of the final creative work. Does it meet the objective? Does it convey the intended message? Is it on brand? Does it speak to the target audience?
Sometimes it can be tempting to “Just make it look pretty”, but you’re only doing everyone a disservice by overlooking this handy tool that all parties can reference and use to measure goals. Taking a couple of hours at the beginning to set up a creative brief will save everyone time, money, heartache and disappointment. It builds a common bond that helps everyone work together in a timely and more efficient manner. “Actionable” responses from creative work translates to more money for the Client and more work and referrals for the Designer. Now that is a more effective and compelling outcome than “just make it look pretty.”
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