Six Tips for Better Project Briefs



Six Tips for Better Project Briefs

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  • A brief should be the starting point for most activities at work, and a clear, concise brief that fits on one page is ideal.
  • A great brief has six core elements: problem, audience, objective, insight, essentials, and actions.
  • The problem should be expressed succinctly, the audience should be specific, and the objective should be a simple sentence or paragraph that sums up the goal.
  • The best insights come from observing the problem, and the essentials are the must-have principles needed for the project to work.
  • The call to action should be specific and actionable, and the brief should be circulated for comments to ensure everyone is on the same page.


A clear and concise brief is a crucial component of project management, providing a roadmap for the team to follow in order to achieve their goals. Briefs have been used across various industries for decades, outlining project objectives and expectations. In advertising agencies, creative briefs are developed by the requestor and approved by the creative team before work commences. The document serves as a template for the creative execution, ensuring that everyone is on the same page throughout the project’s lifecycle.

Effective communication and collaboration within a team are essential themes when it comes to creating successful briefs. Clarity and conciseness in conveying information help ensure that everyone understands what is expected of them. Problem-solving and goal-oriented thinking are also important factors in creating effective briefs that can guide projects towards success. As remote work becomes more prevalent due to events such as COVID-19, clear communication through briefs will continue to grow in importance.



It’s a perennial problem working with clients where there is a limited project brief, or worse, no brief at all. This is especially problematic when it comes to design work as a venture without any sort of predetermined design looking to have a website built can create a very hit and miss outcome. The most stressful part of any project is that first reveal. Will the customer like what they see? Or have we interpreted their requests completely outside their expectations? Without a brief there is no way for us to know whether we are on track at all.

A client often has an idea of what content they would like included, but often no idea whatsoever of how it should be presented.

But creating a brief is often seen as an onerous task and one which a small venture is willing, or able, to undertake. We do our best to provide guidance at the outset, but it’s not always possible to gain the necessary level of insight into their requirements based on the time available for preparatory meetings to scope the project.

But here are six reasonably useful elements which can be incorporated in a simple document so that everybody’s expectations are under control before anything goes awry.


1. Identify the core problem

Every project which attracts investment, especially from a small venture on a tight budget, is looking for a return. Usually in the form of solving a problem. It is vital to be brutally honest with yourself at this stage and identify what the very best solution or outcome would look like. And it should be expressed as concisely as possible. Often there will be a range of problems, sometimes tangential to the main issue, but it is important to analyse exactly what is the core issue. What is the desired outcome? Focusing on this will often solve any side issues as a spinoff, in any case.


2. Think about the audience

Scoping a project for the broadest possible audience is usually a recipe to meet the needs of none. A good target market should take into account both demographic and psychographic details. In other words, who they are and what they do and what motivates them. A good tip is to imagine you are talking to a single individual as this will often generate the most creative brief. If you can simplify your target market down to a single persona you’re already well on your way to getting your project brief just right.


3. Be clear on the objective

You may have identified a problem to be solved in “item one” above, but a straightforward solution might not exist and compromises may have to be made. Nevertheless, it is essential to be crystal clear on exactly what the outcome of the project should be and ensure that is front and centre in the brief.


4. Be sure to include your insights

The business owner, or manager of the venture, needs to observe the problem and have a clear understanding of the purpose of the project. This might involve consulting team members, potential clients, anyone who could be deemed a stakeholder needs to have their insights taken into account, even if they are to be disregarded in the final brief for whatever reason. It shouldn’t be based on a hunch but to be backed up by objective information, research statistics, provable facts. All of which information will steer the brief in the right direction.


5. The essential elements

Compile a list of everything that needs to be brought together and to hand in order for the project to deliver on its objective. What are the must-haves? If you are going to tick all the boxes, you need to have decided in advance what those boxes are. Or, have an agile mechanism for removing or adding different boxes during the life-cycle of the project. All of which should be covered in the brief in order for everything to stay on the right track.


6. Next actions

The “call to action” has become a well-known phrase in modern business life. And this is most certainly a situation where the specific actions should be clearly stated, and allocated to whoever is going to ensure they are carried out. Whatever it is, make sure each action is simple and objective. In your simple document, it should conclude with who is going to do what, and ideally by when, and at what budget.


To conclude

Taking the time to consider a project brief isn’t an onerous task in itself, but can most certainly set the scene for a successful project with a valuable outcome. Simply following these guidelines and producing a short one or two page document can make all the difference.

Hopefully, this is a helpful guide, and it certainly something which we encourage our clients to consider when instructing us. Not only does it allow us to ensure that we meet their expectations in full, but it helps the business owner to clarify exactly the reasoning behind the project and the value which it will return to them.


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‌Ahrens, S. (2017). How to take smart notes : one simple technique to boost writing, learning and thinking – for students, academics and nonfiction book writers. Sönke Ahrens. (n.d.). Zettelkasten knowledge and info management • Zettelkasten Method. [online] Available at: [Accessed 19 Jul. 2023].

‌Forte, T. (2022). Building a second brain : a proven method to organize your digital life and unlock your creative potential. New York: Atria Books.



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