Tackle a creative brief head on, even if you’ve only got one hour. 

Posted by Rach 15/10/19

Email incoming – it’s a brief, and it’s got a deadline. How am I going to tackle this thing? In this moment there are a range of thoughts that pop into my mind, but more often than not, it’s one of these two things.

‘Oh my goodness, that brief is awesome, I’m so inspired, I MUST design this straight away!’


‘Oh my goodness, that brief is confusing. I have no idea what it means. I think I’ll get a coffee. Maybe it will make more sense after caffeine?’

Most of the time, the caffeine doesn’t help. I end up where I left off, just a little more energetic. At this point, it’s time to take action. But my next step always depends on how much time I have before the deadline hits. Everyone’s process will be different, but here’s how I like to scope out a job before putting cursor to canvas. 

If you have 3 months:

Yippee! You have ages to get this done! Yes you do, but three months can whittle away quickly if you’re not organised. Don’t be tempted to throw it on the back-burner to deal with so you can go out and play in the Autumn sunshine – because Winter is coming. Instead, hold a planning session with the team that will be working with you on the project, or if you’re a one man band, have it with yourself. Full approval to talk to yourself here, no one will think you’re crazy.

Start with a pen and paper, and map out the pain points that the brief is trying to resolve. You never know what inspiration will strike when you reverse the briefing process. Next, map out a to-do list of what you need to achieve to produce a great result – a bit like a shopping list. Lay it out in a way that makes sense to you, that you will refer back to throughout your project period, and organise it chronologically so you can tick off tasks as you do them. By organising micro tasks you mitigate the risk of feeling overwhelmed by the project as a whole, and also of missing a crucial step along the way.

One of the best things about a planning session is that it will usually highlight a list of questions you may have for your client, that will help you clarify the brief and nail it, first go.   

If you have 1 week:

OK, so this is a little more pressing, and you probably have a bunch of other projects to get out the door while you get your head around this one. Dedicate yourself an hour or so of brief-time. It’s like me-time, but instead of getting a hot stone massage, you’re reading your brief, immersing yourself in it, and researching the client’s brand, content topic or their competitors.

Draw up some scamps of any ideas that come to mind as you go. Anything you can do in this hour of power to soak up additional information will give your project more context to work with. Again, this mini planning session will likely highlight some holes in the brief so you can go back to your client and get them answered before you start designing. 

If you have 1 hour:

Assuming that you’ve clarified that the deadline absolutely cannot move, make that coffee. Even if it doesn’t help, it can be a great placebo. Take a deep breath, make a quick to-do list if you need one. Turn your phone on silent and warn your colleagues or your cat that you’re tapping out to get this done.

If you’re given a deadline like this, chances are your client will make changes on the fly, and now is the time to be agile. Remember, they’ve asked you to take this on because they trust you, and they know you’ve got this. OK GO!

Rach is a senior creative at BlueMelon, who are proud to be a LinkedIn Partner creative agency across a number of countries around the world. You can join the Blummie community here.