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How to break down a brief

A step-by-step guide in simplifying complex briefs

Illustration by Roseanna Courtney

Creative briefs are necessary – they include key information about the project and identify the areas to focus on. On the other hand, they can also be a bit overwhelming when you’re trying to come up with creative solutions. 

Whether you’re an emerging creative soon to be tackling real world briefs, or you're thinking of entering the New Blood Awards, D&AD Masterclass trainer Kit Altin, shows you how to break down a brief in less than ten minutes, and set a clear path for your campaign.

Step 1: Five minutes

Take that brief in hand, and get a highlighter ready.

Read all the information it has to offer. Think about what the really essential points are, what specific words communicate and the key pieces of info that jump out. Highlight them.

There's probably a lot there, and probably A LOT of words flying around. So now you’re going to break down the creative brief into just 16 words. These 16 words should communicate what the brief is asking you to do. Imagine you're giving this to someone instead of the full creative brief. How can you get them to understand what the task is? Switch up the sentences you've highlighted, pull in your key words and phrases, or just write a new 16-word brief from scratch.

Step 2: Two minutes

Now you have your 16 words, really think again about what the crucial points are.

How many words could you shave and still communicate what the creative brief is asking? Could you get rid of eight words? Ok. Do it. The brief in eight words. Rearrange the ones you have, or use eight new words or mix it up.

Step 3: One minute

You've got it down to the bare bones now, right? Those eight words are all gold and all completely vital. But which could you do without? Could you do without another four?

Try and get it down to just four words. Remember, you're trying to communicate as much of the information from the full creative brief as possible. Say a lot, in a little. 

Step 4: One minute

What next? You guessed it. Halve it again. Two words. Go.

And there you have it. Your whole brief squished into just two words.

This exercise will help you understand the creative brief. Now, it'd be silly to actually go by two words when there's a whole wealth of info sitting there in the full brief. But, all those other words will seem like a luxury now. As you start developing your ideas, remember to stay true to your two words. Keep referring back to them, are you getting those two things across?

Want to know more about New Blood Awards? Keep your creativity inspired with bi-weekly tips and tricks to help you craft your New Blood Awards entry, as well as career insights, thought leadership, and the latest news and events. Sign up for New Blood news.

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