Have a good look at this illustration. This was produced by a young pupil whose teacher asked the class to illustrate what one of their parents did for a living.

Now read the letter his mother wrote to the teacher, having seen the drawing.

Priceless! But it also helps to illustrate one of my all time bugbears.

I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve heard other designers complain about having a project rejected, insisting that what they produced was ‘on brief’. What they seem to miss is that, more often than not, being ‘on brief’ is less than half the battle.

As much as we’d like them to, our clients don’t spend their days perfecting their briefs – most marketing managers spend less than 20% of their time working with their agencies (and there are plenty of companies who don’t even employ marketing managers). We’re lucky if we get a brief at all!

In my opinion, designers or agencies should write their own briefs – based on meaningful conversations and meetings, and on our own ability to get under the skin of our clients’ businesses. This is probably the most crucial stage of any project, so it shouldn’t be rushed. Only when we truly understand our clients’ business challenges, issues and goals can we really know what they are trying to achieve. So only then can we offer any constructive advice or use our creativity to help them get where they want to be.

Great design is not just about being ‘on brief’ – it’s about using one’s insight, understanding, experience and creative skills to help clients identify, rationalise and achieve real, specific objectives. To expect our clients to summarise everything we need to know in a clear, succinct, exhaustive brief that will tell us exactly what we need to deliver, is to be completely unrealistic. That’s why, in my view, the best designers are also the best listeners.

(Opinion: Jim Green – MD)

1 comment so far

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  1. Some nice points…but whose ‘view’ is it?

    “Great design is not about being ?on brief? ? it?s about using one?s insight, understanding, experience and creative skills to help clients identify, rationalise and achieve real, specific objectives” I agree in principle, although to effectively meet those objectives, surely you first need to establish what they are, which in itself formulates the brief?… ‘Great’ design might not be on brief, but effective design usually is I’d say.

    As a designer, I personally see a brief as the essential go-to checklist and as both a leash and a creative sand-box where you can find creativity within it’s restrictions. I agree with your primary points, I am too a big abdicate of agencies writing creative briefs also, using their creativity, problem solving skills and experience to identity and agree upon an overall goal with the client.

    But the most concerning thing for me is that in that picture, no one is wearing any clothes!

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