The creative brief marks the point where the speculation stops and the work begins, and at all stages in the design process it’s the point of reference that both designers and clients can go back to for clarification. Remember that good design is a sound business investment. As befits something of this significance, it’s not to be dashed off in half an hour on the basis of a few back-of-the-napkin scribbles. Ample time spent on a thorough creative brief will be rewarded with a smooth-running project and worthwhile outcome.
What To Include, What To Leave Out
A brief should set out:
- What you want to achieve: rather than how you want to achieve it – give goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-related.
- The issue you face: be it new competition or falling exports, not the new products or services you want to launch as the solution.
- Apparently obvious but nevertheless crucial information on what kind of business you are, what you do what your competition is, predicted market evolutions/changes, what marketing you do and what your target markets are.
Just going through the process of putting these fundamentals down on paper can expose and resolve a host of hitherto unexpressed differences within your organisation about what everyone took for granted before.
When you’ve tackled these areas, move on to more specific information, including:
- Technical requirements: manufacturing and distribution details, pending legislation that will affect you, and environmental issues; could all throw up constraints for the finished design.
- Project management: include timescales, budgets, resources, arrangements for formal reviews and the make-up and roles of your own project team.
It is also essential to establish now, at least in outline, who will own the intellectual property rights to the material being produced by the designer. While a creative brief should be concise and cogent rather than rambling, it’s also a good idea not to assume any knowledge on the part of the designer, and it’s better to provide more detail, perhaps in the form of appended documents or signposts to other sources, than to leave possible question marks.
Go Beyond The Board
All aspects of a creative brief benefit from input from as wide a range of people within an organisation as possible, not just a select few. Consulting widely means you’re less likely to overlook important issues and details that could complicate the process later on, while the resulting brief will have ‘ buy-in’ from people who feel they’ve been involved in creating it.
Don’t be afraid to communicate emotively in a creative brief if you think it will promote a shared vision or passion about what the outcome should be. For instance, saying you want an exhibition that ‘stops people in their tracks’ may be more effective than asking for ‘an installation which communicates attractively and engagingly with it’s audience’. Although it’s not an absolute requirement, there are benefits to the designer actually helping to construct a detailed creative brief, not least the greater likelihood that both designer and client will sing from the same proverbial hymn sheet. Design input at this early stage could also give you a valuable new perspective on your perceived problem before your thinking on it becomes too rigid.
Don’t Fear Flexibility
It’s possible, once a project is underway, that a brief may need to change. This doesn’t make it a bad brief, and provided changes are fully discussed and agreed they won’t undermine the core brief.