When you embark on a creative exercise it’s always good practice to develop a brief. Any creative professional can tell you how excited they get by a good brief. What defines a good brief is the direction it provides. It states the challenge, defines the parameters of the design and the outcome that’s desired.
A design brief isn’t meant to be instructional; rather it shares the intention of the creative output and saves guesswork for everyone involved. Designers love boundaries with the most common being budgetary, brand guidelines and your objectives.
What are the main steps in a design brief?
- Project Background
- Target audience
- Design requirements
- Contacts (any relevant stakeholders)
Why does a brief matter?
Firstly when you take the time to write a brief it’s a sign that you’re invested in the output. Always be mindful of the saying ‘garbage in, garbage out’ when you start a creative exercise to be clear why a brief is important. Secondly, you’re more likely to achieve what you’re after, with fewer variations and at a lower cost, if you communicate your requirements in a brief. Again, limit the guesswork your designer needs to do and you’ll both know when you reach the best result. Thirdly, a brief is especially relevant when you work and make decisions with a team. When the stakeholders all agree on the brief they’re committed to a common goal and direction, they agree on their project roles and responsibilities, and they agree the framework to assess the creative output. The brief helps you and your team focus on your objectives rather than being sidetracked by details that won’t change your outcome. For example, consider your target market – they might love and respond to the creative concept even though you don’t like it. Think of an ad that annoys you…it’s probably highly relevant and enjoyable for the intended target market if not for you.
All too often someone can hijack the project based on their personal preference. For this reason alone it’s worth having a brief in place to keep everyone honest.
Who decides good design?
On the surface it can appear that design is subjective. We could appraise different designs and I’m sure our opinions would differ. This is probably why around the world there’s not one agreed standard to define good design. However, there are common factors that support good design outcomes:
- Functionality, works efficiently
- Aesthetically pleasing
- User friendly
- Ground breaking, sets a new standard for future
Recently international design commentator Alice Rawsthorn was in Australia to discuss the importance of design, the impact it has on our lives and how good design makes it better, bad design worse. Industrial design geniuses like Philip Starck and Marc Newson know that if a design is difficult to use or operate then its flaw is revealed and more work is needed to get it right. Their designs strive to give us everything we need and nothing we don’t.
Great designers know simplicity is very hard to achieve. In the words of Joe Sparano: “good design is obvious, great design is transparent”.
If you’re not convinced good design matters then you only have to look at the success of Apple. In the beginning Apple wasn’t content to deliver another version of a beige box; instead it introduced the iMAC with its translucent colour plastic casing that was hard to ignore. It’s a great example of differentiation through design, not just the way it looks but also how it operates. Jonathan Ive, Apple’s Senior Vice President of Design, leads a team to ensure that each new computer and device is among the best in its category.
What’s hot: Design as a strategy
Beyond a creative brief, there’s more awareness than ever that we’re in a design led time. Companies like Samsung, Suncorp, Westpac, Telstra, SAP and Deloitte have employed design thinking and methodologies to reframe the way they do business. They use design thinking to reinvent business models, promote innovation within and be strategic. However you choose to apply design in your work, it’s too important to ignore or undertake without a clear brief.