Briefs. They’re some of the most time consuming, tedious documents to put together during a creative project, but they are also the most important. Whether you’re launching a large scale website overhaul or developing a one off newspaper advertisement, the brief to your creative team member needs needs to be clear and thorough for her to best understand exactly what you’re envisioning.
Unfortunately, most briefs are anything but clear and thorough. Short, confusing (and confused), and lacking important details, most client briefs I’ve seen are hardly of the quality required to yield excellent creative output. Experienced creatives will sometimes send clients brief templates to avoid this situation, but often they will simply try to make the most of the information they are given and create what they believe matches the requirements. But the hard truth is that the worse the brief, the worse the output. Garbage in, garbage out.
If you want to avoid wasting both your and your creative team’s time, here are my top tips for putting together a quality brief:
Explain your objective: While you may know exactly why you are advertising a certain service in a certain magazine, your graphic designer may not. Offer this information and explain what you are trying to achieve. This context gives the designer a better idea of what may be needed to make this advertisement successful. I’ve often found that when I provide enough background information, creatives will come back with better ideas to meet my objective than what I had originally planned.
Offer visual or written references to what is swirling around in your head: Creatives are amazing, but they are not mind readers. I rarely ever submit a brief without a visual or written example to better explain what I am thinking. Even one example can help steer writers and designers in the right direction. For design projects, if I don’t have a clear visual example, a mood board generally helps to get my idea across.
Clearly mention deadlines: Nothing kills a project with a slower, more painful death than a lack of deadlines. Set your expectations on deliverable dates early on and if it’s a large project, set milestones.
Meet in person: This is one tip I would urge you to always apply. Nothing is more effective at explaining a project than one on one meetings. Meetings shouldn’t replace a written brief, as many mistakenly believe, but they provide the opportunity to go over the brief together and dispel any misunderstandings. If you cannot meet in person, Skype is a fantastic alternative and I easily work across borders using this tool.
The next time you have a project that requires an external brief, please take the time to write a document that clearly explains it. The better the input, the better the output. I know this to be true without exception.