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The eternal sunshine of the perfect creative brief

What is the secret to the perfect design? Is it the project itself? Is it the design team you’ve chosen to collaborate with? Is it the budget, the timeline or the timing in the economy? Is it the target audience or maybe the technical detail? The perfect colour palette, the quirky copy and the top-notch imagery or layout?

Well, yes – and no. Yes, because without the technical expertise and the careful consideration of all these factors any design is bound to fall flat. But also, no, because these considerations are not all one has to take into account. Especially since very often these very factors all hinge on one key thing – the creative brief.

How often have you seen a simple rebrand, packaging design or marketing campaign turn into a nightmare of back and forth emails and extended deadlines? And that all because of miscommunication that could easily have been avoided if all involved were in on the game plan. “So, how do I do this?”, you ask. “How do I get all my colleagues or board members as well as a diverse design team I’ve never met on the same page?”

Well, you’ve come to the right place. There are only a few things you need to remember:

Thing 1 – Stick to the usual suspects

Set up a small executive board of decision-makers of about 3 – 5 members. Try to keep the amount of people who will have a say to the minimum. Remember, the more people you involve the more conflicting opinions may arise later on. Keep in mind that your board will make the final call on the design. Be sure to choose individuals who are trusted, experienced and representative of the larger group’s opinions.

Now get agreement on what you want. This may seem trivial, but it is easy to initially get carried away with a vision that will not make for a unanimous vote later on. Have a meeting with the executive board to discuss the exact desired outcomes, deliverables, budget, timeline and any specific preferences of the group.

Thing 2 – Know what you want, the good the bad and the ugly

An important part of getting what you want, is knowing what you want. Before rushing to contact your dream design team, get your facts straight. Write a brief background about your company and the project you would like to launch. Keep bringing your executive board back to the 5W1H – who, what, where, when, why and how.

  • Who are you as a firm? What do you value? What kind of projects have you done before and what would you like to do the same or differently this time around? Who is the target audience?

  • What does the project entail? List specific deliverables that you would like to see at the end of all this. Think of things like a new logo, stationery, corporate merchandise, website development, videos, photography, printed goods such as brochures, posters and the like as well as copy to go with these. Or perhaps a range of packaging including specific sizes. What does the design need to communicate to the target audience?

  • Where will the product be sold or exhibited? Where will the content and designs live? Do they need to work on your website or on street poles in Sandton or a billboard in New York?

  • When will the project need to be completed? When is the launch or opening day?

  • Why is this project important? Why does it need to look or function a certain way? Why now and not before or later? Top Tip: Keep in mind that your WHY is a big driver to the entire project. Losing sight of the reasons you are embarking on this design journey can only lead to disappointment and frustration for all involved.

  • How do you envision the project? How do other projects look that you would deem to be successful? Save some examples of visual references that you like in a folder or on a Pinterest board to share your vision with the design team.

Thing 3 – Some like it hot: Brief your design team

Once you’ve decided how you like it, it’s time to get the word out. Your design team is eagerly awaiting your well-thought through instructions. Set up an email setting out the main points of your decision systematically. Refer back to the 5W1H your executive board has agreed on to lead your design team in the direction you want to go. Also include the visual references you have accumulated.

In order to avoid miscommunication or confusion pick one correspondent who will be the point person in contact with the design firm to arrange for meetings, quotes and feedback. Based on your thorough briefing the firm should now be able to give you a fairly accurate indication of the hours and cost involved. Also consider a meeting, whether virtual or physical, to iron out the last wrinkles and get a feel for the team. Use this opportunity to sign off on key variables such as the quote, copy, brand names, script and voice overs for video and any other details that have been approved so far.

Thing 4 – Eat pray love all you want, we’ve got this!

Your design team should now take the design challenge, brainstorm, materialise multiple solutions and get back to you for feedback. Depending on the project you will typically get around 3 options to choose from with one or two rounds of reverts ahead so that the design can be fine-tuned to your liking. The hard part of your job is done!

Thing 5 – You’ve got mail, check it

Once you get artwork from your design team write up a concise email listing opinions and suggestions from your executive board. Consider scheduling a meeting to discuss the feedback. Since you’ve had a clear vision of what you want and you’ve been involved in the process, changes should be minimal. But if you do have specific requests remember to give clear constructive criticism. Start off by giving an indication as to what you do like so that the design team will not feel compelled to start from scratch. Clearly outline your likes and dislikes of each option and communicate how you would like to proceed given the hours and budget involved. The team should make changes as per your request and soon you will have reason enough to celebrate!

Thing 6: It’s a wonderful world – tell them all!

Now that you’ve not only found a great design team, but also managed to pull off an awesome project, stop to take it all in. Take some pictures of the marvellous end result, share them online and don’t forget to tag your design heroes when you laud their achievements!

Looking at all this and thinking “that’s great, but I haven’t even found a design team yet”? Fear not! Contact Coppercoast Branding and Design today and we’ll set you up for success in no time.

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