Tips for Designers – How to Successfully Execute A Design Brief, when working for a Team AND without committing Mass Murder!
As a Graphic Designer being briefed by a client is the preliminary stage of any creative work. Delivering a good concise and informative brief is essential to create an understanding between Client and Supplier which will enable a good working relationship and will produce the required results.
If the Designer does not understand the Design Brief or the Client is unable to communicate exactly what they want serious problems will occur. Time and money will be wasted and tempers may rise on both sides.
The Client should have prepared a brief with all the information that could be required for the job in hand. The more relevant information they can impart the easier the task for the Designer to unravel the necessary requirements. What they want to achieve, their objectives, the functions, the target audience, features, benefits, where and how it will be used….contact information, product specifications, prices… branding specifications, legislation and legal requirements etc etc…
This is all normal information that is needed and a good in-depth discussion with a one to one meeting or several can thrash it out with good communication.
Working with a team of more than one is a little different!
It has its advantages in creating a broader more diverse range of ideas and creativity can fly! However this can be plagued with the disadvantages that differences of opinion can cause. Even before agreeing on the final result determining a brief for the actual project can cause major delays. Everyone has their own ideas on how it should look and what it should say… Problems lie in agreeing on what is actually required, how it will work or be implemented as well as the basic size, shape, colour or even the final format, what ever that may be.
If two people separately described a camel to two different blind people who then drew it, do you think the result would be an exact copy or even look remotely the same? …Although both sighted people have seen the animal.
Two people can describe in words exactly what they want from the ideas that they have in their minds, but in reality the results can be translated in very different ways. When the resulting images are displayed in front of them it can be entirely different from the expected result.
Deciphering other peoples ideas and creating an end result is a Designer’s job but when two or more people are the ‘Client’ the job becomes more difficult.
A team of people can cause even more disharmony and trouble for a Designer if not organised and in agreement. More time can be spent debating the requirements and arguing over preconceived ideas than the actual job takes.
Without psychic communication the prospect is impossible.
The following few guidelines may help to set out a good working practice when embarking on a Design Brief with more than one person…
Assuming you have been given a Design Brief…
- Make sure both (All) parties agree they are happy with the document first and that they are in agreement that it is an accurate interpretation of their requirements.
- If there is no Design Brief supply a questionnaire of your own, but each person must answer it in their own words.
- Ask for examples of images/similar work they like and images they don’t like.
- Before doing anything else arrange a meeting in person with all decision makes and people of the team who will be involved. This is possible on google hangouts or skype and essential for everyone to meet and agree on how they wish to proceed. Any differences of opinion can be discussed and solved at this stage. You will also get a feel of the relationships with in the team and how they work with each other. Who leads, who follows etc… it may not necessarily be who is actually in charge!!!
- Changes in the Team will occur if the job is ongoing or taking months to fulfil but make sure you have a constant contact who is kept up to date for continuity in communication.
- Even a good team with a prepared Design Brief, who have ironed out the issues before involving a Designer, can still be scuppered along the way if a higher authority has not been totally informed or consulted.
- It is no good working with a team who do not have the power of final decision.
- At each stage document the meetings. Any changes requested, any change of specifications. Document all agreements and disagreements.
- Full meeting notes may be crucial to remind the team of the discussions that have taken place.
- At each stage of the Design Brief get approval from the powers that be. Do not let the office junior relay a message without clarification from above!
- Time and money is being spent, the client needs to take this seriously, outline your costs and time expectations from the beginning. Create a production schedule for each stage of the project. Everyone will know what is expected and if there are any hold ups or problems the delays will be relayed not brushed under the carpet with fingers crossed.
- If you haven’t had the required or needed response in time for a deadline make sure you have given enough warning and explained the ramifications of the delays including possible extra costs that may be applied.
Most disastrous scenarios can be avoided with good communication and clear understanding all the way through the project. Minute each stage, each decision, make notes on phone calls and keep all correspondence to and from each person. You may remember a conversation from yesterday but you wont remember who said what after three more phone calls and three weeks down the line.
Keep track of any extra work you may be asked to do which was not included, make it clear that it is extra to the agreed price of the job and give the clients a choice for going ahead and what the extra costs will be.
However good the relationship is with the Client(s) never be afraid to document progress or changes to the agreements on either side. The better the documentation the easier to keep the relationship intact if problems occur and either side needs to refer back.
“Belt and Braces” one of my Bosses used to say, and never take anything for granted that people have to understand or that you think they should know!
Situations typically only happen when you haven’t followed procedures and Designers are the worst for being a bit too laid back at times!!