Friday, November 28, 2008

Why Most Graphic Design Work Needs a Creative Brief

Whenever I do a graphic design job on a freelance basis or as an employee, I've learned that producing a creative brief can spare me and the client from a world of hurt. The reason is that misplaced expectations cause the most conflict.

Imagine a situation where you hire a maid to clean your house. You may be under the impression that the maid will dust every nook and cranny, deep-clean your carpets, and throw out all your junk. However, the maid believes her job is to clean up visible dust, vacuum the carpets, and straighten up a bit. If these details are not discussed, you may be shocked at what you find when you get home, and when she wants to get paid.

This principle even works in marriage. If two people marry without even discussing their expectations (i.e. where they will live, children, philosophy of child-rearing, etc.) they are very likely to have a troubled marriage later on.

Now hear this! There is incredible power in unmet expectations. Again, I say, there is incredible power in unmet expectations. Oh, and by the way, did I mention that there is incredible power in unmet expectations?

Enter the creative brief.

A creative brief is an outline that delineates what is to be considered successful completion of a graphic design project. The client and designer need to be in agreement similar to a contract. However, a creative brief is not the same as a contract because it has a different role. It's role is the management of expectations, not a legal agreement.

For instance, when a designer and client agree to work together for … say … the creation of a logo, a contract specifies a legal agreement between each party as to what is expected in terms of deliverables, cost, and responsibilities. On the other hand, a creative brief helps each party agree on what the logo should achieve to be successful, what parameters surround the logo's execution, and what are the project phases and timelines.

A creative brief is usually initiated by the client for the designer. But I have found that the designer often has to create a creative brief —or provide a creative brief form— for the client. Next time, I will discuss how to write a creative brief, whether you are a freelance designer, in-house designer, or the person who needs graphic design.

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