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Seven steps to the perfect project brief

Posted by: Ben Fox on 7 December 2011

Bad Design

Having worked in the world of agencies for a good few years now I’ve experienced the joy of delivering loads of projects that nail the requirements first time!

The client loves the campaign concept, the brochure is spot on, the website design is to die-for…yep, doesn’t it just feel great to get it bang on the nose, first time?!

I’ve also been around long enough to have missed the airfield all together… the proposed campaign is nowhere near the client’s requirements, the brochure is ‘too simple’ or ‘too busy’ and the website visuals are aimed at the wrong audience entirely…

The difference between delivering a tip, top spanking project first time and a job that misses the landing plain?

The brief

Too many times we (and by ‘we’ I generally mean both clients and agency ‘suits’/account manager folk) are so desperate to get to the final deliverable that we fail to put the proper plans in place.

We all know what Proper Planning Prevents…don’t we?

piss poor performance

Yes, a wise-man instilled this into me at a former agency (no names) – the brief is mega, mega important to meeting the project requirements – get this right and you’re 80% there.

Below, if a guide to creating a great job brief, that will DEFINITELY save you a whole load of time, effort, pain and moolah and help you give the client what he/she wants first time/every time!

  1. Write a job summary – keep it brief, but include background info and reasons to why the project/job/item is required and what the final deliverable needs to ‘be’ and ‘do’
  2. What are the objectives? Once completed what MUST the brochure/website/campaign/advert/job do, deliver, achieve or convey? A few bullet points will be fine here 
  3. It’s all in the detail – What are the specifics of the job? This is definitely the stage at which you need to inform the designer or the creative bod or the planner of any restrictions for the job – i.e. requested format, budget limitations, must work in wet weather (?) or the client doesn’t like orange… 
  4. Find some references – If possible, find some relevant examples of similar jobs or even references for graphical styles to be considered, or the type of writing style to be used or a competitor website that ‘looks and works great but we want to do it better’
  5. Supply the filling – Not always possible, but if it is, always try and provide content (and final if possible) up front – you’re asking a lot of a designer to design a brochure layout without an indication as to the amount of content – the same applies to all other projects really, it’s always best to sort content out before embarking on the project process…
  6. It’s good to talk – Always try and discuss your brief in person in addition to providing a written brief. The designer, creative, copywriter, illustrator etc will have the opportunity to ask questions and you’ll be able to convey some elements of the brief that you were unable to put down on paper
  7. Don’t look back in anger – Refer back to the project brief throughout the project process. This will ensure you’re always on the right path and means you have the opportunity to change course much earlier than getting to the end and realising you’ve been steering in the wrong direction.

The above is how I approach a job brief but I’m sure there are better ways of doing this so please share your approach or hints and tips in the comments below… 

Categories: Marketing
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  • Tim Chorlton

    I’d agree on the whole, but I would definitely add ‘deadline’ to the above list. Nothing sends a project into a panic when a client casually asks for the project to be completed for their exhibition on Friday!

    • Ben Fox

      Hi Tim – Thanks for your comments and great point indeed – a deadline/timeline and milestones is critical to the briefing process, annoyed with myself for missing this off the list but thanks mucho for pointing it out!

      Have a great afternoon

      Ben

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