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How to brief your agency
Blog / Design

How to brief your agency

What makes a successful creative brief from a designer’s perspective? Ruth Garratt, Designer at Pull, gives some tips. Hint, it’s in the name.
As a designer, I’ve received my fair share of good and bad briefs. Working on a project that has been well briefed makes the world of difference, and so with that in mind here are my views on what makes a successful one:

What is a brief?

In its most simple form, a brief is an explanation of a problem. To look at it in a more abstract way, it should cover where you are now and where you’d like to be.

Before beginning a project, the brief needs to be agreed upon by everyone who will be contributing to the solution. Everyone on the project should have been chosen because of the insight and expertise they have in a specific area relevant to the project, so they can flag any areas of the brief that need further explanation or re-writing.

So, what information do the team need to undertake the work? Well, they need to know where you currently are and what has previously been done. This is essential as progress can’t be made unless there is a comprehensive understanding of the problem you are looking to solve.

The in-house team also need to know where they want to end up, and what the end point is measured by. This is the base of the brief.

The brief can be a simple word doc, or can include more direction in terms of inspirational visuals, key words, examples of successful campaigns, customer personas and research. However, all of these things are a guide and supportive in solving the initial problem, they shouldn’t be the basis on which the brief is built.

This all sounds rather scientific and dull, but a brief should also be an exciting opportunity! Both the client side and the agency team should be energised, engaged and invested in the outcome of the project.
 

Who needs one?

The brief isn’t just for the agency. It collates all the information and should be a collaborative document both client and agency teams have agreed upon. The creation of the brief should help to streamline all the teams who will be working on the project and provide a place of reference for everyone.

Some of the reasons for creating a cohesive brief and involving in-house members of the team, include:
  • Ensuring that all creative messages are on brand
  • Mapping out the vision for the brand/business/product
  • Offering a starting point
  • Giving other contributors an understanding of the objectives
  • To align expectations of deliverables and budgets
 

What should a brief achieve?

The brief should map out the problem you are looking to solve; the relevant and pertinent information associated with it; the budget and timeline for delivery and the measurables for success.

The brief is the foundation the rest of the project is built upon, and as such it should be simple, based on strong facts and without un-needed complication.
 

What form should it take?

A brief should be exactly that, brief. It should be a 1-2-page document that outlines the problem you are looking to solve with judiciously chosen, relevant information. It should not be an expansive, rambling document that includes everything that is vaguely relevant or ‘might’ be useful.

In our Design team here at Pull we analyse and go over every element of the brief to deepen our understanding of the undertaking as much as possible. Therefore, for the brief to include something that isn’t fully considered, or added as an afterthought, can mislead the team.
 

How do I begin writing a brief?

Bearing all this in mind, you might be thinking how do I actually write a creative brief? Be assured that your first draft of the brief won’t be the final version. It will probably start off longer than it needs to be, but each round of re-iteration should tighten it up until only the key information remains.

Each project is different, but if the points below are covered in your brief then you’re off to a strong start:

The story so far: This should cover your product/brand/business, the background, the strategy

Competitors: Who’s in a similar position, who’s doing it well, what’s relevant to you

Learnings: Previous success/failure, lessons learnt

What is the project aiming to change: Awareness, behaviour, perception etc

Target audience: Who are your target audience, do you have any key insights?

Deliverables: Quantify the deliverables, the specifications, timeline for delivery

Measurables: What will define success for this project, set some SMART goals

The people: Who has final sign off on the project, who needs to be involved and when
 

Challenging the brief

Part of our process as an agency is to challenge the initial draft of the brief.

A brief shouldn’t be a finalised document, handed over from client to agency, and then work begins. Otherwise that is a very one-sided conversation. At Pull we love working with client’s collaboratively, and like to be an extension of the in-house team. We always like to discuss the brief, supply feedback and then the brief is adjusted if necessary.

So, what makes a good brief? It’s the same formula that makes for good creative work: inspiring but precise. It should give direction to everyone’s energy while also giving them freedom to explore and propose new ideas.

A good brief is the starting point of a good solution. It involves time, energy and a considerable amount of thought to define a good brief, but to do so will make sure that the best possible solution is the outcome. It’s most definitely worth the effort.
 

 

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