Well begun is half done
As a freelance designer, I have come across a variety of clients - the know-it-alls, the ones who never think my fee is justified, the ‘I need to see more options’ type and the ones that trust my judgment (yes, they exist!). And after all these years, what bugs me the most about their process is the inconsistency in framing a brief i.e. defining the problem. Now, this may seem like a really menial aspect in the larger scheme of things, but a well-defined brief can actually have far-reaching effects on the ultimate output. Allow me to demonstrate.
Brief 1: I need a purple and gold logo for my Wedding Planning Company, with a vintage feel and I also need it to look luxurious. I have a sample of how I want it to look, let me share it with you.
Brief 2: I need a logo for my company that helps millennials plan their wedding right from choosing their destination to vendor management through an Android App.
Which brief do you think works better?
You may be divided on this one, but the answer is the second. But the second brief seems so vague, isn’t that confusing? No, it’s not. It gives more information than you know, such as the age of the target group, the accessibility, the features of the solution and the platform of consumption.
But what’s wrong with the first brief?
The first assignment simply highlights what the client likes – and that’s hardly representative of end customer preferences, especially if they haven’t done enough research to validate their ask. Moreover, if they already have a vision of what the design should look like, what are they paying the designer for? You might be fooled into thinking that the owner always knows what their company is about, but if history is any indication, that is rarely ever the case.
Back in 2014, in an attempt to create a fresh and modern interpretation of the beloved Kisses icon, Hershey’s came up with a design that looked like this, hoping that young customers would appreciate the minimal approach to its signature chocolate.
Twitter naturally lost its mind by drawing similarities between the new icon and the infamous poop emoji. Customers all over the world mocked the new look and “This just looks like a steaming pile of shit” was the ultimate consensus. Hershey’s promptly replaced the icon on its packaging not before becoming a prime example of how out of touch decision-makers can be with consumer preferences.
The second brief listed above provides just the right avenues to begin industry research without being too specific about the style. It is also important to note that when a client offers an existing design as a reference, that hardly means it is the best option available to the brand. On the contrary, it anchors everyone involved to one type of design and restricts them from opening up their mind to explore better alternatives.
But why should this matter to you?
Well, a brief is just a different term for stating a problem. We all have problems that we battle with each day, but have you ever tried reframing your problem to find a better solution? Consider how you make decisions about what to consume on Netflix. It may start out as:
“My friend suggested a Netflix Original (which is almost always overrated) – Should I start watching it?”
30 minutes in, you’re hating it, but now you’ve invested enough that the only option available to you is to finish the damn thing. But did you consider framing your original problem differently?
Maybe if you had said “I’m bored and there IS a Netflix Original, which is one of the options available to me for entertainment tonight. Are there other things can I do to keep myself occupied before I go to bed or is this movie a must-watch?”
You might have ended up in the same place by reframing the brief, but at least you opened up your mind to something else for a second that could’ve led you down a completely different path.
Defining a problem and coming up with an optimum solution is what makes our lives more efficient. The next time you’re faced with a challenge, try an alternative approach to framing. The answer might just be staring you in the face. Incorrect framing can lead us down disastrous paths. Don’t believe me? Ask someone who sat through 13 Reasons Why after the first season. It was, without a doubt, a steaming pile of *@#!.