The design brief – (mis)interpretation strikes again


22-05-2017 08:05:46

The design brief – (mis)interpretation strikes again

I’ve been drafting creative briefs for well over ten years now. Honestly, I thought I’d cracked the code to getting highly talented in-house designers, freelancers and clients’ own designers of varying levels of experience, and from different age groups, to immediately understand my written translations of the visual masterpieces in my head. I consider myself to have a good eye for design and pride myself on my logical thinking and methodical approach: providing context, step-by-step instructions and relevant graphical input.

But a first draft received yesterday told me I’m not there yet. I will keep my membership to the MI6 of MarComs and keep investigating ways to improve my approach so that when I’m convinced that a quick turnaround is a given, due to the simplicity of my request and the thoroughness of my brief, it really will land on my virtual lap without the need for a single correction round. It will be ready for delivery to the hungry internal or external client who needs it, before s/he even knew s/he needed it.

When mentoring others, I’m the first to say that the key to good execution is a good brief, so I have no problem being accountable for the inevitable back and forth till we undoubtedly get to a great result.

My amateur mock-ups in Paint are not the answer either: experience tells me that they harness the creativity of the designers viewing the mockups, who find themselves copying my home-made efforts too literally, even if I say, “Take this patchwork collage just as a rough idea – feel free to develop the idea with your professional creative flair.”

But is it really a question of me being a bad brief-maker or them being slow on the uptake? Could it rather be something innately different in the minds of writer creative-types versus visual creative-types? Is this correction round process simply par for the course – however small the request – due to the fact that the brains of visual artists interpret information completely differently from wordsmiths?

So I dug around the Internet and tried to find a study showing latest findings on such a difference but, according to neurologist Dr. Oliver Sachs “Anatomists would be hard put to identify the brain of a visual artist, a writer, or a mathematician”. It was getting late, so I decided to trust his judgment. But just before switching off, I stumbled across a Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute ‘educational unit’ that seemed to provide the answer to me. The teacher Sean Griffin says, “Creative writing and the visual arts are naturally linked in their ability to bring out personal qualities in the reader or the viewer. An interpretation of a work of art is different to each person who observes a painting just as the interpretation of or interaction with the written word can be a very personal and individual experience.”  Bingo. You may not consider the average brief a piece of creative writing, but a lot of heart and soul certainly go into mine. So, basically, if it’s anyone’s ‘fault’ it is the fault of the words themselves because there is no way to predict how anyone will ‘experience’ my words.

The answer? Planning, patience, guidance and trust that the good will come.

By Sybylla Wales, Director, Europe