Archive for the ‘Design Brief’ Category

Destruction and Design

Posted by pcollier under Creativity, Design Brief, Work


Sometimes things have to be cut loose to save ourselves more pain down the line. The same is true of design. Through the process of destruction new ideas can often have a greater chance of flourishing. So although it may seem contradictory to our creative cause, our willingness to destroy is also vital.

Often we can be so bogged down in trying to get something to work that it can give us tunnel vision. We can be so fixated on the details that we lose sight of the bigger picture and our overall design goals. Becoming overly obsessive on the details can lead us down intricate, diversionary tangents and ultimately to a skewed design. It can be a neat trick as you become a more experienced designer to catch yourself doing this and learn to cut off where you started to run astray. We’re all guilty of getting carried away, become an expert at reining it in and cutting loose and I don’t mean in the free spirited way!

Sometimes it pays to turn the destructive eye to the whole design. In the past I’ve found myself much more capable of this after a break when I’ve rediscovered my objectivity. It is painful to throw away hard work but sometimes (as the film ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ demonstrated) you have to crawl through a river of shit to come clean out the other side. Every time I’ve decided to throw away work in the past it has subsequently lead to a stronger design. I hated doing it at the time but was always thankful after for having the courage to not be precious. It is just a process of refinement and iteration.

At any rate the aftermath of destruction is an interesting place. Taking a torch to your design will in turn give you the sturdy green shoots poking out of the blackened ashes. These survivors are the design elements that can be your winners and keepers.  This is why ‘create and burn’ can be a healthy design process. If we are aggressive and even-handed in our destruction and an idea still resolutely remains, then maybe it deserves to stay.

As you move forward with your design it will have a strong backbone of survivors. The ideas that you carried forward will help deliver more focus down the line and have the room to flourish. I guess all this leads us to my final piece of advice at this juncture. After all this talk of destruction, which let’s face it, us humans love, I really should support it with more fiery gusto whilst I have the chance, so here goes: Don’t be afraid to be a cold merciless bastard of an overlord. Design elements and ideas are in your dominion and should be scared shitless of your wrath. If they are not there to serve your cause, then quite frankly, they deserve to die. There you have it. Try not to cling onto something just because you created it. Creation is not always beautiful, so don’t be afraid to wield the knife, or even the torch…and yes it can be more fun if you do it with a crazed look in your eye.

I Promise to be Brief

Posted by pcollier under Design Brief

Herbert James Draper - Ulysses and the Sirens 1909

Knowing what you want to achieve before setting out to do something is very important. It sounds like a bit of a dumb-ass thing to say, of course it’s important! But you’d be surprised how often designers can get over zealous when it comes to jumping into creation without due diligence.

The significance of a clear design brief is something I’ve only recently truly appreciated…and I mean ‘truly appreciated’ not just a superficial nod of the head toward it. I’ve realised that it is something my elders and those that are wiser have been attempting to drum into me since my school days. But as with many things the lesson has to be learnt for yourself for it to properly sink in. Which kind of makes this article a bit pointless, but hey you’re here now, so you might as well carry on reading!

Really it is a pretty simple concept. Ask what you want to achieve, and then fulfil it. To be fair at some level most designers will do this. The issue is the quality of this question. The key to becoming a great designer is becoming an expert in asking the right questions. The creation of the brief should be the hardest phase of a design process. It carries a huge amount of responsibility, as the old saying goes:

“Be careful what you wish for, you may receive it”

If you don’t ask the right questions and are not completely clear with your brief then everything that follows suffers. In one fell swoop you can damn a project to costly delays and a poor end product. Yet even on a commercial level, it is apparent that designers across the globe have been all too eager to jump into development. The only way you can be clear with your brief is through knowing your target audience and what they demand. A deadly trap that many designers fall into is designing for themselves. Many millions of £$€’s have been wasted because of this.

A brief permeates every level of the design process and spawns many further, more specific, questions during development. If you get it wrong the design will move further and further away from any original intentions at every stage. A solid, well constructed, clear brief acts as a mast that, if necessary, the design team can strap themselves to in stormy Siren infested development waters (especially those pesky brainstorms). A clear brief makes the design process easier because it acts as a fixed point that designers can check against and keep referring back to. With an identifiable reference point it prevents you straying too far.

Our desire to create is an admirable human trait. But with inexperience the temptation to jump in and just start ‘making’ is strong, exuberance can runaway with us. It is possible, after all, to find problems through the act of creation. But without focus and direction these problems are much more likely to become icebergs able to sink your ship. You’re not quite setup to deal with the surprise. A clear brief allows for a more methodical design process which at every stage prepares you for the next. A healthy design process should be one of refinement not damage control.