ASK: If a task is not clear, or more information is needed, please ask as soon as possible. Asking is always ok. Doing the wrong thing (or doing nothing) because you didn’t ask is not ok.
DEBRIEF: It’s not done until you reported it done. This is often just a one-sentence email to me or to the client, sometimes a “100%” mark in the task list, or a ticket closed. It is done, completed or fixed only when whoever needed it done knows about it.
WARN: If a deadline you know is important will likely be missed, warn me soon, as the situation is evolving, and then we can usually figure something out. If I have to learn at the moment of the deadline that it was missed, that’s not ok. (In multi-boss situations that occur frequently in matrix organisations, or if you’re a freelancer, also warn me if your workload is above what you can actually do, instead of not doing certain tasks.)
Don’t let the question predict, limit and/or hide the answer. It is very important when creating a brief for a creative project not to be overly prescriptive as it will limit the possible creative outcomes. Trust the team and the creative process to deliver unexpected results that fill your requirements.
When engaging in a new project we want to get the ball rolling quickly, layout expectations early and agree time-scales and budgets. Removing ifs, buts and maybes from the process greatly increases the chances of the creative partnership surpassing the client’s expectations and the development of a lasting relationship.
What your organisation does?
What your niche market is?
How you fit in your industry sector?
General project information?
Aims & Objectives?
Detail on desired target market, including demographic information where possible.
Choose a typical audience member or group and profile including; occupation, age range, gender, what their day looks like etc.
How will they use your product?
What do the audiences believe or think?
Messages, Features, Benefits and Values.
List top desired (these may include must have/mission critical) features and/or facts about the product and its value to target audiences.
Who is the competition?
How should this product stack up against the opposition?
What is the primary message?
Budget and Schedule
Has the budget been approved?
Is establishing the budget part of the brief?
What is the product release date?
Are there specific milestones that need to be achieved?
What is the due date for the finished project?
Who is the primary contact for the project.
What content will you be providing? logos, style guides, measurements.
What are the internal review and approval processes.
Who will sign off on the final design.
How many revisions are expected? (unlimited is not an option)
This point marks a sudden change of gears, where phase one and two come to a sudden and marked end. With the leadership of the Facilitators the group evaluates the most popular concepts against the brief’s criteria until a top concept is found.
In a situation where there are many teams working in rotation on a number of briefs, all participants should be allowed take part in the evaluation stage of the programme. Existing teams are broken up and members reassigned based on suitability, passion (to the brief) and performance. This is done to bring fresh energy to the next phase of the process and should be communicated delicately and positively.
It is common for teams to drift wildly around the brief and quite often return a truly off topic result. With this in mind having the lead facilitator present the teams concepts back to them before work begins can help refocus the concepts to the brief.
The concept phase is an explosion of ideas shooting off in almost random directions. In the refinement phase of the creative process we look for links between concepts, gradually building upon what has been developed and referring to both the brief and reflecting on the inspirations gathered in phase one.
The refinement process draws to a close with each team member giving thumbs up to the concepts they like, narrowing the field for the evaluation process. This can be done with the simple process of placing a post-it note with their initials on each concept they feel strongly about. There is no upper limit to this process, but through the process of refinement and reduction the number of concepts should be reduced to a manageable level.
Take risks, be persistent, be curious. Fail early and fail often.
Using the inspirations that were collected in phase one, the team offer up ideas that address the needs of the brief. Team members can offer up fresh concepts or build on the work of others.
Go for quantity, explore each idea entirely. Be spontaneous divergent thinking should be free-flowing, look for connections. Think with your hands, make things. These could be:
Sounds/Pieces of Music
Act it out
This is a heads up exercise were we keep looking at the work of those around us and the inspiration gathered earlier in order to spawn more ideas. Encourage the things we like, use language that explores/broadens rather then directs/narrows.
How much is enough? A team of 4–5 should be able to easily produce 100+ concepts in less then an hour. Teams may loose energy very early less then 10 concepts in the process. Feeling that the “right answer” has been found already and that time is being wasted that could be used on production. This is quite natural amongst groups new to this type of process, or jaded by prior experience. At this point the facilitator needs to come forward and step the group up and down the brief asking exploring questions. Open up the team to new process of exploration. Encourage, don’t dismiss or correct unless all other options have been explored.
The input phase of the process where the team learns to eat sleep and breathe the subject of the brief. In order for this to work effectively it is important that we learn to come to terms with our filters. Throughout our lives we have been developing filters through which we see the world. These filters can be broken down into:
Each of the above contributes to who we are as individuals and how we form opinions, but in order for use to be truly divergent in our thinking we need to see past our filters and seek new experiences, ideologies and concepts. By questioning and challenging ourselves we can take our work in unexpected/unintended directions. Begin by gathering:
These sources should not always be digital and the internet is only one source of great material. Books, journals and magazines have the advantage and disadvantage of being curated content which can save time and energy initially. They are also dated time capsules making it easier to spot trends both past and present.
These sources are triggers for thoughts, memories, conversations, from which a thousand ideas can grow. It is important that we check our filters when viewing sources and make sure that we are not unknowingly editing out source material without being daft and letting everything in regardless of relevance.
Get out and experience the real world, be empathetic, meet the people who may ultimately interact with the product of the brief. Explore the environment which will be effected by the product. Take pictures, videos and notes, try to understand the human needs of the design process be an anthropologist. Understand the who and where before addressing the what, why or when.
Is the brief something completely revolutionary or are their other product/services already available that are close to or already fulfil the requirement of the brief. If so what are they? What can we learn from them? How are they performing? What are their strengths and weaknesses? Should we stand on the shoulders of giants? What would a completely new offering look, sound, taste, smell or feel like?
Inspirations should be shared visibly and openly with the group. Avoid any urge to protect or hide good sources for personal gain, thinking they might come in handy later. Instead look around at the inspirations added by the team and bounce off them in order to build on their influence. Acknowledge and encourage the ideas you like, refrain from criticism or discouragement at any stage. Talk openly with each other throughout the process, rather then work silently in corners.
Creating Whitespace—Identifying Themes
The second step of the Inspire phase is to organize the insights developed by the team. Each Postit is moved individually and discussed by the team as it is placed beside notes to which it has something in common. As each note is organised whitespace is created and the clusters/themes become clearly defined. Each team is then asked to develop a narrative to describe and establish the relationships, if any there is between each clusters/theme.