Once again, into the brief

Perhaps it’s because of work we’ve recently done for advertising and media companies, or maybe just in a sense of some process alignments, I’ve been caught by discussions about the “creative brief.” In both advertising and product design (yet mostly absent in architecture and environmental design) there seems to be a lot of continuing discussion (for example, here, here and here) around how to shape the statement of the client’s “problem.”

In a number of cases, you can almost read between the lines that the outline for the brief is an attempt to address a lagging of internal creativity. In other cases, it seems as if the formula for the brief is an assertion of the firm’s differentiation, effectively using the form for stating the client’s problem as part of the attraction of the client.

This is a link to an appreciation for another firm’s approach, Crispin Porter & Bogusky, from which Dan Pankracz quotes –

From Crispin Porter + Bogusky via samadblog.blogspot.com

He appreciates this approach for what they call “tensions in the culture,” signaling apparently broader considerations of the context in which the creative work will reside.

The classic briefing statement for architectural design projects, typically called the “program,” seems rarely practiced well but a great example is delightfully presented in William Pena’s Problem Seeking: An Architectural Programming Primer. I’ve used it as a template for most of my work. I’ve greatly appreciated it for its key principles, and for its “information index” and “programming procedures” which, if reflected on and practiced rigorously, can open you to a deep conversation with your client to uncover what their “tensions” may be, what the key opportunity is that they are trying to capture.

In a more simple form, I like Clayton Christensen’s approach of understanding what “job” the client is trying to do. I’ve taken this as a device to go way back in the client’s thinking, well before the project at hand, to understand how the work that we will do fulfills the purposes and goals of the enterprise.

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