Briefly

If you’re interested in planning or are simply curious in how ideas become tangible results, you should watch this brief documentary on Vimeo.

What I loved most about this documentary is not only its short length, but that it reaches beyond creative briefs within advertising agencies. There are book illustrators, architectural designers, and creators of all kinds that are receivers of creative briefs. I didn’t actually realize briefs were applicable beyond ad agencies.

The creative brief has a number of important duties, the most important of which is inspiring the people who have been tasked with solving the problem. A brief should be a thought-starter. It should be concise and constrained to a particular fixed medium, while simultaneously providing breathing space for Creatives. “A brief has to leave a lot of room. You have to be given a lot of runway, a lot of runway so you can take off,” President at GX John C Jay explained. This truly highlights the role of the brief as something that will continue to change as time goes on. The more brainstorming that is done and the more conversations that are had, the more the brief will transform. The reality is, creative briefs are meant to be challenged and changed.

I was particularly intrigued by Illustrator Maira Kalman’s take on the creative brief as something that has somewhat of a dual identity. “The nice thing about the brief in my world is that it’s both extremely pragmatic and concrete […] and then the brief is fantastically elusive and completely romantic,” she said. It is both a limitation and an invitation.

One thing that stuck with me from this documentary is that the term “Creative Brief” is in a sense contradictory of what a brief truly is. A brief is the establishment of a relationship between creators and clients, and this relationship is one that is intended to be far from brief. Relationships build trust and confidence, which in turn gets things going the right direction. Briefs don’t serve the purpose of ordering Creatives what to do and how to do it. Rather, they explore where clients want to go, what they dream of, and what their vision is – that goes much deeper than a request for an ad. “We say no to clients that come to us wanting a campaign. We say yes to the ones that are really great, have exciting problems and opportunities, and want a long term relationship,” CEO of 72andSunny John Boiler said. No matter how much this concept of building relationships is drilled into my head, I will always believe it makes the process that much more enjoyable, meaningful, and efficient.

On a final note, I learned a great deal from the discussion on the role of truth. Not every creative brief hits a home run on solving the problem. As Jay explained, if it’s not true then just stop. “You always have to be protected by truth. You’re naked without the truth; there’s nothing left. Cut the marketing bullshit and get to the truth, and then we can go from there,” he said. A brief forces you to question everything and to ask why you are being asked to do anything at all. “It starts with why and it just keeps why-ing the hell out of you endlessly,” Frank Gehry, founder of Gehry Partner said. It requires a deeper understanding of how people live with their products and what role culture has in the life of the consumer. It’s “letting the process of being alive inform what I’m going to do,” Kalman noted.

So with all of this in mind… I will proceed to make my first creative brief for a project next Monday. Wish me luck.