Managing the creative process - the brief

Creative people and companies aren’t always easy to deal with, but an experienced, knowledgeable manager can smooth the process and get consistently high quality results. As usual, it’s all about understanding.

It starts with the brief. A clear and well-conceived one is a good start, but it can’t cover every eventuality because the creative process should be heading in unexpected directions. It’s about exploration and discovery. To confirm the brief has been understood, get the creative company to respond with an interpretation of what they think you are expecting; get them to fire the brief back at you. And if possible, get this response in a format similar to the expected result.

If the job is to design a logo, ask for some visualisations that show what the creatives mean – existing examples or rough sketches. If you’re commissioning a song, get some samples of what they’re talking about – you don’t need to listen to anyone telling you “it’s that mid 80’s DX7 whoomp! thing”. But bear in mind that initial responses to a brief are just that – don’t expect the end product to faithfully reproduce what you’ve just seen and don’t complain if the end result isn’t the same shade of blue as the first sketch (and sadly that’s a real example.)

To get the best possible understanding at the very start, you may need to go through this brief/re-brief iteration more than once. It takes time. If you want the time and brainpower of great creatives you have to pay for it. That might mean paying for several teams, pouring plenty of your budget into ideas that are never used. Or maybe you’ll have to pay people to do something which hundreds of others would do for nothing. But if you set up the job properly right from the start, your chances of success are at least 100% greater. Money well spent.

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