Why we like tight briefs

cartoon man stood in underwear holding a brief sheet

As creatives you might think we like to hang loose and enjoy the freedom to let our ideas take us wherever they choose. But actually, we prefer, no really demand, tight briefs.

That’s because far from restricting creativity, a tight brief almost always delivers better results. Rigid or restrictive briefs don’t stifle the ideas process, they funnel ideas, unleashing our superpower – our creativity – with the force of laser beams to where it matters most. Tight briefs challenge us and distil ideas, making them stronger.

Give me the freedom of a tight brief.

David Ogilvy

By getting to the bones of what’s most important our creative muscles can flex on making the work as effective as possible. Because at Michon, we believe form follows function. Our work has to work, it has to achieve the desired client outcome, otherwise we are artists creating beautiful masterpieces that are ultimately impotent.

So many times we hear people say that design is subjective; not everybody likes the same things, some ideas fly with one person and sink like a stone for their peers. But design is not subjective at all. It’s particular – to the desired outcome and audience. A creative solution needs to work for the individuals who engage with it, that’s why we never design for personal preference. If you don’t like yellow but your customers do, then we’ll have that conversation.

We love to make our clients happy, but we aren’t mind readers. So if someone says, ‘Oh that isn’t what I imagined’ it’s disappointing for them and us. This kind of outcome is almost always due to confusion, a lack of strategy, and a flabby brief. These loose briefs deliver comfortable, and often predictable solutions. They rarely push boundaries because they’re trying to appeal to everyone. And one size does not fit all.

To achieve the perfect fit, we ask probing questions to interrogate and understand what our clients really hope to achieve. Note I didn’t say ‘what they hope to see’, but what ‘their desired outcome is’. We’ll challenge if we think there’s a more effective way to do things to get the desired results, and together we’ll end up with the holy grail of a tight brief.

When forced to work within a strict framework, the imagination is taxed to its utmost—and will produce its richest ideas. Given total freedom, the work is likely to sprawl.

T.S. Eliot

With restrictions we can be MORE creative, because clear parameters push us to expand ideas around a core goal. The result? A bold and brave idea that promotes a brand in a way that captivates its audience. Limitations mean we can experiment with ideas on a theme, stress test them to see if they hold up to scrutiny and tweak them to make them the best they can be, rather than wasting time on an approach that won’t quite hit the mark.

In the end, a good brief will save you time and money.

You’ll save time on unnecessary catch ups, calls and emails, and avoid costs incurred by the creative team trying ideas that aren’t suitable. Think of your brief as a rigid framework on which to build a strong and impressive grand design.

What goes into the perfect brief?

A good brief is comprehensive while being as concise and clear as possible. Background information and research findings are always useful but can be supplied separately.

  1. Clearly identify what’s needed and what the desired effect of the project will be. Who it’s for and what the consumer behavioural outcome should be. Also, outline how you plan to measure the success of the project.
  2. Set out the scope and reach, how many elements will be needed, what scale and longevity is required. Be honest about your product or service abilities and any limitations.
  3. Share the budget and timings with the creative team early, that way the appropriate resources can be allocated and the team can fully focus on delivering the most effective solution that’s on time and on budget.
  4. Finally, tell us anything that has been tried and has or hasn’t worked before for you. After all, learning from previous experiences can be the critical factor between success and failure.

Over the years, we’ve found working closely together and collaborating in this way sets definitive boundaries and objectives for all parties involved. We’ve found that having clarity and transparency on projects has always been the best way of working.

Give us a tight brief, free of ambiguity, free of guesswork, free of confusion; give the creative team space to hang loose and let their grey cells free, and in return you’ll get better results.



Got a brief you’d like us to get into? Get in touch – we’d love to help. Alternatively, for the latest marketing and branding news, take a look at our Articles page.