2 min Read
September 16, 2009

Feedback that Doesn’t Screech Through the Loudspeakers Episode II: Be Preppie or at Least Prepared

This is a series about feedback, but it’s also a part of a larger conversation about process. Any feedback relates directly to the goals of a project.

At Big Duck, we begin any big project with what we call a project brief. It is a simple document that lays out what you hope to accomplish with the assignment and any parameters related to the project. The strategic and creative teams at Big Duck rely on the project brief to guide our thinking, our brainstorming, our sketching, and even the whining that inevitably accompanies our creative struggles associated with any project.

The project brief is your voice in the process and keeps writers and designers from working in a vacuum. Trust us: you don’t want to see what happens to the creative work when we’re in a vacuum. A little bit of anchoring in the real world is a Very Good Thing for us creative types.

If you’re not working with Big Duck or an agency that puts together a project brief, we strongly suggest that you do something similar for your work with freelancers. It will save oodles of misunderstanding, hard feelings, and money.

Having your own project brief provides context for the project (why this annual report, for example, and why now); parameters (e.g. how many concepts, how many drafts, etc.); goals for the project (what you hope to accomplish); target audiences (who you want to inspire to take what action); definition of success (what metrics you will compare the final project and its outcomes against); tone and style (how it should feel); guidelines for copy (what words to avoid, etc.) and visuals (what parts of your current brand are non-negotiable, available artwork, etc.); and a schedule (what’s due when).

The best part about having a project brief is that it then serves as the guide for your feedback and discussion with the creative team. If everything is well defined up front and you feel good about the thinking behind the project, you have something tangible against which to judge the creative work. This helps keep the conversation objective, rather than subjective. We will, of course, say more about this later.

Two other things are helpful to include in the project brief: positioning and personality. Having these two things defined help keep your thinking about the creative work objective. If these are new concepts to you, we suggest looking into them. They are topics too large to discuss in a blog post about feedback, even a series such as this one. Al Ries and Jack Trout’s seminal book on the subject (conveniently titled Positioning) will help you get started.

The upfront work you do with the project brief (and your positioning/personality) will ultimately save your organization a lot of headaches. We creative types can bring you a lot of headaches anyway with our quirky behavior and finicky emotions, so think of a project brief as a dose of preventative ibuprofen for your collaboration.

What happened last time you jumped right into the project’s creative work without planning ahead? How’d it go?

Next time on Feedback that Doesn’t Screech Through the Loudspeakers… What do realism, respect, and honesty have to do with all of this? Lots! Like a car dealership!

Dan Gunderman

Dan Gunderman is the Former Creative Director at Big Duck

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