How can design thinking help us reimagine creative briefing?

Briefing is the oft neglected Cinderella of the creative process. But if you want a pretty product or project to take to the ball, a great brief is more likely to get you there than anything else. 

So why do clients and creatives avoid briefing like the plague?

Briefing requires commitment and communication. Two big moves upfront. And not everyone understands at the onset of a project that an investment in good beginnings can lead to happy endings.

Understanding briefing

A brief is the starting point for any creative project, campaign or output. But what does briefing entail, exactly?

Imagine going on a very important journey, with multiple stops, possible roadblocks and a variety of known and unknown external factors that could come into play. 

You’d probably want to map this journey out, ahead of actually embarking on it, right?

This would generate a loose plan of where and how to approach and execute what you’re trying to achieve.

A brief is no different. It’s the roadmap that preempts and outlines all the parameters of a project. It includes things like budget, duration, scope, key contributors, deadline, materials needed, expected outcomes, and so on.

It all sounds very static and confined. Not very conducive to creativity, right?

Letting creativity flourish, while adhering to the constraints of the brief is the ultimate balancing act. And it’s one we’re trying to navigate at Briefmapp. We think design-thinking has the answer.

Design thinking: A way to merge creativity and constraint 

A big question we ask ourselves daily at Briefmapp is how we can nurture and encourage creativity and creative freedom, while sticking within the key parameters that make a project a success.

The solution lies in letting design thinking lead the way. 

Ultimately design thinking is both solutions-focused and user-centric. It creates the conditions for a better experience along the way and an all round great end result. 

At Briefmapp we think of this approach to creativity and organization, as ‘better beginnings, for happier endings’.

Design thinking tries to find solutions by drawing as many ideas out as possible; and solutions are ultimately the breeding ground for innovation. 

Most super successful companies today have incorporated design principles into their strategy for innovation. Linda Naiman, founder of Creativity at Work, argues that:

Design is transforming the way leading companies create value. The focus of  innovation has shifted from being engineering-driven to design-driven, from product-centric to customer-centric, and from marketing-focused to user-experience-focused.”

These principles can be transferred into systems for management as well. Moura Quayle, author of Designed Leadership says:

“Great leaders aspire to manage ‘by design’, with a sense of purpose and foresight. Lessons learned from the world of design when applied to management, can turn leaders into collaborative, creative, deliberate, and accountable visionaries.”

So, how does this mindset impact creative briefing? 

A successful project would need a successful brief and a plan for execution before any action.

If these steps were defined and deliberate and the players were collaborative, communicative and accountable, well that’s business taken care of, meaning there’s a bit more space for creativity to bloom and ideas, the linchpin of innovation, to multiply.   

Ideas need to be nourished for innovation to germinate. Or as Ms. Naiman says:

“Design thinking is linked to creating an improved future and seeks to build ideas up – unlike critical thinking, which breaks them down. Problem-solving is making something go away. Creating is bringing something into being.”

A brief is the planned creative moment and it can be fertile soil for the creativity and creation that comes after it. 

Tech for creatives

In our techno-centric world it’s not uncommon to think that creativity is second fiddle to tech. But technology and creativity support each other in immeasurable ways. 

Using technology that is thoughtful, intuitive and inspiring is exactly what creative people need to take their ideas to the next level and smooth friction between clients and teams. Ms. Naiman again: 

People need their interactions with technologies and other complex systems to be simple, intuitive, and pleasurable. When done well, human-centred design enhances the user experience at every touch point and fuels the creation of products and services that deeply resonate with customers.”

Setting the scene and creating the tools for creatives to be good at what they do – creating – is what will feed innovation in the fourth industrial revolution.

And this is why more design thinking is just the shift needed to take us there. 

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