Design Objective

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The perception of an open brief is that of exciting potential and opportunity. 'Be creative', 'Express yourself', 'do something that will make the client go Wow!' are all phrases we've heard at some point in our careers. Fun as this might sound, it is almost guaranteed to herald the start of a design process by trial and error. Eight rounds of amends later, there's as much of the original concept left as Trigger's old broom and the novelty of guessing what's in the client's head has long since worn off. In this instance it's usually a print deadline or conference presentation that catalyses sign off - and neither the agency or the client is satisfied with the resulting compromise. On the other hand, very occasionally a trusting client will buy an option from the first round of creative, and whilst this makes us designers feel great, the result is probably not working hard enough.

A clear strategy will add both depth and detail to the brief, giving the designer a set of guard rails ensuring not only an informed response, but almost certainly a much more direct route from initial concept to final execution. In day-to-day working life this makes for a happy agency team, but in commercial terms equates to efficiency and cost effectiveness for the client. Win win.

Our recent brand refresh for The Gap Partnership flies the flag for objective design. Early agreement on the business problem, insight and opportunities allowed us to profile the brand and its character. By the time the creative brief was delivered, both client and agency were pulling in the same direction with momentum and energy. The design process was a pleasure, working within a set of agreed parameters left plenty of freedom to bring the brand to life in a way that was always going to work.

That said, all successful design is a blend of objective and subjective decision making. The need for creativity, visual flair and craft is intrinsic to design; without space to play, it is likely that the outcome will be predictable and lack innovation. Even the most functional briefs benefit from a certain amount of inexplicable magic. Balancing objectivity with subjectivity is a fine art in itself. Knowing where to license which and to what degree defines the discipline of design.

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