How to give a great brief

10 Golden rules for saving time and trouble

Author Johannes Neusel

We always start with a brief. After 15 years and countless projects, we’ve experienced the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to briefings—whether they come from start-ups or international corporations. But why is a thorough, thoughtful brief so important? Surely the kinks can be worked out along the way?

The quality of a brief is fundamental to understanding client needs and expectations. It is the blueprint before the first blueprint, and it can clear up misunderstandings, keep a project focused and become the starting point for a smooth and successful collaboration. We’ve put together our 10 top tips for briefing:

Introduce yourself

Who are you? Why do you do what you do? What are your core values? Tell us the important things.

State your goal

What must be delivered? Let’s firm up your project goal. It should be ambitious, but realistic. What are you expecting at the end of the day and what is going to make you feel like it’s a job well done?

Sign it off

It’s very easy to derail a project by having an extra opinion crop up at the last minute. Get your briefing approved by stakeholders, signed and rubber-stamped by management. A changing brief can cause big delays.

Talk functions and benefits

What makes the product special? What are its key functions? What’s the ultimate benefit? What still needs defining?

Locate yourself

It’s important to be honest when identifying exactly where in the market you are or want to be. That means knowing your competitors and product positioning. We can help, but the more you can tell us about your location in the market, the better.

Name your team

Who makes up your project team? What role does each of them play in terms of approvals, process, communications, etc? What are each of their expectations, and how do you envisage the workflow?

Name your maker

If you’re working with a manufacturer, who are they? What are their capabilities and their limitations? Including the manufacturer at an early stage can help speed up the process. We have trusted relationships with international manufacturers and can help advise if need be.

State your restrictions

Are there any technical, political or social restrictions on your product? Give us the big picture if you think it’s important that we have those details.

Share your guidelines

What are your corporate identity guidelines or brand guidelines, if any? What do we need to be aligned with to ensure consistency with your brand’s look and feel and values?

Set your timelines

Timing should be realistic. The first phase of a project needs enough time to make sure we lay a strong foundation. Together, we’ll set out a timeline with key milestones and markers.

The rebrief

Good communication is the absolute foundation of a successful collaboration. We always provide a rebrief to make sure we’ve understood the project objectives, have a solid grasp on the goal of the project and can accommodate timelines and requirements. During a rebriefing session, both parties ask questions, fill in any gaps or missing information and reach a mutual understanding. Wherever possible, a face-to-face meeting and briefing session will always be valuable, as important points can be missed in a written briefing.

A good example…

Our client Swisscom is a strong example of an organisation that knows how to deliver an effective brief. Before we begin a new project with Swisscom, all parties involved—ourselves, the manufacturer and business leads—are invited to a kick-off meeting in Switzerland. There, we direct questions to the person responsible and develop positive working relationships. (You can read more about our cooperation with Swisscom.)

Of course, not every client can organise a trip to Switzerland, but a quick call can be enough to clarify and refine a brief. Above all, talk to each other. We make sure that we connect with our clients beyond email. Trust us—it makes a huge difference.