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How to launch your project with a thoughtful brief

Simon Croft, Creative Director

At Orangery, we like to approach the briefing process a little differently. In fact, we’ve made significant effort to make the initial brief one of the best parts of a project, for us and the client.

The brief is where it all begins. It’s where the excitement starts, it’s where we cultivate ideas, and build upon the great relationships that we strive for with our clients. If you find briefing a difficult process or a laborious task, it might be time to try something a little different. Whether you’re an agency or work with agencies, it’s time to get thoughtful.

Some clients don’t know what they want, and that’s okay

Many of our clients come to us with a clear idea of where they want to go, but not necessarily how to get there. It’s during this stage that we lean towards our thoughtful nature as an agency, and steer away from off-the-shelf products or pre-packaged deliverables. We’re not just talking about being thoughtful to others, although that’s pretty high up on our priorities, but being full of thought.

So what makes a thoughtful brief?

It’s often tricky to know where to start with a brief and how much the design agency needs to know. Actually, by involving your agency from the beginning, it is already a shared responsibility. The more we know, the more we can help you solve your problem and answer the brief.

We create ideas, concepts and designs that have been properly thought about, from end to end. A clear, concise brief helps to make sure we are all on the same page, to excuse the pun, with the same goals and aspirations for the brand.

Why does the brief exist?

This might seem like an obvious question but what is your motivation for the project in the first place? Why has it come about? What is the business reason for the project? Perhaps it is to increase visitors to the website, or due to a merger or acquisition. Whatever the reason, it helps to know the bigger picture so we can really help you address your business needs.

What do you want to get out of it?

Think about what you can tell us about the business, the product or the service that we don’t already know. What are your main objectives for the project? What are you hoping to achieve and what does success look like? If we understand this, we can help steer the project in the right direction and advise on the most effective services to get you to your desired outcome.

Orangery team working on a thoughtful brief

Who are you talking to?

It’s important for us to understand your target market and what makes your audience tick. Perhaps you already have some consumer research you can share with us. We can then start to build customer personas so we are really focused on engaging them directly.

Who are your main competitors?

By getting to know the marketplace and who you are competing with, we can help create a space for you that makes you stand apart. There may also be other brands we can take inspiration from in other markets. It’s useful to have these conversations upfront to not only help create something differentiating and unique, but something that has your stamp on it.

The practical stuff

All too often, we hear about projects that have failed due to the practical things being missed. We need to know if there are specific stakeholders that need to be involved. In which case we will be sure to make them feel part of the process from the beginning. Perhaps there is a particularly tricky board member that we need to engage. This is really important for the process, and ensures that there are no nasty surprises further down the line.

Maybe you have a specific sales conference where you need to share your ideas for the project. Make sure we know so we can make you look great to your colleagues – that is our job after all.

The elephant in the room

Often the sensitive subject of money is the last thing to get mentioned – almost an afterthought. In fact, if we can be clear on a budget upfront, we can then help you design a programme of works that fits your budget. Otherwise, it’s potentially a waste of everyone’s time. Rather than second-guessing budgets or leaving it too late, an open, honest conversation upfront allows us to be more accurate and focused about what we propose.

“Putting in greater effort up front promises a distinctive brand experience by the end, and this is something that we feel not only keeps our clients coming back, but keeps our work fresh and varied too!”

– Simon Croft, Founder and Creative Director

One size doesn’t fit all

Whilst this co-creative process is how we approach every client and project, no two are the same. The ‘explore’ in our ‘Explore, Create, Support’ (which we will delve into in the next blog) is there to facilitate discussions, but where these discussions go isn’t always predictable. Initial ideas can waver, scopes can creep and objectives can change too (and that’s okay). By creating a space where these conversations can thrive, we’re setting the groundwork for what will be a unique and tailored product.

Putting in greater effort up front promises a distinctive brand experience by the end, and this is something that we feel not only keeps our clients coming back, but keeps our work fresh and varied too. We don’t want to be churning out the same old thing for every client, and whilst it’s a great route to revenue, that’s not what we’re about.

There’s still room for push and pull

A brief is a prime opportunity to challenge clients, and when done well, they tend to thank us for it. The best ideas aren’t always the first ideas, so we’ll push you to think differently, and we strive to pull out those slightly more left field ideas and develop them. 

Many marketing teams feel limited by their own guidelines and they can prove to be a bit of a straitjacket to creativity. But it often just takes a fresh pair of eyes to see potential opportunities from another perspective. Conversely, clients who haven’t yet formed their brand may have simply run out of steam. Our knowledge and experience in creative direction really comes into play here, and before long, we are looking at the early stages of a campaign, strategy or design – one that’s been created with you, not for you.

We’re always listening

This might sound like a mountain of work to get through before we’ve even produced our first frame or pixel. But we don’t take our boots off just yet – the journey’s far from over. Thoughtfulness exists all the way through our projects. It’s not just a fancy discovery session, it’s a way of working. In the same way that we encourage all and any conversations up front, we feel it’s important to continue the discourse throughout a project too.

Objectives can and will change. Business goals may shift. And if there’s anything that we’ve learnt from the last couple of years, the world may have other ideas too. So it’s important that we listen to you and the worlds that you’re in. Flexibility is key, and is a great way to show that we’re working alongside you and with you, not for or against you.

Setting an example

We appreciate that every agency is different, and this is just our way of doing things. It’s our ‘set piece’, but has enough flex to fit with clients of all shapes and sizes. We’ve taken the time to perfect it, and also hired a team that complements it. So when we marry a great new client with our thoughtful briefing process, the pay-off is huge. But what does that pay-off look like?

  • Long-lasting relationships. Something we love to hear at the end of a project is “We’ve got something else we’d love you to help us with.”
  • Changing perceptions. We want to take away the intimidation around the briefing process. ‘Make briefing great again.’
  • Reset the balance. The client/agency relationship is just as much about one as it is the other. There’s no right or wrong, no us versus you. We’re a team.
  • Understanding a sector. We really get to know you and your business inside out. We have a genuine interest and feel a need to understand the best we can, be it tennis or horses or investment platforms, for example! We make it our business to know your sector.
  • We get it. The best compliment is “you get it”. Our curiosity and creative minds unpick business problems and offer value from the outset.
  • Meeting new people. 90% of our clients come from referrals. It may be from department to department or business to business. Either way it is great to meet like-minded clients who want to make a difference.

A canvas to be creative

Here’s a message we’d like to leave you with. If you’re a client looking for an agency, don’t assume that it’s only us who have boundless creativity. You’ve got it in you too, and a huge part of our job is to simply unlock it. We’re not claiming to be the only agency that can do it, but we can guarantee that we’ll do it in a way that is thoughtful, inspiring and refreshing. That’s where we get our kicks, and that’s why we do what we do.

If you’re looking for a thoughtful agency to support you with anything from a website or app, a launch campaign through to brand identity, we’re offering our project planner template, just contact us here and we’ll send it over!

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