All my briefs are vague... help/advice please.

Discussion in 'Design and Graphics' started by anim8or, Oct 29, 2008.

  1. anim8or macrumors 65816


    Aug 16, 2006
    Scotland, UK
    Hi all,

    I am fairly new to the freelance game, having trained as an animator for 4 years and had relatively no success in finding work, i am now pursuing a change of direction as a graphic designer.

    I have posted on this forum a few times with questions and with opinions so i thought why not come to people with some experience with this latest problem.

    All of the work i get right now is through a contact i made through a friend. He runs a technology consultant company that offers digital solutions - web design, identity, print work, etc.

    I have been getting reasonably regular work for the past couple of months and i am enjoying the challenges presented to me.

    My problem is as i have no contact with the clients i have no idea what it is they really want, i feel as though the briefs he gives are diluted through him, and he himself admits not being a designer!!!

    To put it simply, is it a bad thing that i find it difficult to get momentum with a brief without asking a hat-ful of questions upon receipt of a new brief???

    Or does this sound like an appropriate amount of detail to see me through;

    New logo required. . .they like that shape they have up the sortta house with the sun. .. . is there something we can do to make that look slick and professional??

    Cart Blanche isnt always a good thing is it???

    Please can someone with a little more experience help me approach this without "biting the hand that feeds me"!!!
  2. shecky Guest


    May 24, 2003
    Obviously you're not a golfer.
    i think that having dialog with the client (OR a proxy for the client who can be informative) about the needs of the project is critical. i think that working within restrictions actually makes work a lot easier. "blue sky" work is something that we actively try to avoid because it invariably leads to disappointed clients. When a client says to us "i don't know what i want, just bring some ideas in" we usually insist on a meeting and try and do some brainstorming with the client about what they are all about/what the project is about/etc. these meetings are not about the actual designed thing we are making, but are about THEM, and that gives us enough to go on to create work that they like. we are doing an annual report for an academic institution over the next 6 months and in the meeting they just said they want something "innovative and unique." now while that is a good thing to hear as our best work is exactly that, it is virtually zero to go on in terms of actually creating a design. so we spent a good hour in a meeting just talking about them. who they are, what they like, what they hate, what their mission is, etc. we have a sketchbook filled with words and phrases that they feel represent them.

    we also do some work with what is essentially a pimp; this woman's firm is a branding consultancy and she then facilitates the actual design work with a designer. we (the designers) never meet the client BUT she (the pimp; erm... pimstress?) has a very comprehensive understanding of the needs/wants/dreams of the client and conveys that to us.

    my personal opinion is that working within restriction is critical. even on our own personal work we find that we impose our own restrictions as it just makes the work a lot better and more focused.
  3. Kwill macrumors 68000


    Mar 10, 2003
    Speaking directly with the client is good only if you know what questions to ask and if you have the requisite customer skills. Artists can have an emotional attachment to their work. Sitting in front of someone who devalues it can trigger involuntary negative body language. Agencies generally hire "blue suits" that are good at smiling as they negotiate higher fees, absorb possible insults while keeping animals on both sides of the fence satiated.

    I suggest providing your "hand" with a comprehensive questionnaire to complete that answers the questions required to execute each project. The liaison will appear more competent and you will acquire sufficient information without resorting to speculative and time consuming shotgun presentations.
  4. SwiftLives macrumors 65816


    Dec 7, 2001
    Charleston, SC
    Personally, I hate working with a middleman, although sometimes it is just not avoidable.

    I have found that meeting with a client face-to-face is the best way to get a clear understanding of what they want. You pick up on their enthusiasm for certain elements and ideas which are difficult to see without some sort of personal interaction.

    And for a misanthrope like me, meeting with clients really forces me to be more of a salesman. I hate to admit it, but that's not a bad thing.

    One suggestion you may want to consider is a "worksheet" for your contact so he can ask better questions to the clients. (i.e. who is your target market? how large are you? what direction do you want your company to go?) That may help you get some better direction.


    In terms of expanding your client base -- this may sound strange -- but facebook (or any social networking site) is a good resource. I've "friended" anyone I've ever interviewed or interviewed with on there, as well as existing clients. It's always good to stay in touch...even peripherally. You can even set a public photo folder as your portfolio.

    Finally, I'd recommend working on your own brand. Give yourself a logo and create some business cards that you can hand out at networking events or leave around town. It's good to have a website component to go with that.
  5. jerryrock macrumors 6502


    Sep 11, 2007
    Amsterdam, NY
    Chances are your fee is being diluted as well.
    I would not accept a job where I did not have direct contact with the actual employer. I insist on direct communication with the printer as well.
    A contract is something that will protect both your rights as well as the employer.

  6. Krebstar macrumors regular

    Feb 11, 2008
    I'm only a student, and already I wish I could lock myself in a room with the client for at least an hour before even starting on anything. From my little experience in the real world, and in my talks with other designers, it seems that getting a client to actually verbalize what they're looking for is incredibly difficult.
  7. ezekielrage_99 macrumors 68040


    Oct 12, 2005
    You need a direct dialogue with the client, going through a middleman will create inherent issues with any design based work. I know this too well after design several broadcast weather graphics for clients.

    IMHO you need to set up the design brief with the client, sit down and talk get their POV so that you can create a nice plan and boundary for the project. This does take time however you will minimise the risk of SNAFUs and the client will generally like the result. Chinese whispers for design work does not work, ever.

    Also another thing, get anything in writing from the client and signed off. This will save time money and effort in the long term.
  8. anim8or thread starter macrumors 65816


    Aug 16, 2006
    Scotland, UK
    Thanks for all the responses....

    Can any advise me on the best way to approach this with my middleman?
  9. jmacleodpc19 macrumors newbie

    Oct 8, 2007
    If you charge hourly, then you're in good shape. You get the 'brief' brief and then design. When they come back with a lot of changes, the clock starts running again.

    You can tell your middleman that as long as you don't have direct access to key decision makers (the client) they will end up with more expensive projects.

    A 30 minute project can end up running a few hours because of the middleman is doing what he does best, getting in the way. If you're charging hourly, then you're actually making more money that way. If not, then a conversation needs to be had because the middleman is wasting your time.
  10. anim8or thread starter macrumors 65816


    Aug 16, 2006
    Scotland, UK
    I dont charge hourly, i get paid by the project, i know the middleman is getting his cut and an unfair portion i think too, but right now i cannot afford to challenge that as he is the one getting me the work in the first place.
  11. SwiftLives macrumors 65816


    Dec 7, 2001
    Charleston, SC
    Having a middleman (taking an annoying cut) is not a bad way to start out. It essentially guarantees you access to clients. However, there's really very little incentive for him to change the current setup. I somehow doubt he's going to be terribly receptive to the idea of reducing his cut.

    My advice - and this is long-term - is to start networking and build up a client base around him so that you can afford to cut him loose.

    In the short term, I'd say grin and bear it. Not what you wanted to hear, I'm sure. But if he's providing you a stable client base, that's not a bad thing. Especially in this economy.
  12. anim8or thread starter macrumors 65816


    Aug 16, 2006
    Scotland, UK
    I totally agree with you on all fronts, my only gripe is the way in which he presents me with work, and especially how he doesnt give me the appropriate access to clients to let me work and communicate effectively.

    A good example of when this relationship has gone bad is our last project got totally redesigned twice because i was going by what my middleman said to do, then the client didnt like it. How can i tell him that things will (should) go more smoothly if he lets me speak directly to the clients.
  13. ChicoWeb macrumors 65816


    Aug 16, 2004
    Okay, I deal with this all the time on a design and development level. It sucks. However, work is work and it's hard to turn down I know. What it sounds like to me is you have a bad project manager. This can be done, we've done it several times but it really depends on the skill set of the project manager to bring you the requirements before anything starts.

    My suggestion to you is to lay out the scope of each project with him, and since he is your client, create boundaries. Let him know that this was something that was not discussed in the initial scope, this requires a change request or an extra "2 hours" of labor. He'll quickly learn, but if you keep letting him change the project as you go, it will never get any better.

    Just some words of advice from someone who's been on both sides of the coin before :)
  14. Nicolecat macrumors 6502a


    Apr 2, 2008
    Would he be open and receptive to ask his client certain questions to help you better target what is needed in order to give him a better end result?

    Sometimes people that aren't in the design field just don't know what the designer needs to get the job done right...because of the lack of knowledge doesn't mean they still can't be a tool in helping you get the information you need.

    If you turn it around to where it would benefit him, it will more than likely seem like a very good business decision on his part. :D

    :eek: I hope this is helpful. Did I miss anything?

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