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Creating the Perfect Design Brief
I can’t emphasize how much design briefs have helped me in the past. They instill a level of trust between the designer and client, while establishing the mission, objectives, and milestones that keep you all on track. Peter L. Phillips’ Creating the Perfect Design Brief: How to Manage Design for Strategic Advantage should be on the shelves of design students and practitioners because he covers the micro and macro issues of design briefs while touching on design management.

If design is all about process, then designers should always start with a brief. How many clients have you heard say, “I don’t know what I want, but when I see it, I’ll know.” On the other hand, there are designers who say, “Tell me what you want, and I’ll deliver it.” This “service” method of working (or “taxi driving” as Phillips calls it) is not something the author condones. Instead, he suggests that designers act as consultants. Demonstrate your expertise. Perhaps you can become a vice president one day. While not all designers are capable of such ambitious climbing, this book lays the groundwork for how an office, studio, or agency can operate. Solid writing, planning, and strategizing will help get your feet under you.

While the book’s title centers on design briefs, Phillips goes one step further, discussing issues such as design management, competitive analysis, art versus design, overcoming obstacles, and measuring results. Like a designer, Creating the Perfect Design Brief tackles a broad range of material. Phillips brings it to the table in an accessible manner, making the book read much like a classroom text. This should come as no surprise. Phillips himself has given numerous seminars on design management, such as brand development, identity strategies, and communication programs. Sponsored by the Design Management Institute (D.M.I.), the book mirrors some of their goals, insomuch as showing how design can play an integral part in business strategy.

Throughout the wealth of information, chapter seven stood out. Titled “Establishing Credibility and Trust for Design”, these robust 28 pages are a call to action for designers. Using small testimonials with case studies, Phillips demonstrates how designers can emphasize their value in the workplace, “If you don’t understand why you are valuable, or why design is valuable, then no one else will either” (p. 73). Well, if you don’t know, that’s okay. Get the book. Jump to page 74.

In all, Creating the Perfect Design Brief asks designers to consider how they work. It’s helpful to have a process in place, but don’t let it streamline your creative activities. Design briefs and design management should help you work better. Currently, there’s a flood of self-help books on the shelves that cover everything from diet to exercise to divorce. Creating the Perfect Design Brief feels like self-help for designers. After finishing it, I believe I can take my job and my abilities to another level.

Book Information

Creating the Perfect Design Brief by Peter L. Phillips
Publisher: Allworth Press with Design Management Institute
ISBN: 1581153244

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PUBLISHED ON May.03.2004 BY Jason A. Tselentis
Jose Nieto’s comment is:

I agree with Jason: this is a very useful book, written in an engaging and approachable manner. I should add that it is particularly helpful to designers working in in-house departments. Phillips' ideas about establishing partnerships (as opposed to client/service relationships) are well argued and promising -- though, of course, not necessarily easy to implement. All in all, an excellent addition to the (very small) design management library.

On May.05.2004 at 10:20 AM
Paul’s comment is:

Great review: thanks. I'm going to go get this book for certain.

On May.05.2004 at 11:51 AM
arturo’s comment is:

This is a great book, I have it full of post its and margin notes, while the main point of this book is to write a "perfect" design brief, I found lots more than that... and yes the taxi driver metaphor is really great ;-) I found this as a great way to explain the relationship to a client.

On Jun.11.2004 at 09:31 PM