running words around
design education and visual communication
authored by chris m hughes

Interpreting A Brief

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

This week I attended a D&AD Educational Event at Glasgow School of Art. My colleague and I took along eleven students. Other taking part included tutors and students from most of the Art Colleges in Scotland - the hosts Glasgow, ECA (Edinburgh), Gray's (Aberdeen), Duncan of Jordanstone (Dundee), and Edinburgh Napier.

The program for the day included an industry workshop and a porfolio surgery with a variety of creative directors and professionals.

D&AD's Director of Education introduced the Student Awards, and talked the group through D&AD's new website and its resources, which include a 10-year archive of professional and student entries. We also got treated to a round of judging, allowing the students to get an idea of just how submissions are assessed.

The key criteria for judging is solid evidence of creative thinking, good execution and staying on brief.

This is invaluable advice to students, because the rewards for success at D&AD are huge - whilst the average graduate takes nearly 24 months to find work in the creative industries, 43% of D&AD winners gain employment within four weeks.

The highlight for me came from guest speaker Franki Goodwin, founder of the Franki&Jonny Agency, and a former graduate of GSA, who gave a riveting and insightful talk about how to interpret a brief.

She described her fondness for tackling the initial ideas with sketches and moodboards. That opinion was made explicit with a slide showing a pencil with the words FUCK PHOTOSHOP stamped on it.

Goodwin also observed that sometimes graphic design is actually not that interesting. She prefers to think outdoors whilst cycling rather than sitting in front of a mac and looking at what other agencies or designers are producing. One thing that strikes me about this sort of approach is that you can become entirely objective about the problem, rather than dwelling on the quality (or lack thereof) of both the brief and the client.

The Franki&Jonny agency specialises in graphic design for film, especially cinema promotion, and a standout example of her work was a poster for the Todd Haynes movie 'It's Not There' - the acclaimed Bob Dylan biography - into which she managed to blend aspects of Mondrian, Andy Warhol and the profiles of the four leading actors. During that particular project, her studio played Bob Dylan non-stop for about three weeks - a great example of what she terms 'getting immersed' in a brief.

I'm Not There
I'm Not There - Poster. Source www.frankiandjonny.com

Finally, Goodwin showed the group an example of a corporate identity, in this case a logotype for a London film company, a single mark which encapsulated a series of strict requirements from a fairly unimaginative brief.

In common with much of D&AD's activities, this was an inspirational and refreshingly down-to-earth event with real value for both educators and future designers.