Before he got swept up by a client, I used to work with a seriously good designer–Vince Benbenek. I’ll just be brief and say that he was one of the best in our market. We had worked closely together for years and got to the point where we could end each other’s sentences. So close that sometimes I would forego the routine of writing comprehensive creative briefs to launch projects, breaking our own rules.

We were asked to do a really little project for a small private high school in Niagara Falls, not too far from where the Niagara River plunges over a really big cliff. Just before the plunge, the river courses through a series of rapids–hence the name of the school’s sports teams–The Rapid Deers. Seemed reasonable. The school wanted an official logo for its teams and following a very brief meeting, not followed up with anything written, Vince started sketching. We told the school that we’d get back to them in a couple of days. Given the cost, any time past a couple of hours was pretty much pro bono. They were nice people and good kids.

A couple of days passed and Vince had pretty much completed what he was sure was spot on. I looked at what he had done, actually stared at it–confused. It was a deer with big antlers, standing up on his hind legs, looking mean and aggressive. His eyes were all red, and there was something odd happening around his mouth.

I commented on how I didn’t really see how this approach communicated a fast running deer; so I asked, “What’s all that stuff around his mouth?”  Vince said it was foam.  Still confused, I asked, “Why is he foaming at the mouth?” My partner of 10 years said, “He has rabies.” “Rabies! Why the hell does he have rabies?” Vince countered that they’re called The Rabid Deers. “NO,” I said, “they’re The Rapid Deers.” Vince said, “Exactly. They have rabies.”  I called the school and said we’d need a couple more days.

It takes a bit more time on the front end, but it can save a ton of time on the back end. No matter how small the project–write the damn brief.

As Charles Kettering once said: “A problem well stated is half solved.”  That’s essentially the purpose and result of a well written creative brief.