BLOG: Stick to the Brief

When a child makes a picture at school, first they draw something relatively pretty and then they start sticking on pasta, cotton wool and sequins. Before you know it the whole thing is smothered in glitter.

Well when faced with a new project, we found it pretty easy to slip in to that same mindset. I’m sure we’ve all been in that scenario when you succumb to the temptation of adding and tweaking, thinking: ‘I could do this and do that’. The problem is, before you know it, you’ve lost sight of what was once a tight, defined piece of work and you’ve blown X amount of your paid days adding… well, pretty much nothing.

Known by many as ‘feature creep’, we call it ‘bloat’ and it can quickly turn your project into an unprofitable mess. As a new company, Goodboy barely had any time or cash to spare and so slipping in to this unprofitable, unprofessional mindset could have been disastrous.

In my experience, there are only two reasons why projects start to bloat. The first is when a client has heard a new buzz term which they want involved in their project. A piece of work starts in one place, then a client gets excited about some new technology and it soon becomes a ‘crucial’ add-on. If you don’t jump on those grenades quickly there’s a real danger of a project spiralling into a wish list of trendy features; ruining the integrity of your original concept and eating in to your profits.

I’ve had to learn to be pretty hard-nosed with clients. Not rude, but knowing to stick to the original scope and trying to keep them focussed. With every client request I now just weigh up how productive and beneficial it will be – and how much of our profit it will consume.

Standing up to the client is obviously easier said than done because, when you’re starting at least, every client seems like gold dust. However, I found it helped not to think that we were being inflexible or unwilling – but simply that we were confident in our original idea. It’s really useful to make sure you’ve specified right at the start of the project what it is you’re going to deliver and to get that in writing. So, if the client asks for something new, you can point out if it’s not in the specification and set a price for doing additional work.

Of course, as creatives it doesn’t always take a client to send us off tinkering in the dark fringes of a project and the second way bloat can set it is very much self-inflicted. You can soon find yourself in real trouble once you’ve had a great creative idea and tried to R&D it on the fly. That isn’t really what you’re being paid to do and it isn’t going to help you hit deadlines and budget; it’s not cost effective and it’s not really fair to clients either.

But we are very eager to explore new technologies and want to play around with every new toy that’s out there, and so have built that into a business model which is manageable. So, if we are excited by a new trend, we will explore during our own time and have it ready to go on day one of a project. That way, the groundwork is laid and we can get on with earning our crust.

Either way, bloat tends to arise when you’re not really confident in the work you’ve produced. You get unsure and start to think ‘maybe if I just add a social angle this will look better’ but all you’re doing is moving further and further away from the brief and your original proposal.

If the core of the work isn’t fulfilling your client brief, then a few bits of glitter and pasta aren’t going to fool anyone – you’ll just be bloating your project and throwing profit out the window with every new addition. If you find yourself drifting into that position, it’s time to knuckle down and streamline your project back to its original objectives.


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Illustrated By Chris Lloyd

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