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Why it's good to break away from a brief

Recently whilst working on a new submission for Briefbox, I started trying to really focus on what the brief suggested but found myself getting stuck on a design I wasn’t happy with. After much experimentation I decided to trust my gut; I made the choice to go against the rules in order to create something that I felt was more appropriate for the product and the market. Here’s what I did.

Taking a step back

The brief I took on, ‘Nuts about branding’ asks the designer to create packaging for a new nuts company called ‘Robby’s Nuts’. Originally what the client requested was ‘a fresh new logo and custom package design’ that was ‘based on vintage, unique and American styles’. The first thing I wanted to do was really nail the logo and create something that was unique, custom and vintage. So, I played around sketching some crest designs, and quickly chose a design I liked and took it to Illustrator to tidy up. When taking it to screen I also added a cashew illustration to make it clear what the brand was.

Tab Robbies Nuts Initial Sketches

As I began developing the rest of the brand, I put together a vibrant, American style pattern that related to nuts and the general American style the client asked for. As you can see from the pattern below, it is very bright which I really liked, however when I began putting all of the elements together such as the logo and other product information, I just really didn’t feel that it was working. The styles were what I believed to be appropriate, but for the packaging it wasn’t right for the market and for a new, up-and-coming brand. So from here I decided to scrap the pattern as it was just too heavy and busy. Not only that, but I didn’t feel it was obvious at first glance what the packaging was actually advertising.

Initial pattern by Tab for Robbies Nuts

Initial pattern and product design by Tabitha Stead

Initial pattern and product design by Tabitha Stead

Moving on, I decided to gather some new inspiration, looking at much more modern styles and packaging layouts. I kept the logo the same as I believed it could still work for the brand. For the front of the packaging I decided to use some illustrations of nuts I’d created in the last version, in hopes of making what was being advertised clearer.

I then created some simple shapes that portray different nuts in a range of much more subtle and inviting colours to overlap with the text. This is actually a commonly used style with American designs. I felt here that, although it looked very different, I was creating my own spin on the styles the client asked for. You may also notice how the crest logo has been stripped back for the front of the packaging to keep it clean and minimal, but the back design still displays the full crest.

Robby's Nuts by Tabitha Stead

Perfect Pistachios for Robby's Nuts by Tabitha Stead

Courageous Cashews for Robby's Nuts by Tabitha Stead

New packaging designs for Robby’s Nuts by Tabitha Stead

After making these changes I felt I had come up with a much more innovative, unique and modern packaging design, and it now appeared as something people would notice more easily as a product selling nuts than in the previous design.

This process has really taught me that sometimes it’s okay to break away from a brief and go with your gut when you believe a different style/design could work better for the product. From making these big changes in my designs, I grew in confidence and felt that when facing the client, I could confidently explain my process and my reasons for going against the brief. It simply shows that sometimes you can take risks and bend the rules with design when it’s appropriate, and you can have some fun with it!

Inspiring examples of bending the rules

I have gathered some other examples of other designers on Briefbox who have bent the rules and broken away from briefs in order to create some really impressive and unique designs.

First of all is Briana Griffin with her Vivet design for the brief ‘Editorial layout for a lifestyle publication’. What I think is great about her work is that she went against the typical conventions you would expect for a ‘minimal magazine’. She used on-trend pastel colours for the front covers along with negative images which created a really interesting and unique approach. Compared to the other submissions, Briana’s work really stood out to me as it was so different to the rest. Taking a risk like this could potentially really impress a client leading them to choose your design over a more generic one. Always be aware of your audience though, this won’t work for every client but if you think they’d love it, make a leap of faith!

Vivet by Briana Griffin

Vivet by Briana Griffin

Another great example of breaking away from a brief is Nicole Anderson’s design for the brief ‘Branding for Peep sunglasses’. The brief asks for a logo and business card whose design should use ‘a diverse range of shapes and colours to support summer vibes’. Looking at the majority of the submissions they generally keep to what the brief asked for, but to me Nicole’s work stood out from the rest as she took a completely different approach. Her pattern design is very unique and with her use of the impressive illustration, colours and business card layout, the whole brand and design was very appealing and diverse compared to the other submissions.

Peep Sunglasses by Nicole Anderson

Peep Sunglasses by Nicole Anderson

Peep Sunglasses by Nicole Anderson

Lastly to take a look at is Fulvio Volpi’s design for the ‘Honey label’ brief. When looking at the other submissions I found them to be quite obvious and very typically honey/bee themed. However, when looking at Fulvio’s design I found it to be much more unique and very different to the rest. This was mainly because he hasn’t used a bee within the logo, he focused on a totally different subject matter for as a main image and opted to create a much more illustrative design of a bee on the side. I also like that he’s chosen a brown colour palette to represent the organic nature of the product, rather than the obvious yellow or navy.

Henry's Honey by Fulvio Volpi

Henry’s Honey by Fulvio Volpi

So if you’re stuck in a rut with your design, my advice is to not get caught up with it. Sometimes you need to let go, start again and take a totally different approach.