What’s the scariest brief you’ve ever worked on?

It’s Halloween today. What’s the scariest brief you’ve ever worked on?

Simon Manchipp

I like scary briefs. That’s not to say I’m fond of pants with a terrifying secret. But projects that provide particular problems are always welcome at SomeOne. Just as ghosts seem to fall into a series of familiar categories. So do design projects. 

White ladies’ are supposed to have died tragically or suffered trauma in life. Much like a brand that has done something awful and needs a total makeover. We’ve handled out fair share of these. Reinvention is exciting. A suffering brand is a challenge to change. But enormously rewarding. 

Poltergeist move things around seemingly without reason. Much like the hundreds of mergers and acquisition rebrands we tackle. When things seem to be swapping places it’s good to get in there and help manage the transitions. 

Another widespread belief concerning ghosts is that they are composed of a misty, airy, or subtle material. Anthropologists link this idea to early beliefs that ghosts were the person within the person. Frankly this is perfect strategic brand material. We are forever defining this for organisations to help steer their actions. The person within the person is the brand. 

What you don’t understand is often a source of fear. But we like to tackle these things. We’re less the fair maiden screaming across the castle… And more the Abraham Van Helsing… Stalking down the mystery of Brand and ridding the world of horror. All while listening to some WitchHouse (look it up). 

Simon Manchipp, co-founder, SomeOne

Will Nice

I could write horror stories about briefs that were over-restrictive (‘we want a completely new identity but you can¹t change anything’); formless (‘literally do whatever you like’); or plain weird (‘make the apples more aggressive’). But the scariest brief I received showed total disregard of the value of our brand identity expertise. I once pitched for a rebranding project, and after having presented strategy, identity design, timeline and fees, we received the response: Œcan we just have a logo for £500?¹. Unsurprsingly we politely demurred but the words still keep me awake at night.

Will Nice, creative director, Brenton Blue Studio

Maeve Keane

Trying to figure out how we might study people¹s showering habits was an alarming prospect, especially as showering is such an intimate part of the daily routine and we wanted to find out what people actually do (vs. what they say they do), without skewing the sample or results, or hooking up electronic monitoring equipment. Even more frightening is when we found who previous researchers had recruitedŠ exhibitionists, since they obviously didn¹t mind being watched!

Maeve Keane, principal, design insight, PDD

Howard Sullivan

Two stories here: briefed to turn up to a meet with a global brand, jet-lagged and green, expecting to drop off some boards, only to be snared into an ad hoc presentation to 20 directors at their board meeting. That scared me some. But the biggest boot-shaker was for good reasons. We’d been set up for just over a year then boom, Nespresso commissioned us to deliver us a 30-country retail brief. Amazing game changer for us, but daunting at first. I had a bit of a shiver then, wooooowwwoooooo, cracked on.

 Howard Sullivan, creative director and co-founder of commercial interiors and trends agency, YourStudio

Jack Renwick

Most new briefs come with a scare factor, if you don’t feel the fear then maybe you’re not bothered enough, or you’re lucky enough to be brilliant. The scariest for me are when it’s clear the client hasn’t a clue what they want but refuse to acknowledge it, that’s when the fear really kicks in as you swim around blindly attempting random guesses. This?.. No?… How about this??  I worked with a large hotel chain and after an exhausting year and 100 binned routes, I angrily decided the problem wasn’t with our work but with their brief. Telling them I was refusing to do any more work was quite a scary moment, but telling my bosses we’d lost the account was terrifying.

Jack Renwick, founder, Jack Renwick studio

Latest articles