There aren’t a lot of these critters around at the moment. One recent design brief (from a new visitor centre in the South West) stands out in this category and contained these rarely seen words: ‘To encourage and mentor good interpretation practice in line with Tilden’s interpretation principles’ and: ‘Despite setting out all the above features of the exhibition, we do not wish to appear prescriptive in its approach to the new galleries. We recognise that it is the design team’s job is to design the exhibition.’
All within a brief of nine pages. This is what a brief should be… brief.
More of these varmints than you can shake a stick at, with a clear winner among recent projects coming from a castle up North. It started with a showdown PQQ (Pretender Questionnaire) – ten pages long. The lucky many who got through to the tender stage were issued with a ‘brief’ and background material that extended to an unbelievable 30 separate documents.
Ten (yes ten) lucky design companies were then selected to go head-to-head out for the project prize worth just over £100k. Lots of (free) creative work was required (each with its own question – for the box tickers). Answers had to be in hard copy triplicate with the final three-to-four still left standing invited to shoot it out at interview.
Sadly the very contradictory ‘brief’ had escribed in minute detail almost every aspect of what the new visitor experience should be, with the competing designers expected to mind read and mimic this in graphic form.
These darn no-good hombres are hard to spot, but are non-jobs, disguised as tenders.
They are usually forced on to the client, by the procurement process (usually, in this neck of the woods, a European dressed in a black suit). The plot runs as such. A design team, after a more simple tender process is forced by ‘the system’ to re-tender for the same job. To the unwary designer this is a huge waste of time and money.
How can you spot this ambush? Hard! Sometimes an honest question such as, ‘Are you happy with your existing proposal?’ leads to interesting and sometime revealing results. Often the “brief”, is lavished with easily recognisable ‘brands’ of other design companies’ hard work. If you spot this stakeout, turn round and ride like the wind!
And what does this situation say about this industry today? Well, next time I need another professional (perhaps an accountant or solicitor?), I may try some of these quick-draw solutions on them.
It could be along the lines of getting maybe ten companies to look at my problem, then I’ll ask for a selection of solutions (a legal opinion or set of books) and price – and then just maybe select a winner. Or I may be told to take my two-timing, no good son of a gun, out of town… and scram.