tom bassett interview“People in the business world tend to see the ‘brief’ as the end of the conversation, when in reality, for creative people, the ‘brief’ is just the starting point.” – Tom Bassett, producer/director Briefly

Most people have never heard of a brief, and yet, briefs are responsible for nearly every important creative idea, architectural design, and marketing campaign in the world.

Briefly, a new free online documentary explores the creative process through the minds of some of the world’s top designers, architects, artists and innovators. Through a series of one-on-one interviews with Frank Gehry (Founder Gehry Partner), Yves Béhar (CEO fuseproject), Maira Kalman (Illustrator), John C Jay (President @ GX, Partner @ Wieden + Kennedy), David Rockwell (CEO Rockwell Group), and John Boiler (CEO 72andSunny), these visionaries elaborate on how they define – and use – the brief to deliver exceptional creative results.

The film was conceived by brand strategist / producer / director TOM BASSETT. Bassett’s previous films include Connecting  (about the “Internet of things”) and Makers (about the Maker Movement) both of which were co-produced with Microsoft.  Briefly emanates out of the role the brief plays in shaping the best ideas. The end goal of Briefly is to help inform and inspire future generations of collaborators to write better briefs and manage the briefing process differently.



tom bassett, briefly documentarybrandnewdaydesigns: What made you want to produce a project about the brief?

Tom Bassett:  It’s been my career writing creative briefs and if you look at the world surrounding advertising, design, architecture or innovation, the boundaries that separate these different creative disciplines is collapsing. It feels like creativity has moved forward, but the briefing process hasn’t. We thought it might be interesting to take a step back and look how exceptionally creative people see the brief and what we can learn from them and be inspired to do our best work.

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briefly documentarybndd: Is the brief a necessary evil?

TB: I don’t think briefs are going away. There’s some people who get angry and frustrated, but you have to have a brief. There has to be some exchange of information about what the project is, the goals, the budget, the deadline. So yes, it’s a form of a necessary evil, but the question is ‘how do you use it to get to your full creative potential?’ [In the documentary] John Boiler talks about don’t tell me what and how in the form of a brief, tell me why. If you find out why, you’re able to use all the creative tools at your disposal. If a client tells me what and how, they’re basically executing what they want and that may not be the best thing.

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briefly documentarybndd: In your film we also hear from David Rockwell (CEO Rockwell Group) who says, “The brief should bring the limitations as well as an invitation”…

TB: The invitation part is key right? If the client is open enough, then they do invite you in and explain ‘here are our problems, what do you suggest?’ If you don’t have a seat at the table and the client isn’t open to your ideas then, like Rockwell says, it’s probably the wrong project for the firm. The limitations in a way can actually be a source of inspiration. How do we deal with verticality? We can fight it or can embrace it. Also in the film Maira Kalman refers to a ‘deadline in a dream’. I suppose creativity in a way is resolving some kind of tension. I think if there is no tension, you might not get to entrusting places. Tension isn’t always bad. There may be tension in your relationship with a client, but that insight is a great way to bring the DNA, the emotional engine to a project and bring in forward.

Check It Out: Wisecracker Design Completes Major Renovation of Hyatt Regency in Merida, Mexico…

briefly documentarybndd: What do you want viewers to take away from this documentary?

TB: The goal is to inform and inspire a future generation on how the creative brief can be managed to get to great creative spaces. On a foundational level, if you’re a student or young person in the industry, the brief is not a document or static rigid contract where someone is hired to go do a specific thing. It’s an organic process that is open to serendipity to identify the best idea. On a higher level, the story of Briefly is about belief. What do you believe in? Is what you’re doing based on some sort of believable truth? Do you believe in the people you’re doing it with? Do you believe deep down in your soul what you’re doing is going to move people in some way either to experience or have a reaction to something. The brief is figuring out what is your statement of belief. —

DISCOVER:  Briefly


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