The Brief

All illustration work needs a brief:

  • as a starting point to help establish the nature of the work
  • provide some guidance and boundaries to be creative within
  • help frame the work in a context, for example the audience.

Even in self-directed work a brief establishing some limitations helps the creative process to prevent rushing off in all directions – though there is more flexibility to redraft a brief as the work progresses.

Content of a brief

  • What you are being asked to do
  • Why -what the illustrations are trying to achieve eg innovative/creative or functional
  • Who is your target audience or other relevant contextual information eg how the client hopes to influence them
  • How – the form the illustrations will take – print size, media, colours etc
  • When – deadlines and milestones – eg thumbnails, rough draft , completion 

The Rationale

A rationale is a short statement that helps to articulate your thinking both to yourself and the client. it:

  • shows you understand the brief. A client-led brief will usually have all the keywords that will identify what will make the client happy.
  • outlines how you propose to answer the brief
  • outlines why you propose to answer it this way and justifying why those ideas are suitable for the brief you have been given.

Answering a brief is rarely a linear process.  You may develop a number of rationales while working on a brief, each picking up on different ideas and directions. You will often have  to go back to the drawing board, re-read the brief and start again. Writing a rationale is a useful way of documenting this as you never know if you’ll need to go back to an early idea. In fact the more twists and turns the better because it’s showing that you are really pushing your ideas and illustrations. 

Self-directed briefs

Tom Phillips A Humument

Competition Awards

D&AD Student Awards

RSA Student Design Awards