BBC Sounds: Final Reflections

Throughout the last few weeks working on the D&AD Brief for BBC sounds has shown me the importance of good client briefs, as opposed to bad ones and the difference it makes to be well prepared. The BBC Brief was a perfect example of a mediocre brief. The client provided some basic information about what they wanted, with quite specific constraints on some aspects and very open on other. They did not provide any resources, no information on colour or branding specifications, nothing you would expect from a large organisation when providing a brief.

Now, this isn’t all bad, in most cases having a brief with this little information makes it difficult to start work. Some designers would argue that having less constraints gives them the freedom to do their best work however this is not always the case. Part of managing a project requires businesses to set constraints on tasks and projects. Whether this be time or budget or number of people working on it doesn’t matter, but constraints make projects like these feasible and although limits are set there is still room for creativity.

To start off the project, it was important to set some goals and milestones. The first thing I did was work out the amount of time we had, then work out what kind of research needed to be done for the project and set the scope of what the deliverable would be. With the BBC brief it was possible for me to create JPEG image previews, a video demonstrating the application, or a mixture of both.

In total, we had 12 weeks to work on this project, this included research, initial designs and testing, and the final product. From my experience working in web design and development, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to develop a full application in this time, even a prototype would be very difficult especially considering other deadlines and commitments which I had. Realistically I would have about 10 hours per week to dedicate to the project – working out to around 120 hours.

I had to decide where I wanted to spend these hours and mapping this out on an actual calendar was the best way to decide how to do this. Using Dropbox Paper, a tool showed to us by one of our peers (Jonas), I created a basic map of how I would spend my time:

The first thing I had to map out was the weekly critiques, these were milestones where I had to show what I had been doing for the previous weeks so that my peers could review and give feedback on where I could go next. It was difficult for me to meet these, as I have been working towards my own goals outside of university, I started getting more and more requests for website design and graphic design and it became difficult to balance the D&AD project with other projects.

What I learnt from this is that there is an importance in being prepared to say no and understanding how much of a workload a person can take on. This is where project management came in and really could have helped with managing my own expectations of the project and timing of other projects.

The Agile Project management course taught me that there are eight principles that must be adhered to when starting a project;

  1. Focus on the business need
  2. Deliver on time
  3. Collaborate
  4. Never Compromise Quality
  5. Build Incrementally and from Firm Foundations
  6. Develop Iteratively
  7. Communicate Continuously and Clearly
  8. Demonstrate Control

Of these eight, during the D&AD brief, I felt that I did not meet some of them due to mismanagement of time. The main point which I should have worked on more is to build incrementally from firm foundations and developing my idea iteratively. During the final presentation there was some feedback into some ideas which could have developed further if I had attended all sessions. This shows that being active in communicating changes in where the project is on time can make a big difference on the outcomes.

Going back to the brief from the BBC, I felt that this brief was a very difficult one to pick up. Even with experience as a web designer and videographer, I found it difficult to pinpoint exactly what the BBC was asking to do. At a basic level they wanted to make sure the app reached out to different audiences, particularly young adults aged 16 to 34 who have become disenfranchised with the BBC compared to older generations due to the advent of Spotify for music and podcast streaming as well as other platforms.

When it came to design the app pages I wanted to add to the existing product, I tried to learn some new software, Adobe XD, which was created to assist web designers and developers to create mobile-friendly application style web apps. These web apps could then be used in a sandbox or on a mobile device to record how they would be used and interacted with.

The problem with this was that it became quite time consuming, I have always been used to designing layouts using Photoshop, then building applications by writing HTML and CSS from scratch. In more recent years I have used page builders within WordPress, which has streamlined the process for myself and many other web designers as it means there is less coding involved in designing a website.

Although I was technically capable of making a website using these methods I had always used in the past, I wanted to challenge myself by using something that is accepted by the User Experience (UX) industry, and this turned out to be a pain point for me. Due to the nature of the software, it was difficult to learn and within the 3 months of starting the project the software had changed immensely causing some of my work to be outdated.

Another part of this module I felt was seeing other projects come to life in the hands of different designers and giving feedback to my peers. Sometimes when picking up a brief and seeing something else next to it afterwards, I felt that I could have done a better job if I picked a different brief. As a web designer, it felt right to jump into a UX project, however as a videographer I know that I would have had more input into a brief such as the LADBIBLE x ADOBE brief. This came into play when giving feedback to my peers, where I would get more ideas and have something to say for other projects more than my own.

To conclude, I felt that although I did well to create a final product that would fit with the BBC brand, the brief and supporting materials did not allow much experimentation and was a difficult challenge to interpret what it was that the BBC wanted. I found that although I have skill in designing websites and UX, I spent too much time researching various aspects of the app and user base which could have been spent on designing the final product and iterations earlier. Through my personal development outside of this module, I found that videography is more attractive to me as a career path. This is due to creating two music videos over the past few months alongside the D&AD brief, where the D&AD brief felt like it was stagnating, I felt that I had achieved more with the music video production.

The challenges of UX design are yet to be solved, as a very new industry and something that doesn’t just encompass User Interfaces but also how the user experiences a platform, there is a difficulty in understanding exact user needs. This is an area I have interest in pursuing further and the BBC brief was more likely a bit too challenging for my first attempt at UX design when I have been so focused on UI design for the past 5 years.

In the future as I design more websites, I will be using what I have learnt here to plan my time more accordingly to allow for iterative designs with UX at the centre of the website design when implementing features which clients have requested. Although I had thought about these things in the past it was always an afterthought rather than something that was done throughout.

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