The brief given by Mick Jagger to Andy Warhol commissioning him to design the cover of their latest album is often held up as an example of a truly great creative brief. It is a common misunderstanding that giving designers carté blanché on any given project is a their dream come true. In our opinion, nothing could be further from the truth. Saying to a designer “do whatever you want” will usually find them stunned into peralysis by the paradox of choice. There are simply too many options to pick just one. Graphic design is a communication tool and as such needs structure to opperate in. The creative brief is the most critical part in the design process. It sets out the road map for the project. It dictates; where are we heading, how are we going to get there and how will we know when we have arrived? If you are just doing what you want then it becomes more akin to fine art rather than design.
Whilst Mick Jagger on the face of it seems to be giving the ideal brief it is infact a world of stress to most graphic designers. It is of course crucial to remember he was giving this to Warhol who as an artist, was very comfortable expressing his own ideas and had a very distinctive visual style. It was always likely that Mick was going to like whatever Warhol came back with.
It is also worth remembering that the resulting album cover, although brilliant, was a massive pain in terms of production and cost. The real zipper included in the early versions caused huge production headaches and damage to the records inside when stacked upon each other. So much for Mick’s warning about avoiding complexity. Perhaps Mick realised right from the start that it was pointless giving Warhol a brief as he would ignore it anyway.