Inspiring project briefs to boost your portfolio

We've all been there. You've built a wonderful portfolio site but you've not get enough work to show off. If you find yourself in this position don't fret. Head off to Briefbox. It's a online collection of short-and-sweet design briefs written to inspire designers.

We catch up with Briefbox's maker – Joel Alexander – and find why he created the side project and how designers have taken to it.

Who are you and what's your day job?

I'm the co-founder of Bristol-based design studio Orca Design. As well as the day-to-day running of the studio, I look after the custom lettering and illustration projects.

Where did the idea for Briefbox come from?

When I started out, I remember making up test projects and fake briefs to fill out my portfolio and learn new skills. Struggling to find new ideas, me and my buddy used to make up briefs and give each other feedback.

This, combined with the fact I'm always thinking of fun side projects, was how the site started off: as a simple blog where I would write a brief a day and see what happened.

Briefbox is a library of short-and-sweet design briefs created to inspire designers.

Briefbox is a library of short-and-sweet design briefs created to inspire designers.

What's the reaction been like?

Amazing! Since launching the site in August, the reaction has been crazy. The blog turned into a community pretty much overnight, when I added a simple members area where people could save their favourite briefs for later. Smashing magazine, Speckyboy blog and Jessica Hische all tweeted about it, and page views got to 80,000 in that first month.

How do you feel about people putting work based on your briefs in their portfolios?

I'm all for it. I'm writing much more 'design exercise' style briefs at the moment – like 'Create an awesome geometric pattern' rather than, say, a logo for a made-up company. This forces designers to step outside of their comfort zones and gives them a bigger playground that they can experiment and practice their skills in.

Do you think that everyone should have a side project?

I would highly recommend having a side project. Doing something that is just for you, without the constraints, deadlines and stress found in client work, keeps me sane after a full-on week at the studio. Having a side project is like a hobby and Briefbox is mine.

It's really fun to work on, and helps me improve my coding and writing skills. At the same time, I feel that I'm giving something back, helping people improve their design skills all over the world.

Words: Martin Cooper

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