You want something more efficient than brain storming? The results of brain storming are not satisfying? You want alternatives where you can get great results with the least effort. Guerilla fighters are known for having a great impact without huge investments in humans or weaponry. I translated this concept into my guerilla alternatives to brain storming.
Get as many Design Annuals, Award Books and other resources with great designs. Many graphic designers say that they are inspired by them, I go further - steal the design. There is just one important rule - Don't steal the design of a related topic. If you have to do a website for a lawyer, don't steal a design from a lawyer website. Steal the design from another branch and adapt it to your client. In this process (changing the colors, adding the content, add and detract elements) you will create a unique design. You see its inspiration with a touch of honesty.
Very often you will get more than one job by one client the same time. They are treated as separated projects with no connection one to another. Some smaller, some bigger. Especially for the smaller ones its difficult to come up with something new - the lack of content and uniqueness to the project is often the cause. By trying to combine them into a bigger whole you can gain deepness and have a bigger base upon creating something unique. For example you have to do a key ring as gadget for the company, a two brochures for two different products and an advertising for one of the products. Combine them together to find out if there is a common reason why the company released this new products. You bundle it into a campaign so to speak and find one idea you can use on all formats. The company made this products to help workers with their job? Good, your campaign will state: "company X helps you do your job" and the products are the proof that the statement is true. Reuse this on the key ring and the advertising (you can make 2 since most of the work is already done). Instead of four projects you did the job on one, this is what I call efficient.
Improve the strengths
As with the precious technique this works best when you realize that the briefing if too thin or the content is not suitable for the project goal. If your client isn't capable or willing to provide you with more substance for the lacking points, then focus on the strengths. If the text for example is not written well, but the pictures are great, focus on the pictures, make them stand out - add graphical elements to enforce the message you think should be transmitted. The text must be there and readable, but don't let it stand out. Vice versa when the text is ok, but the pictures are awful (believe me, you will have to deal more with this cases). Many successful sportsman succeeded by improving the things they can best and dealing with less effort where they lacked. For example, if you take two boxers or fighters. One has a great defense but lacks in offence, the other is in both attack and defense good. The first doesn't gain much if he improves the offence. If he gets an even better defense, the opponent has no chance to hit him, he will get tired and his defense will be low enough for the other fighter to strike the winning point.
Not everything from your briefing can be inverted, but most factors can. If they tell you to make one big brochure with everything in it, split it. Don't invert the content but the physical aspects. This is very powerful when the content is already ready and the form is practically fixed in the briefing. The content may be suited for the form stated in the briefing, but if you have to make it work in another format you find creative solutions automatically by solving this problem.
Get a feeling if the briefing is too fuzzy, lacks information and whatever you do, the client will make corrections to a point, where he did the design and not you. Reject this jobs. Explain to you client why you reject it and decide with him if he wants to redo the briefing, drops the project or if he has to look for someone else. You often save more and money if you reject a project, then doing a sloppy or low quality work. If you can explain your reasons (politely, you will never call a client an idiot) it will actually gain respect and increase your value. Remember, you are evaluated by future clients by the results of prior projects - a future client isn't interested in phrases like "the other client wanted it like this", he just sees the bad design.