This question boils down to whether a young, would-be designer can emerge from their creative world long enough to think about the business and strategic areas that are just as important when producing and delivering a successful project.
It’s not always easy given that most junior designers would rather spend their valuable time honing their skills, binging on illustration books or magazines in order to get their daily inspiration fix, rather than on more staid matters.
But once a designer begins to take on clients, they will find themselves needing to rely on project management skills more and more – and see these as a help to productivity, rather than a hindrance to creativity.
The benefits are there to be reaped after all, as projectarthur’s Adam Wyatt explains:
“When working with your own clients you soon realise that the creative part of a project is just the tip of the iceberg, after client liaison, planning, quotes, scheduling, hiring and managing other talent, technical expertise, post production etc.
While this is time-consuming, the benefits of being in control of the whole process means that decisions can be made that, in most cases, require your own creative
expertise and knowledge.”
But when does a junior designer get to this point? Mark Hind of projectarthur explains how:
“As a junior designer, your project management skills are mostly non-existent.
They are something you pick up as your creative experience increases.
“These skills are often obtained through trial and error, carried on from pervious
projects and adapted to fit in with new ones. They also evolve as new techniques and technologies become available.
“They do become a necessary tool for creatives in smaller agencies though, where the
size and budget constraints of the company require you to wear many different caps.
“If you can manage a project through preparation, delegation and budget constraints,
a project should run smoothly and be flexible enough to adapt to any hiccups on the way.
“Put simply, good project management skills when it comes to the following areas will make the whole design process easier:”
1) Brief – the scope of the project
- Clients don’t always provide a brief – and when they do, it can often be a bit vague.
- The best practise for a designer is to write the brief themselves. This will ensure that the designer and client are on the same page at the crucial early stage.
- A good brief should feature the nature of the business, the deliverables expected by the client, and possible solutions to be explored. This should not be a long document, but simple and concise.
2) Timeline – the schedule for the project
- How long do projects take? This is discovered only from experience.
- The timeline is your guide to costing for a job. Get this wrong and you could risk not making a profit.
- A good timeline will feature not just creative time, but also time allocated for development, amendments and art work.
- The complexity of projects and client deadlines dictate the duration of the timeline, so it’s important to get this agreed by both designer and
client before the project starts.
3) Workload – the resources for the project
- As a young creative, lots of designers want to do everything. But if a project is large, spanning mixed media, the best way to utilise your
skills is to share the load and delegate.
- Workloads can be created for each member of the creative team, so everyone is clear on the direction the job should be moving in, with
clearly defined working roles.
4) Budget – the cost of the project
- The client will stipulate the budget – as a creative you need to visualise if this budget is feasible.
- Can this project be completed for this amount of money? If not what are you options? Do you have enough money to hire an extra set of hands?
- These above questions need to be addressed right at the beginning, before any design ideas can be considered.
Empowerment through training
There are more specific project management tools including project management plans, work breakdown structures, roles and responsibility matrix and project baselines which measure the progress of a project against scope, cost and schedule – which are all designed to improve business performance.
With the right training, designers will find they can turn the science of project management into an art form – as well as build a successful business – all while remaining true to their creative selves.
Rebecca Leitch is a Content Manager for ESI International – the world leader at providing innovative training to help people manage projects, contracts and business requirements by teaching the skills which drive results.
“A project manager at their disposal who can work in synergy with a design business is a valued asset.”