For many marketing teams, creative production—the process of designing and producing all the landing pages, emails, and videos that customers see—can feel like a tangled web. Requests come in from what seems like every direction via email, Slack, or a passing hallway conversation. Important information, like project specs, timelines, and creative mandatories, are often incomplete, if not missing entirely. And when it comes to managing feedback and approvals on creative work, the picture only gets fuzzier.
Without a clear and efficient process for creative project management, you’re left with a chaotic work environment that slows down your team and makes it harder for designers to do what they do best: producing effective and beautiful work that delights and engages your audience. Fortunately, there is a way to manage and track creative production across all your marketing campaigns, events, and launches without letting things fall through the cracks. Here are five ideas for making your creative production process pixel perfect.
1. Centralize your creative requests
When design requests are coming in from every direction, keeping track of everything gets tricky, fast. That’s because you end up spending a good chunk of time consolidating information to create a single source of truth instead of delivering on the design work itself. What if you could start each day with a clear picture of all the design work being requested by other teams and divvy up work accordingly by priority, due date, and project scope?
You can get there by centralizing your creative production process. By designating one place for housing all design requests, you only need to check one place for all the work that needs to be completed—instead of fielding email, Slack, and in-person syncs to wrap your head around everything. You can use a web form, a project in Asana, or a combination of the two. Whatever you use, the important thing is to establish one place—and one place only.
This way, everyone else knows where to look to move forward on design work: Marketing managers can request creative assets for their digital campaigns, events, and blog content. Designers and copywriters know where to look for new project assignments or status updates. And most importantly, design managers have a single, clear view of all the work happening on their team at any given time.
2. Identify a project manager
So you’ve designated one place for all your design requests—great! What do you do when a ton of requests start coming in? To make sure requests are prioritized and assigned promptly, designate someone to be in charge of monitoring and managing incoming requests on a regular basis.
For smaller design teams, this might be the design lead or manager. On larger teams, this might be a project manager or creative producer. Either way, it’s important to clarify who on your team is responsible for this work so that nothing falls through the cracks.
Ultimately, the role of a creative project manager is to shepherd design work, from initial request to concepting, and all the way through to final approval.
3. Make sure everyone (not just the PM) knows the process
If you establish a new production process, and it’s never communicated, was it ever a process at all? Philosophical musings aside, internally communicating how your design team handles requests is an important aspect of nailing the creative production process. After all, if your teammates don’t know where they’re supposed to submit creative requests or how the creative project management process works, they’ll continue to use ad hoc methods.
One way to make sure team members follow your process is to make it clear that any design requests submitted through alternative means won’t be prioritized. It’s also important to clearly communicate what information—goals, specs, examples—should be provided with every request.
4. Set (and manage) expectations with creative briefs
To ensure that designers have enough information to get started on projects, develop a template for creative briefs and ask team members to fill one out with every request. Solid briefs can be a designer’s best friend, and creating a standard version makes for a smoother request process for everyone else. Additionally, they help to get everyone on the same page early on and are a useful document to refer back to throughout the design process to help the project team stay aligned.
Every design team will tailor its creative brief to suit their specific needs, but at a minimum, a creative brief should clearly define the marketing goals that the design work accomplishes, set expectations around scope and deadlines, and clarify who the stakeholders are.
Additionally, your creative brief should include any design specs, such as delivery format, sizing, and any other required elements. For example, do image files need to be delivered in .png or .jpg format? Do they need to be sized differently for Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn? If there are any relevant visual examples, include those, too. And if any requests are part of a larger marketing campaign, event, or product launch, be sure to ask team members to link to or attach the overall campaign or launch brief and other relevant documents.
5. Manage feedback and approvals together
On many marketing teams, requesting design work and reviewing it often consists of two separate processes. For instance, you might email a request to a creative producer and then send feedback directly to the designer over chat a few weeks later. If there are multiple rounds of reviewers and approvers, things can quickly become confusing.
To keep up with everyone’s feedback and get a clear sense of how to move forward on design work, it’s important to integrate the request process with reviews and approvals. Organize all relevant discussions, notes (from design review meetings, for example), and reference materials with the original design request.
Doing so gives designers the full context they need to work on any given request. It also makes it easy for reviewers and approvers to quickly get up to speed on the status of a project, instead of spending time trying to make sense of where things left off from a previous design iteration.
Iterate and polish
As you start to roll out your process, get feedback on how it’s working for the rest of your marketing team and iterate on it as necessary. Fine tune as you encounter friction points and your team’s needs evolve. And once your process is in a good place, you can replicate it for other work requests happening on the team, like copywriting, web development, or swag. No need to redesign the wheel every time.
Want to learn more about managing creative requests and other marketing programs successfully? Get our free guide on how to create effective processes that turn your marketing strategy into results.