Project management dos and don’ts for creative professionals

Project management dos and don’ts for creative professionals

Project management for designers is something that’s easier said than done. Whether you are a solo creative, a professional graphic designer or art director with multiple projects at hand, project management is an essential part of the job. You have to prioritize projects, organize ideas into actionable tasks, set deadlines, and communicate with the clients to get the ball rolling and produce great artworks.

via GIPHY — GIF Source: Emmelinedraws

However, not every project will run exactly according to plan (unless you have some kind of superpower). There will be challenges and risks related to every phase of your project – with management being the most essential of them.
Retaining your clients and creating great projects is a direct reflection of your commitment to effective project management.

This article will show you all the dos and don’ts of the process that will make you love managing your projects instead of riding the fast struggle bus.

Let’s get down to learning the most effective project management tips for designers out there.

Dos to follow

Plan before you manage

Project management for designers begins with a clearly sought-out plan. Define each step of your design plan to align the scope of your project, its touchpoints, goals, expectations, risks, outcomes, and so on.

Here, you have to clarify the scope of your project, collect the ideas, define the roles and responsibilities, organize them or assign them to your team, and develop baselines. Depending on this plan, you can breakdown the management structure to help you or your team manage their tasks effectively. To truly stun the client with a presentable yet practical graphic design brief, you have to have an airtight plan.

Communicate more often

Communication is a two-way street, where all channels need to be clear and respective. Strong project managers realize that effective communication is a must-have initiative in the management plan. From team members to clients, everyone interacting with the project should be clear on their roles.

Your role as a creative professional is to understand the project’s progress and communicate your concerns clearly. Collaborating with team members, bringing them together, reporting to the client, and cooperating with each leads to better team bonding, client reliability, and problem-solving.

Use the right project management tools

Your expertise doesn’t just lie in your personal skills; they also depend on your ability to use the proper tools to manage your projects efficiently. You will want to use tools that are designed for each stage of project management for designers, including the discussion and feedback phases.

Plus, use the tools that help you save time, maximize your potential, declutter your schedule, cement your collaboration, proof your projects, and finish them on time.

Determine the weaknesses and strengths of your approach

The plan you created might be great, but that doesn’t mean it’s free of loopholes. It could be effective and still fail to address some weaknesses. As you create a plan, you must analyze its strengths and weaknesses. Just as you embrace your strengths, you must also accommodate for your weaknesses, too.

Instead of running away from them, see weaknesses as areas of development. The best approach here is to include a SWOT analysis in your plan to come up with a balanced and optimum project.

Identify the early challenges

Creative project management becomes a hot mess when you fail to identify challenges at the start. The overall project might go awry if your team is scattered, the goals aren’t aligned, skills lack the knack, accountability dwindles, and communication gaps increase.

Before any project calamity strikes, you must know that you are going to be confronted with several risks where you have to take care of your project, deal with budgets and deadlines, and ensure proper communication.
To start, check out how others in your industry deal with project management and how they overcome their challenges. Combine their strategy with yours and devise alternative routes to unique challenges.

Add flexibility

Flexibility is the key to great project management for designers. If you want to produce a high-quality project, you must negotiate with your client for tangible deadlines so that you can build some buffer around your main objectives. Adopt managerial flexibility as per the requirements of your project.

For instance, if you have carefully planned the project and deadlines are not too tight, you can create and deliver a compelling design, be it a logo, a website or a brochure, to the client without a fuss. Instead of rushing yourself or your team into hasty designs, you can take time to pick the right fonts, colors or icons for the client and eliminate fallacies in the project. If managed wisely, you can also get time to review and edit the draft thoroughly before sending it out to the client.

Don’ts to avoid

Set unrealistic goals

The reason why project goals go unachieved becomes clear when we look at how realistic — or rather unrealistic — those goals were to begin with. They may have been unrealistic due to a lack of resources, insufficient budget planning, imbalanced workloads, and negligence of challenges.

You must keep your planning grounded in your team’s actual skills, resources, and time.. Unrealistic goals will not only affect your ability to manage the project but will also hurt your overall delivery and your relationship with your team and client.

Raise client expectations too high

After assigning the project, clients usually expect the result they desire. Talking big about your abilities and your reputation will backfire if you aren’t able to deliver what you promise.

So, before you set down to sign the agreement, never falsely boast about your work or accomplishments. Confront them with a clear attitude about what you’re capable of and highlight the challenges that may come your way. Give them a reason to believe you and trust in your abilities.

Rely solely on yourself

Depending on yourself alone and blocking all the advice and suggestions will set you back in the long-term. Too much self-reliance can put a limit on one’s ability to explore new ideas that improve a project.

You are not just a creative manager, you are a leader, a guide and a support system for your team. Approaching experts and reaching out to qualified professionals can only help you. They can provide a new perspective on problems and save you time finding solutions.

Push yourself or your team

Burnout is a poison for creative professionals. Given the sensitivity in their line of work, design managers can easily fall victim to rapid burnout. During the critical phases of the project, they may lose the ability to maintain their focus and, consequently, leave loose ends in the project.

Never compromise the strength and energy of you and your team to rush a project. Smooth and effective planning is the key to avoiding burnout and reserving your creative twist and professionalism.

Project management for designers can be easier

Managing creative projects is like management in any other industry.

It’s your individual commitment to organization that helps you create effective projects without sacrificing the deadlines.

With this, we hope the above-mentioned do and don’t management tips for designers help you become more efficient.

Ayesha Ambreen Ayesha Ambreen is a Creative Content Strategist, Partner at Quora, and Featured Graphic Designer. Ayesha’s work has been featured on blogs such as, Smashing Magazine, CreativePro, and more. Follow her on Twitter at @AyeshaAmbreen