3 Process Improvements That Will Help Speed Up Your Creative Team
Marketing teams generate a ton of material. As a company grows, so does the need for more content—for ads, campaigns, email nurtures, greeting cards, videos, event collateral, booth designs, all the way down to swag like socks. And while content is at the center of them all, so is design. You’re only as fast as your team, and the last team to be handed the baton is creative. At that point, they do their “magic” to make everything look good and ensure the brand is not only consistent but recognizable.
It’s difficult to envision just how much stuff your creative team works on. As a graphic designer, I can tell you it’s a lot.
Here at Uberflip for example, we have an annual conference called Conex: The Content Experience. Each year, once we’ve conceptualized the theme, I’ll create over 300 ads, edit 100+ photos, make 10 web pages, create 23 event venue designs, edit and create presentations, set up the Conex Mobile App, make nine swag items, design 13 email banners, and more.
Beyond that, I’ll create blog illustrations and brochures, and cater to any other campaigns that we have in the works. I love being creative and fast, because, at the end of the day, it’s doable. But if you want to supercharge your creative team, there are three things that I’ve learned will let you get there—file organization, prompt feedback, and a proper design brief.
Having these three will speed up your time to delivery by a lot. Let’s dive in!
1. File Organization
It’s easy when there’s a one-man team in charge of all the creative assets. Small to medium-sized companies could easily rely on just one talent to create all their marketing collateral, whether it be for print or digital. But as time passes by and one person gets replaced by another, or the creative team becomes bigger, file organization becomes more paramount.
If we have tools for “content experience” then we should have tools or processes behind finding the set of design files relevant to that “content.”
As a designer or a marketer, how many times have you gone around and asked, “can you get me the X file from year Y,” only for no one on the team or at the company to come back with a helpful response? So what do we do if we need that missing content? We either replicate it or create a new one.
Which is a waste of time really.
In 2012, according to McKinsey and International Data Corporation employees spend 1.8-2.5 hours a day looking for stuff which is almost an equivalent of one wasted work day every week. Sure, we’ve managed to mitigate that problem by using social productivity tools like slack, but still the problems persist.
I once had an internship with a company that showed the benefits of being organized. They used the 5S methodology and ensured that everything had its place. The 5S methodology came from Japan and it stood for Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain/Self Discipline. By sorting stuff, you ensured you found what you wanted in record time and reduced the clutter of unneeded items. By setting things in order or by making sure everything had its place, you always know where to find things. By keeping things clean, the workplace was pleasing to work with. By standardizing the procedure, of sorting, organizing, and cleaning stuff, it became a habit for everyone to do the same. And lastly, by sustaining this practice and making everyone accountable, everyone in the company was responsible, and the process just kept improving.
What’s not to say we can’t implement this with our files and folders? Here at Uberflip, we follow the Content Experience framework. I look at it as the five-step process in order to make your content work and for your team to become rockstars. But really, it’s quite simple to digest. It’s almost similar to the 5s methodology.
The first step is to centralize your content. By having all your content in once place, you can easily find them and the next step is to organize your content. This is a practice that would only yield results as time passes by because of how efficient you’ll be in finding the right asset you want.
You have to put aside time to define how you want to organize your content, sort of like spring cleaning. It’s a lot of work upfront but it’ll eventually pay off because you want everyone in your company to be able to see your content, to pull from the treasure trove of stuff that the marketing team (and perhaps even those outside of it) put their blood, sweat, and tears into. Visibility is important because why create content that wouldn’t live to see the light of day in the future?
And finally, when you want to share it to your clients, or prospects, since you have a very organized library, it’s a lot easier. I’m not a marketer by trade but it’s very interesting how your content can work for you. Because nowadays, people are so smart that they don’t really like talking to sales, they do their own research, and part of that research is stumbling through your content. By providing them with personalized experiences, they can self nurture. Uberflip is one of the platforms that can do that, and we swear by it. If you want to learn more, you can read up here.
But going back to my earlier point, in the content experience framework, notice that the first step is to centralize and then organize. If we fail at centralizing and organizing, we fail at making our content work because honestly, if you can’t find the original files, it’ll only spell trouble later on.
There are many dedicated tools out there like the Digital Asset Management Systems or DAMs. But you can also just sort files by folders and have a file naming structure that’s easy to understand for all. This way, you won’t need one librarian that you go to when you’re looking for design assets or if you’re working with a team, you don’t keep asking each other, “where’s this file, where’s that file?”
2. Prompt Feedback
One pet peeve of designers in general is the amount of time it takes for a design to go to market or for a design to be created and not used at all because it didn’t quite make it to the deadline because of late feedback. It’s not a good feeling. This can be solved by having everyone in the team give feedback on time.
There are many tools out there that allow people to share ideas/comments. Dropbox allows you to make comments. Adobe PDF allows you to comment. Google drive gives you the + tag on any of their documents too. It’s necessary in the digital age.
What designers want is the ability to just do their job and do less following up, managing projects and chasing other people.
So what’s the solution?
Here are some things that worked for me.
1. Have a centralized place to leave comments and feedback. Something like a project management tool or a place like Invision, Dropbox, or Google Drive that allows quick iteration for versions of files .
2. Reduce the number of revisions and ensure that all revisions are consolidated. That’s one thing to say and another to execute. One problem is that most people don’t know what designers do, and how they do it. The scope should be clear from the get-go. Understanding what the design is for and what type of format is needed then getting the feedback all in writing just so there are references for it later on are important. At the end of the day, we have to satisfy the clients and the end user. To reduce the amount of feedback, designers should know when to step in and say “no” and when to accept feedback, whether good or bad.
3. Have in-person meetings or at least go on a call. It’s always easier to get feedback when you’re directly talking to stakeholders.
4. Communicate. The worst thing that can happen is when you already know the project is running late, or you need certain files and you’ve encountered roadblocks and you say nothing at all.
3. A Proper Design Brief
Our team uses a tool called Easy Projects to manage our tasks. We have a short form and a long form for creative requests. Once a request is submitted, it appears on the designated team’s queue. This reduces the need for redundant conversations about requirements and specs, and simplifies the process of asking for a task to be done.
This is the basic information we always wish were available.
1. Deadline: This is very important so work can be prioritized. A realistic deadline would include not only the day but the time as well.
2. Description: A brief context of the way the design will be used is always very helpful.
3. Format and Size: What format and what specific size do you want it in? Is it for print or digital?
4. Copy: Most designs require copy... unless it’s an illustration or a photo. Having the copy before starting the design is essential.
5. Reference Designs: Sometimes it’s difficult to articulate what you’re looking for. That’s why including old works or reference photos that can be used to guide the design is helpful and appreciated.
6. Assets: Your creative team would surely love if all the required assets were already available before they begin their design work. For example, if the request is to crop a photo and said photo is missing, it doesn’t make sense to (or frankly, we can’t) start the project.
7. Point of Contact: Listing a person to contact regarding the project streamlines the process.
Here is an example of a clear, efficient request:
I want you to create a 250x250 pixel ad using the FB ad I just attached. Just change the CTA to “Book Now.” I need this by tomorrow at 4pm. Message me if you have any questions.
Or something more formal:
Title: FB ad resize
Description: We’ve created a campaign for brand awareness, and we just need to resize an existing asset. I’ve attached the FB ad to be resized.
Specifications: 250x250 pixels. PNG format
Copy: Change the CTA to “Book Now”
Reference: See attached
There! Clear and concise. It reduces the need for in-person meetings. Having a standardized format in which to receive these requests reduces the amount of back-and-forth. Of course, more complicated campaigns require more than just the details in the example but you get the idea.
Putting It All Together
To sum it up, there are ways your marketing can improve and one way is to increase the efficiency of your creative team. If your marketing team can follow these three suggestions— to properly organize files, get and give prompt feedback, and create a comprehensive design brief system—you’ll be well on your way. The last two suggestions will be up to the entire team to execute and if you don’t have processes around them yet, trust me, you should and it will pay off.
If you have suggestions for improving workflows, don’t hesitate to share them with us too! I hope you learned something and good luck!