Looking for some creative help on a project? If you’re entrusting this work to a vendor, pay close attention to these tips to keep your project on task.
Imagine this scenario: you’re selling a line of high-quality, long-lasting lipsticks online. You’ve been successful in your first year of business, but you’ve received valuable feedback from your customers about where you can make improvements. The physical design of the lipstick case needs to be updated and your brand as a whole needs a makeover. You have great ideas, but you’re admittedly no product designer or branding whiz, and want to enlist the help of a professional team. You do your research, call on referrals and select the best-of-the-best creative professionals to work with on this project. You’re elated and can’t wait to get to work.
Fast forward 16 weeks. You’re seated at a sleek conference table watching the final presentation of your product and branding design. The team eagerly presents the concept and you hesitantly nod along. You’ve seen this direction week after week, but something right now – in this moment – is telling you this isn’t it. Your mind spins coming up with alternative solutions and ways to rectify the situation. You’ve spent 16 weeks working on this. How did you get to this point and not love what you’re seeing?
These situations happen, and can result in uncomfortable situations for both you and your vendor. There are countless ways to make processes more efficient, both within ourselves and the relationships we have with creative partners.
The tips below just scratch the surface, but will get you on your way to getting creative projects right, the first time:
1. Provide detailed background information
After selecting a creative partner, you’re agreeing to a mutually beneficial relationship (or brand marriage if you will). In order for both of you to be successful, your creative partner deeply relies on information that you provide. To start, outline the following details before you get going:
a. Business objectives – how will you measure success throughout the project and once its completed?
b. Business beliefs – what does your business stand for? What does your creative partner need to know about you that can’t be said about any other company?
c. Single most important thing – what’s the most important thing you want to get out of this project? What’s the problem that you’re trying to solve and how is this project solving it?
d. Audience and usage – Who is this message targeted for and how will you use it? (website, product demonstrations, video, etc.)
e. Style guide (if you have one) – provide a style guide with your brand’s fonts, colors and logos. It covers the basics and will save you time from the branding back-and-forth.
f. Inspirations – think about your inspirations in two forms: 1) There’s something that spurred you to get started with this project and 2) there are daily creative executions out there that inspire you to do something different with your brand. Gather these details (in forms of screenshots, notes and magazine clippings) and share them with your creative team. Don’t worry that your collection could be overwhelming – it’s the team’s job to reflect your brand’s personality and tell a cohesive story.
g. A creative brief – Establish a template that lists the above (or a combination of your own that are specific to your business) for each creative project. Get in the habit of doing this every time, and you’ll think more clearly and strategically about what you’d like to see at the end of the day.
2. Set project milestones
If you’re working with a larger team, it’s likely that someone in the group will be assigned as the project manager. It’s this person’s job to make sure your project stays on track. He or she will set forth agreed-upon check-in points and milestones, but it’s your job to evaluate whether his/her process aligns with how you’d like to handle the project. Before contracts are signed and dates are locked, evaluate the project schedule to ensure it meets your workflow requirements.
3. Provide clear direction
This is your project, and you’re steering the ship. You can’t abandon ship by not responding to emails or missing meetings because the project isn’t going along to plan. When you sense a shift in direction, step in to understand the change and make the proper recommendations. Honest and timely communication with your partners is absolutely critical. Provide clear direction throughout the entire process, always keeping in mind your “single most important thing.”
4. Figure out your creative flow
There are times of the day when we’re most productive, creative and excited. These hours are precious. Block off time on your calendar to dedicate time to the project(s) you’re collaborating on. Creative projects take a great deal of energy and attention, so tackle feedback rounds and ideation during the times you’re feeling most inspired. Also, be sure to continually reference your milestones and block off time accordingly to prepare for the next phase of the project.
5. Get out of your comfort zone
Remember that you’re not hiring an expert in the creative field just to execute projects for you. Instead, you’re hiring this person to challenge your way of thinking, build upon your ideas and bring new ones to the table. If you sense your creative partner is too quick to execute on all of your ideas, ask for recommendations on what they’d do differently, or where they see opportunity that you may be missing. The process should (and likely will) be, at times, uncomfortable. Getting out of our comfort zone helps us see something from others’ perspectives and enables us to learn. After all, if you’re stuck in your comfort zone, you’re probably not building something great.
Stick to these basics, and continue building your own best practices. I’d love to hear your ideas on how we can work to collaborate more effectively in the comments of this post!
Olga Kazakova, Director of Corporate Communications, Volusion