Most designers and other creative professionals are well aware that people don’t always know the best way to work with them. “Clients from Hell” is a popular site lampooning this fact, featuring actual conversations between designers and their clients.
While things aren’t that bad for most designers, there are still improvements to be made. A survey we recently conducted at Wrike gives us some new insights into the challenges that creative professionals face when trying to get work done.
It turns out that some of the biggest challenges are caused by lack of visibility and lack of process between creative pros and their stakeholders in business roles. Great creative isn’t the result of magic. Ideas can be stoked, molded, and coached to greatness. But teams needs to be on the same page about how to best work together, and have respect for the stresses each other face.
Remember that creatives are partners – and experts
One of the top three challenges creatives identified in our survey was “being seen as a service provider, and not a partner.” This mentality likely means that people are sending ideas to creatives and ask them to execute, rather than collaborating with the creative team to generate ideas early on in the project to help develop impactful concepts.
By education and by nature, creative professionals often look at marketing and storytelling differently. Their creative and artistic perspectives are just as valuable as their counterparts in business and operations, and yet, they are not always treated that way.
When we ask creatives to execute ideas from non-creative teams, we underutilize their strengths for simplifying complex ideas into visually striking pieces of art. 54% of our survey respondents said another leading challenge is there’s “not enough time to be creative”. Increasing creative’s involvement in the early stages of campaign planning should help overcome this challenge, which will yield strong dividends in the campaign’s results.
More details in briefs
According to our survey, the second biggest challenge for in-house creative teams when it comes to working with other departments is “not enough details in briefs”. This means that designers are often left to forage for the details they need in meetings or follow up emails; both of which take valuable time away from doing higher value, creative work.
Creative team managers and their operations team should require comprehensive briefs from other departments in the organization. This can be achieved by creating detailed request forms with mandatory fields that call for rich descriptions of needs, context into the how the assets will fit into a broader campaign to help the business reach its goals, and links to outside examples or existing relevant assets. This will allow designers to focus on producing great work; not gathering information before they can even begin.
Keep your communications organized
Above all else, it’s critical that communications between designers and non-designers stay organized. It’s not uncommon for designers to get feedback from multiple stakeholders, their art director, a brand manager, and fellow designers. That’s a lot of conversations to track and without proper tools in place, constructive feedback may fall through the cracks – lost between emails, chats, and other collaboration tools.
Communications fragmentations is a big problem for digital workers. In another survey our team conducted, respondents said that “missing information” was their number one source of stress while trying to work. This doesn’t have to be the case. You can give each asset a single, clear thread, which makes all files and comments easy to find, and easy to take action upon.
Review your assets on time
42% of our respondents said half or more of their projects are delayed, citing the number one cause for delays as “reviews and approvals aren’t completed on time”. Take this into account when you’re working with a designer. There is a domino effect as designers are juggling multiple projects, so delays in one can lead to delays in another. Help them out by taking the time to review your assets and offer speedy approval or feedback as needed.
Designers can keep the process moving by setting deadlines for feedback and providing a clear timeline for milestones and deliverables. Designers should also make their production calendars available to the departments that depend on them. The visibility into their busy schedules and workload should provide the soft persuasion needed to encourage stakeholders to take action.
Minimize ad hoc requests
An ad hoc request is something that seems small to the person making it, but it still requires time and energy from a designer. 61% of designers say they get ad hoc requests at least once per week, which is probably not surprising to any designers reading this article. A small update to an existing asset may only take a few minutes, but it’s disruptive to the creative flow of someone whose focused on larger, brand defining concepts.
Creatives can help themselves by filtering all requests through the same process for scheduling and prioritization. “It’s just a quick tweak,” shouldn’t be an excuse for derailing a designer’s entire schedule. Creative managers aren’t doing their teams any favors by accommodating ad hoc requests without pushing back. It should be the responsibility of other departments to do a better job of assessing their desired assets well in advance and planning accordingly.
Designers can help their non-creative stakeholders by putting processes in place that foster execution with clarity with respect for competing priorities in an organization. Non-creatives can help designers by thinking strategically about their needs well in advance, which will help reduce ad hoc and last minute requests.
This relationship can be strengthened through the use of digital tools for collaborative work management that walk stakeholders through the steps of submitting detailed briefs, and designers through the steps of delivering and iterating on their creations. As partners, creatives and non-creatives can produce great work that define their brands and products – on time.