The myth that the creative process happens in a smooth linear fashion is appealing to project managers and heads of marketing. That creative content happens thanks to the single-minded toil and ingenuity of an inspired designer, writer, illustrator or other such right-brain maker fits with the left-brain desire to capture processes in spreadsheets and schedules.
The reality is less GANTT chart and more goat rodeo. Ideas, drafts and iterations are tossed around almost at random. Feedback and approvals go back-and-forth, sometimes sideways. Unanticipated blockers knock progress off course and too often great ideas are thrown onto the dirt and trampled into dust. Inevitably the goat wins.
Imposing an overly rigid structure might help tame the goat-led chaos, but stifle the creative impulse. Not having a process at all leads to a mess because the most critical part of any creative project is the collaboration stage. When that initial brief, idea, sketch, wireframe, photograph, video footage or other visual element is shared and discussed with the wider marketing team, progress becomes even harder to manage.
A GANTT chart isn’t the solution but it’s not impossible to impose some order on creative collaboration. Here are five ways to help the process run more smoothly without killing ideas at source or dampening the enthusiasm of the creative team.
1. Align goals, visual identity and core concept from the start
An effective creative brief is critical to spelling out exactly what it is that the project is endeavoring to do and which business need it will solve. You can supplement a written brief with mood boards (physical or digital) to paint a picture of the project’s visual ambitions. Get feedback from outside the core creative team early on – their outsider’s perspective is often helpful.
2. Design a process that works for everyone
75% of marketing and creative professionals believe their team does not have an effective creative process. Providing stakeholders with an easy way to check-in (without burdening your team with writing update emails) will help avoid bumps down the road. Establish key phases where their input is required, especially when you’ve nailed a design direction or tagline.
3. Centralize feedback for maximum transparency
Collect comments, input and feedback in central place so every collaborator can see what’s already been said, which helps avoid overlapping and repetitive comments. For visual content (especially on multichannel campaigns involving video, image, print, digital and more) context is king, so all assets should be aligned with feedback to avoid miscommunication.
4. Create an efficient approval process
Be crystal clear about who provides final approval and what exactly they’re approving. Try and make it as easy as possible to view and approve the work, especially for senior decision makers who may be off-site and have limited time and access. Make sure each approval is documented to avoid issues down the road.
5. Have a creative system of record
Authoring tools like Adobe Creative Suite or Sketch are central to creating and developing a piece of content. But once the creative collaboration stage kicks off, capturing all the reviews, approvals and discussions around shared files is equally important. A system of record for your creative collaboration is as fundamental as Adobe or Autodesk.
Follow these creative collaboration best practices on your next creative project and make something great without goat rodeos or GANTT charts.