The last few weeks, I have been struggling through my workload. I’ve received project after project and was told almost every time that it was “top priority”. (Anyone who’s ever worked on a creative team feels my pain when those words are uttered.)
At a startup, everything is top priority. As a designer, I have to move quickly to get projects done and also create my own projects for things that I think will better the company. I am an art director, graphic designer, production manager, marketer and anything else I need to be that day...all in one body. It gets tough. I have no idea why I love it so much.
But in an effort to streamline projects and feel like I am working towards my larger brand goals, I decided it was time to create more structure for the design department (soon to be more than just me and an intern).
I am basically building a mini-agency within Menguin.
How am I structuring it? Good question.
1. I created a project brief
This will hopefully help me manage the amount of projects I get and the timeline for them. They will also (probably most importantly) force the person giving me a project to put more forethought in the entire project and not just hand it to me to execute & think through. Don’t get me wrong, I love taking projects and making them exactly how I want them, but I often get feedback after the fact that the design did not accomplish the intended goal. SO. We are defining the goaltogether before we begin.
2. I outlined the process of how each project will be executed
They fill out brief, I go over it and take my notes, we meet and come to an agreement on the project goals (I also usually sketch out a concept here), then I design out what I think will work.
Here’s the fun part. When you typically work with clients, you have a set number of feedback rounds. If a client goes over that, you typically charge more. Obviously, I can’t do that at Menguin. But instead, I allow three rounds of (consolidated) feedback. This helps to encourage my teammate to really take the time and look at my project for mistakes and feedback (rather than 8 back-and-forth conversations each about a different element). If we go over 3 rounds of feedback, then the project is pushed back 24 hours. (Evil laugh here). But really. This will help to make me more sane and get projects done faster.
3. We have a weekly meeting on setting “Top Priorities”
Everyone feels that the project in their hand is top priority. Usually because that’s what they want done right then. In order to make sure we are identifying the true needs of the design department each week, we will together (as a team) set the priorities. Some weeks, it may be one big project, others I may have 3. But this keeps people from feeling like their projects are pushed out and gives everyone at Menguin time to see what I am doing.
4. I set larger brand goals based on the user funnel for Menguin as a whole to accomplish
I created 5 overarching brand goals based on the user funnel:
Image by Laura Klein
- Expand Awareness Through Marketing
- Expand Awareness/Affinity through Organic Channels
- Educate More Effectively
- Engage Customers (mostly on site)
- Improve Customer Experience After Checkout
Each project we take on as a company should be working towards one of these goals. If not, we should re-think whether the project is worth our time. (Disclaimer - I am sure I will come across more goals.)
5. I am re-organizing Trello to maintain the new structure in the company
Trello saves my sanity every single day. I use it to organize my workflow and now, help structure the creative department. If you don’t already use it - I would highly recommend it.
Each project card in Trello will be color-labeled based on the brand goal it’s contributing to. Then, we will have separate lanes for: Ideation (discussing brief), Copy & Imagery, Mockups, Awaiting Feedback, Finished, & Validated. The validation lane will help us look back on our work and see the successes and failures - and hopefully help us grow as designers.
We are just now beginning to grow to a point where we need more structure and specialization at Menguin. But I think it is important for the success and the happiness of our team to create guidance, goals and structure within each facet of the company. Some of the processes I outlined above will work, others may not quite fit. But I will evolve and eventually have a streamlined creative process that will function like clockwork (but fun clockwork). I’ll keep you updated on how that goes.
Wish me luck.