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Ensuring Successful Design Project Management: A 2023 Guide

Project management has become an essential trait in recent years, especially in the digital world when every business is overrun with projects. This applies particularly to marketing and creative teams, who make extensive use of project management solutions to boost team productivity.

When it comes to the design field, you need an effective design project management strategy if you want to avoid squandered hours spent revising design projects, a dissatisfied team, and disappointed clients.

This article is a thorough introduction to design project management and will entail:

  • Why it is important,
  • The phases of a design project management structure,
  • How to effectively manage it, and
  • The common methodologies used today.

With that said, let’s dive in!

What is design project management?

The process of handling new design requests, assigning work to particular team members, and following the project lifecycle to its conclusion is known as design project management.

Strong design project management entails being mindful of:

  • The project’s size and scope.
  • The individuals concerned, including your team and your client.
  • The time and expense necessary.
  • The procedure for approval and evaluation.
  • Potential risk factors for compliance.

Successful professionals in the creative field are aware that for people to produce high-quality work without becoming burnt out, design processes and systems must coexist.

This procedure heavily depends on bringing together two or more entities to cooperate on supplying assets for one or more projects. The assignment can involve designing a website, producing branding materials, coming up with a logo, or working on a project that calls for many different resources.

Why is design project management necessary?

Although it enhances every element of your business, the main goal of design project management is to give your team more time to focus on what really matters rather than getting sidetracked by unproductive initiatives or expensive mistakes.

With that said, here are five reasons why you should focus on design project management.

why design project management is important

Enhances team efficiency

Making the process more efficient by saving time and money is one of the main responsibilities of design project management. With the right planning, you can ensure that your work is completed on schedule and without breaking the bank.

By creating a calendar, determining the due dates in advance, and budgeting the spending based on anticipated costs, you can successfully map out the course of your project from the beginning.

Additionally, it guarantees that each team member thoroughly knows and understands their position in the process. That leads to reduced confusion, increased productivity, and the ability for team members to make well-informed decisions regarding their project assignments.

Improves collaboration and communication

Effective design teams collaborate on projects to achieve success. To design the ideal asset, the creator must meet or exceed the client’s mental expectations. The unwelcome position of mind readers is therefore imposed on designers.

Requests for designs necessitate efficient project collaboration, and without harmonizing efforts from both parties, there is a very real risk of running into a bottleneck.

It might be challenging to strike a balance between order and creative flexibility. But with effective management, you can create more efficient channels for better communication because it fosters team transparency. 

Multiple people or departments can work on different parts of the project, ensuring that everyone in the team is aware of when and how to communicate with one another, thereby improving your collaborative efforts.

Ensures design consistency

To improve the coherence of the finished result when a design is completed by a team of people, maintaining design consistency is paramount.

Your team can work together more successfully with the aid of effective design project management to generate a well-rounded, coherent outcome. At every step of the project, this uniformity makes it simpler to combine ideas, express needs, and produce high-quality work.

Creates a refined repository

All relevant design materials, artifacts, resources, and tools are available for use within a common design repository since documentation plays a significant role in design project management.

This enables you to repeat your successes as you build expertise and use your practical knowledge from prior projects.

Additionally, project management enables you to maximize the strongest strategies used by your team while also increasing your productivity.

By merging data from earlier projects, you can identify areas where your team is succeeding and where there is a chance for growth.

Improves overall design quality

The overall quality of your project’s outcomes can be enhanced with design project management.

The successful management of design projects encompasses all areas, from team productivity to repositories, to guarantee that the finished product fulfills all project completion criteria as well as the expectations of your clients and creative team members.

How to structure a design project lifecycle

How well your team accepts tasks and completes deliverables depends on the structure of your project. Without any structure, you run the risk of double work, burnout, and angry clients.

To make things easier, the project design structure and lifecycle are divided into three separate phases to help you manage your team. We will dive into each one along with a few things to consider to smoothly manage tasks within these phases.

Design project management lifecycle

Phase 1 - Planning and preparation

Clarity comes with planning, which is possibly the most crucial stage of all. To plan for how you’re going to provide design services, gather your team, project management tools, and processes.

Start by posing crucial questions like, “What is the project’s goal?” or “what does the client want?”

Regardless of whether a task is small or big, run a transparent and easy-to-understand inventory of tasks and fit them into a schedule that your whole team can use.

Here are a few things you can do to better plan your design project.

Arrange workflows with tasks that require time from a designer

Both creative and non-creative tasks are necessary to begin or finish a design project. Make sure your team is prepared to begin by having mockups, initial draughts, and the finished material available.

If you’re like most design teams, you use a variety of procedures and tools to execute a project from beginning to end.

By understanding the following, you can begin to put together workflows that will benefit the entire team:

  • What design components require the most time?
  • What kinds of tasks demand interaction with others?
  • What routine duties do you perform every day?
  • Are there any tasks that should be automated or leased out to a third party?
  • Which meetings do you regularly attend but get no benefit from?
  • Are you being slowed down by the project management tools?

Remember to never over-engineer a design or make significant overnight alterations to the design process. This could throw off the team’s flow and open the door to new problems.

Define your budget

At this point, you must match the client’s demands with your team’s capabilities and inform them of the client’s budget constraints. If a creative designer spends too much time on a single task, things might spiral out of hand.

It would be beneficial if you approached your initiatives with rational thinking and avoid becoming overwhelmed by their magnitude. If you want to complete a large project, your budget must also be sufficient to meet the goal.

Assign tasks in accordance with your team’s strength

Allocating tasks is never the issue. The issue arises when you don’t play to your team’s strengths.

Every member of your team is great at something specific. Who will handle what, and who excels at which tasks? That is what you need to focus on.

Map out and highlight milestones

Project milestones serve as a roadmap for all of the specifics and due dates included in the project. They also assist you in determining your progress and the tasks that require prioritization.

Phase 2 - Execution

A project should go smoothly if it is carefully planned. There will undoubtedly be bumps along the road, but a solid design project management strategy will be adaptable enough to deal with them.

Your project should already be in progress at this stage, with teams collaborating and design assets being created. The project’s design task execution is thrilling, but it can also be the most difficult to manage.

What can you do?

Create a dedicated task list

How do you choose which tasks get priority when they originate from a variety of sources? Between sticky notes, messages, and emails, things can get chaotic early on and frequently.

Every designer has an in-depth understanding of their daily workload and how it fits into the overall picture with a dedicated task list within a design project management software.

A task list helps design project managers delegate work and track progress to notify customers and other stakeholders while ensuring that designers are free of administrative responsibilities and are on track with prioritized objectives, due dates, and task requirements.

Maintain a constant communication flow with ALL stakeholders

You cannot afford to lose sight of your project’s stakeholders, whether they are internal team members or external clients. Keep lines of communication open to minimize errors and misunderstandings that can be easily avoided with improved communication.

Hold frequent meetings and check-ins to keep everyone in the loop. For designers and stakeholders, a straightforward 10-minute discussion can work wonders, be it online or offline.

Invest in a time-tracking system

If time tracking is not already a common practice, it should be. Time tracking has an impact on your company’s most crucial aspects, including:

  • Maintaining profitable projects.
  • Enhancing pricing structures.
  • Managing the demands of the team.
  • Requesting funding authorization for technology upgrades and hiring design assistance.

A time-tracking system is the most effective way to monitor if your design team’s focus, resources, and energy are going into the right activities and tasks.

Lastly, schedule time for designing. Although it’s the focus of the show, this is also what gets put off the most frequently. Establish the necessary time and resources to make sure your team finishes the job.

Phase 3 - Wrapping up

Even though your project could be almost done, design project management doesn’t stop once the brief has been fulfilled.

In fact, now is the ideal time to assess what worked and what didn’t, as well as how you could operate a more efficient ship moving forward. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you complete your project.

Add all design files to a central folder

Make certain that your team has access to every one of the crucial design files, and give them clear names. You never know when an old design will come in handy for a new one.

All project-related materials should be archived in this common shared folder. Tasks, communications, papers, and bills will all be connected together for ease of reference.

Additionally, it streamlines the process of project delivery to clients significantly.

Establish a culture of feedback and reviews

To make the most of this brief but crucial period, think about filtering all feedback communications into your project management system. Use annotation tools to make hyper-detailed comments immediately on files, saving designers from having to conduct their own research.

You must provide a designer with detailed criticism regarding the asset elements that don’t particularly impress you. A comment that is unclear can lead to numerous design iterations that easily could be prevented.

When working with clients, make sure they have the opportunity to both give and receive feedback too. To deliver the best result, both parties must communicate.

7 solid tips to successfully manage design projects

Any design project that suffers from poor project management will fail. Y our team is counting on you to steer the march and provide guidance. Designers would not have complete freedom to use their creative muscles the way you want them to without it.

You can successfully integrate design project management into your design work by following these 7 tips.

design project management tips

1. Clearly define goals & processes

Many project management experts think that poor goal formulation is one of the main reasons projects fail.

On one hand, setting defined goals enables your staff to comprehend expectations and how to live up to them. On the other, specific targets assist you and your team in adhering to the plan’s extent, budget, and deadline.

Consider developing a specification or in-depth description of the ideal project outcome to make sure every member of your team targets their efforts toward a common objective. This will keep your team focused on the task and enable them to come up with innovative and design solutions that best fit the project objectives.

When it comes to design processes, you need to have a repeatable, consistent process in place before you can begin working on designs. This is an important step toward enhancing the quality and consistency of design. It will be easier for you to identify the who, what, when, and next steps of each phase of the design project once this is written out.

You can pick from a variety of design processes, such as the double diamond design process or user-centered processes like lean UX. The good news is that you are free to craft a procedure that best fits your goals, requirements, and timeline.

Oh, and don’t forget to describe the resources and channels of communication you’ll be using during the course of your design process alongside!

2. Understand your team and maximize their skills

You can assign tasks and plan more effectively if you are aware of the capacities and motivations of your diverse team members.

You can use this knowledge to assign assignments and positions that best match each of their qualities. To make sure you provide the best tasks to your staff, you can also assess their interests and work habits.

Your team members can stay involved and productive throughout the design process if they are assigned to a job that aligns with their beliefs and interests.

Consider enhancing your team’s strengths by encouraging productive ways for people to cooperate, using your knowledge of their preferences and abilities as a guide.

You can do this by assembling people into teams or focus groups whose talents compliment one another. 

For instance, if one of your team members has top-notch illustration skills, you can pair them with a graphic designer to highlight their complementary skills and optimize the advantages of their collaboration.

3. Set up clear communication channels

Your team may be better able to grasp how to connect with one another efficiently if you define communication channels and platforms.

This can assist in avoiding delays or misunderstandings throughout the design process and guarantees that your team has access to the knowledge and tools required to carry out its duties.

Consider establishing a common way of communication, such as Slack, emails, or memos, and making sure every member of your team has access to these platforms when defining communication channels.

The line between appropriate communication and micromanagement is thin, though. It is exhausting and damaging to your team’s creativity to expect them to check in often. At all costs, avoid over-communication.

4. Create a clear project timeline

If you don’t break things down into biteable timelines, design tasks can become cluttered. You run the danger of letting your team exhaust their time on one part of the project and then realizing at the very last minute that there isn’t enough time to finish everything.

You can commit resources and time to each phase as necessary, keep everyone updated, monitor progress, and maintain implementation on schedule by using a project timeline.

The following steps will help you establish a project timeline that works:

  • Divide the design project’s goals into smaller checkpoints.
  • Additionally, divide each milestone into manageable activities.
  • Establish the order of importance for related tasks.
  • Set deadlines for tasks.

You reduce the likelihood that you will miss the deadline or produce mediocre work by establishing a defined timeline.

5. Manage projects and documents in one place

When design iterations and changes are dispersed across several platforms, it can be challenging for your team to know where to look for the most recent information.

Keep all of the project documentation in one location while overseeing a design project involving multiple persons or teams. To give your team access to all project-related data, you can use a shared drive or folder as Google Drive provides.

This can help your team work together more effectively, stay consistent, and build meaningful communication.

6. Review internally first

Does the design still support the client’s objectives? Can your team identify any design flaws? Do any potential problems with compliance exist?

Before you meet with the customer, get everyone on the same page. You don’t want to be in a difficult situation in the boardroom as a result of inadequate planning or asset review.

Prior to releasing it to the client, receiving internal feedback should accelerate the final approval procedure.

7. Add buffer time to deal with the unexpected

Client reviews could take longer than expected, or team members might unexpectedly get sick and miss a lot of work.

Projects frequently require a pivot since almost anything can cause them to diverge from their original course. Add buffer time to your schedule to avoid always being in a race against time. It’s difficult to coax creativity from time-pressed, worn-out designers.

Common design project management methodologies

There are various project management approaches to pick from and the choice of which one to use relies on your team’s size, the nature of your tasks, and the people you collaborate with.

The most common techniques that businesses use for ensuring successfully completed design tasks are listed below.

Agile design project management

Agile project management is a collaborative management technique that is used to prevent teams from getting too far into a project that won’t work, so they can make revisions as they go along.

Typically, this process entails brief, intense bursts of work that lead to tests, adjustments, and adaptation.

This methodology is an iterative and gradual approach to project management. To maintain consistency, stability, and on-time delivery for product releases, each iteration will have a fixed scope, typically between 1-3 weeks.

With agile design management, there are particular roles with various project drivers to achieve the same goal, testing standards are consistently applied, and client satisfaction and retention shoot up.

However, workflow flexibility can run the danger of not being understood, as some organizations may perceive it to be out of step with their culture. Given its complexity, a skilled agile professional might be essential for teams who are new to agile.

Scrum design project management

Work is divided into brief, focused periods known as “sprints” in Scrum, a subset of agile project management. Each design sprint often concentrates on a single job or collection of tasks, with the work being assessed and improved at the conclusion.

One sprint, which can last up to four weeks, is built from a carefully chosen set of high-priority elements from the design request queue.

By using this methodology, you can examine all incoming requests, assign tasks based on due dates and team resources, ask any questions you may have regarding the request’s specifications, and update the status of activities that are currently in process.

Short sprints can facilitate quicker changes from client and stakeholder feedback due to their flexible timetable. Additionally, through daily scrum meetings, teams are formed around tasks and progress.

Similar to Agile design, some firms may not find these daily meetings to be culturally compatible, and again, success rates are maximized with experienced professionals.

Kanban design project management

Another project management tool that belongs to the agile technique is Kanban. In a board view, tasks are shown visually, and work is selected from a backlog and carried along the board until it is finished.

Kandan board

In order to assist teams to visualise the amount of work in progress, a Kanban board is divided into columns. Up until it reaches the done status, a card (representing the task) travels through each column (showing the status of the workflow) from left to right.

With a Kanban board, there is greater predictability thanks to a reliable system, clear communication between all team members, and work-in-progress restrictions that prevent them from becoming overburdened.

Each workflow stage lacks time constraints, though, and it only performs as well as it should when used in conjunction with an established project management system.

Waterfall design project management

The waterfall methodology is a pretty conventional project management strategy where activities are finished sequentially. Before beginning a new task, the preceding one must be finished and approved.

Thorough early planning and fixed-end requirements are its two primary characteristics. The issue is that it becomes extremely difficult to make adjustments in the middle of a project once it has started.

Given that there is no overlap between project phases and this strategy is simple and well-known to both inexperienced and seasoned teams, it is excellent.

The top-down communication approach, however, makes it unsuitable for complicated projects or software development that allow for modification during the course of the process.

How Cubyts can help with your design project management

It takes careful planning and the implementation of efficient processes to manage a design project. To accomplish ambitious deadlines, you’ll need a solid project management plan along with powerful project management software.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that effective design project management is all about structure and collaboration, and that’s where Cubyts comes in.

As a DesignOps platform, Cubyts is built to help designers and design teams create the most effective outcomes by providing a common space for collaboration, communication, and management.

It offers a space for creating your own knowledge repositories, design strategies, and processes, and acts as a central point for every team member and stakeholder to work together.

Whether you’re new to the field or a seasoned professional, you’ll find Cubyts to be a seamless blend of everything a design team needs to effectively manage design projects. If you want to learn more, feel free to get in touch with us!