Managing Design Projects – A Project Management Guide

With design projects—where ideas and interpretations are subjective—your team will spend hours on end reworking projects, leading to a frustrated team and dissatisfied clients.

To avoid this, you need design project management for your projects.

Design project management allows you to allocate resources effectively, define timeframes, and have an excellent approval system to make things work. This process keeps everyone focused and organized on achieving the project goals. Project management for design teams also allows managers to have a plan to mitigate risks and unexpected events, which is key to delivering excellent results with every project.

We have put together this guide on all the things to expect from your design project management process.

What Is Design Project Management?

Design project management entails managing incoming design requests, allocating tasks to specific team members, and seeing the requests to completion. Design project management helps the project manager or design lead to use the least resources possible to create compelling designs that achieve the project and client goals.

Design projects are usually creative in nature, and clients may require more changes and request revisions than would be typical for other projects to meet their expectations. This makes managing design projects different from other projects.

Additionally, reaching a consensus can be tricky since creativity is subjective. Project management helps to ensure that the team enjoys creative freedom while also ensuring that they don’t digress too far from the project scope. Project management also ensures that the project doesn’t face any unnecessary project delays or budget overruns.

The 7-Step Process for Design Project Management

Whether your project is redesigning a website, creating a logo, or producing other brand assets for a company, following these seven steps will help you stay on track.

1. Understand the business requirements

Your first step should be to understand and document your client’s business requirements. This enables you to understand the client’s vision and what problems need to be solved.

In this step, gather all the information you can about your client and the project, including goals, priorities, pain points, timelines, and budget.

2. Set clear project expectations and goals

Once you’ve understood your client’s requirements, the next step is to clarify the goals and expectations and relay them to your team. Let everyone know what’s expected of them and how to deliver these expectations.

This step is vital because it helps outline goals to avoid scope creep and keep everyone focused on the design project’s goals. 30% of project professionals confirm that inadequate goal setting is a significant cause of project failure.

Take time to discuss and agree on what needs to be done, when, and how it needs to be done. Outline the skill level required to achieve goals, the resources you need, and which team member needs to handle what.

3. Select a preferred method of communication

Communication is vital for every project. There are many ways to communicate these days, but pick a reliable method of communication for your team and clients and stick to it. Doing so will ensure that you keep all communication related to the project in one place—useful if you need to review messages about a project later down the line.

When picking a communication method, consider a mobile-first option that everyone can access regardless of their location. This feature is especially crucial if you’re dealing with a remote design team. Another aspect you need to consider when choosing a method of communication is the ability to support collaboration. For this, forget the good old email. Never-ending email threads are confusing and bad for productivity. Project management tools, however, are a great option built for collaboration. We’ll talk more about these tools later in the article.

4. Create a schedule

The next step is to create a schedule that will help your teams work productively and ensure that they finish their tasks within the set timeline. Tying goals to timelines is vital to maintaining discipline.

A Gantt Chart is an excellent tool for creating a project schedule that helps you understand what work you need to do daily. With a Gantt chart, you can visualize a project’s sequence of tasks that teams must complete to deliver your design project.

When creating your schedule, break down project goals into tasks and sub-tasks and have a deadline defined for each task. Laying out every task on a Gantt chart will keep tasks on top of mind regardless of priority. Tasks also get done in time when the timelines are so obvious. Having a predictive timeline enables all project stakeholders to have a broad picture of what’s to be done by when and maintains a sense of urgency.

5. Execute, validate and refine

Now it’s time to get down to work. In this step, everyone starts working on their tasks. It’s important to note that the execution step has multiple phases, including creating a rough sketch, a wireframe, a prototype, and finally, an actual product. Each stage can have multiple revisions that designers need to make before moving to the next phase. After each edit, validate your work to ensure that you’re still on the right track. Validation also allows you to fix any mistakes before they get out of hand and affect your budget and deadline.

6. Update your client

Once you kick off the project, use your preferred communication method to update your clients regularly. As mentioned earlier, design projects often require a lot of changes and revisions. This makes it crucial to keep your client updated on the project’s progress so that designers can make corrections and modifications whenever necessary.

7. Review performance and enhance methodologies

At the end of your project, review its success. Identify what worked and what didn’t and the areas that need improvement. In this step, check your project process and identify the positives and the negatives. Fixing the negatives will help you reach new highs with every design project you embark on.

Tips for Running a Successful Design Project

Here are some tips and tricks you can incorporate into your project management for design to streamline the process and achieve higher success:

Tip #1: Understand your team

Your design team will likely consist of highly creative individuals with very different mindsets. These individuals will also work in different ways. These differences could make managing your design team challenging.

To get the best out of each individual, take time to understand them and what works for them. Understand each person’s strengths and make a plan that allows each of their strengths to shine throughout the project.

However, as much as you want to give your team creative liberty and freedom, you still want to maintain structure. The team still needs to meet budgets and schedules.

Tip #2: Promote team collaboration

In addition to understanding your team, you also need to make it easy for them to work together. Collaboration boosts team morale, avoids instances where someone works outside of the project brief and increases the team’s quality of design projects. When everyone works as a team, coming up with innovative ideas becomes more effortless.

Make collaboration and communication more straightforward and effective with the right collaboration tools.

Tip #3: Avoid communication overload

Communication is undoubtedly essential to the success of any project. However, there’s a fine line between the right amount of communication and micromanaging. Give your team some room to manage themselves instead of requiring them to check in every minute of every day. This kind of management is overwhelming and detrimental to their creativity.

Tip #4: Avoid scope creep

In a creative space where people get the freedom to exercise their creativity, it’s easy to get sidetracked and veer off too far from the project scope leading to scope creep. Scope creep refers to when the requirements needed to deliver a successful project go above the initial scope.

Scope creep is problematic as design managers struggle to meet deadlines and stay within budget when their project scope gets out of hand. As the project manager for a design project, it’s vital that you ensure your client is clear on the quality of deliverables and the number of iterations for your design from the start to prevent numerous changes later on. Additionally, ensure that your entire team clearly understands the client’s expectations and requirements.

A trick that could go a long way in preventing scope creep is creating a scope risk assessment when planning the project. Consider all the things that may cause scope creep and develop strategies to avoid these risks.

Tip #5 Manage your project in one place

If you’re managing updates and design iterations across multiple platforms, it can be challenging for your team to know where to find the latest information.

Use robust project management software that makes it possible for your team to communicate and update each other in one place. As the project manager, you also get to check progress and manage documentation from the same software without contacting everyone separately.

Why Design Teams Should Use Project Management Software

Design projects involve many moving parts. Use project management software to streamline all these parts. You can ensure that nothing slips through the cracks with a project management tool. There are so many ways a project management tool can help move your design projects to success.

Effective communication

We cannot highlight enough just how crucial communication is to your project. Project management tools have communication features that help keep your clients updated and communicate with your team or share design files.

These communication features make it possible for teams to access all conversations in one place. This central hub eliminates the need to scroll back through endless email threads. They make communication between departments and stakeholders easier. Collaboration also becomes possible because people can address questions and share information from one easy-to-access place—quite ideal for remote teams.

Track time spent on design projects

Design project management software comes with time tracking tools that show you exactly how much time a particular task has taken and whether your team is on track for set deadlines. Time tracking tools also let designers log in their billable hours, hence helping the project manager keep track of their budget.

Efficient resource management

As we mentioned earlier, design project management involves identifying, assigning, and managing resources. This process can be tricky if you don’t know the capacity of your designers or the skills each has.

Project management software has resource management features that make it easy to determine your team’s capabilities and accurately assign the right resources to the suitable projects. Resource management is essential because it helps avoid overstretching your team. When a team has an appropriate workload, they can avoid burnout.

Calendar management

An ideal project management tool will offer scheduling tools like Gantt Charts and Kanban Boards. With these scheduling tools, every project stakeholder gets a visual overview of what’s happening and when. This lets your team manage their own time and increases accountability and transparency.

Document management

Storing and maintaining your design documents is crucial, especially since each asset tends to have several iterations. Your project management software will keep all your files in one place, accessible to everyone on the team. This easy access eliminates the risk of an asset getting lost in an inbox and prevents designers from working on the wrong file.

How to Use Mission Control When Managing Design Projects

Now that you know the benefits of using project management software to manage a design project, allow us to introduce you to Mission Control.

Mission Control offers a wealth of features that make managing design projects seamless. These features help you track time, automate deadline reminders, assign goals to specific team members, and act as a central communication hub for all stakeholders.

Here are a few of these features:

  • Chatter Feed: This is an online communication feature that makes team communication and collaboration seamless.
  • Time Sheets: Use Time Sheets to keep an eye on the time each team member spends on tasks assigned to them so you can better plan and allocate projects in the future.
  • Gantt Chart: Mission Controls Gantt chart enables you to visualize the entire project timeline. You get to see all the various projects that are underway at any given time so you can manage your overall workload.
  • Kanban Whiteboard: A Kanban board displays a visual overview of your workflow so that you can assign tasks in order of priority.

Ready to get started? Contact us today to see how Mission Control can help you take your design projects to the next level.