Project management is a glue that sticks your project together. The approach to project management varies depending on the industry and the project you are working on. And the same is true for design projects.
Design project management is notoriously unruly because it typically brings together a diverse group of skilled and qualified individuals from across the team or from a client.
And, let’s face it, creative minds can clash with overly demanding client parameters. This can put design project managers in a bind as they try to strike a balance between meeting design deadlines and nurturing creativity.
So in this comprehensive guide, we’ll go over what you can do to keep your project together, and clients happy while delivering exceptional work.
Let’s get started with the basics first.
What is Design Project Management?
In the design lifecycle, Design Project Management accounts for every part, such as design requirements, design input, user needs, product risk, and so on. The design project management process helps brands and design teams have complete control over the design aspects of any project.
With design project management, you can clearly define the project’s goals, assign and track tasks across teams, maintain focus, and organize daily tasks to achieve the goals. It helps you to –
- Ensure consistency among team members working together with better collaboration and design plans.
- Clearly define each contributor’s role and expectations.
- Reduce risk and delays by assessing potential roadblocks.
- Align the final product with the design expectations and enhance the product’s overall quality.
Design Project Management Methodologies
1. Agile Design Project Management
The agile project management methodology is a phased approach to project management that is incremental and iterative. Each iteration has a fixed scope (between 1-3 weeks) to ensure consistency, stability, and on-time delivery of the product.
It is best suited for development projects and ensures better client retention and satisfaction. However, many organizations find it a little difficult to start with given its workflow flexibility.
2. Scrum Design Project Management
Scrum methodology complements the agile approach by incorporating design sprint meetings. High-priority items from the design request queue are carefully selected to form a four-week sprint.
It supports a flexible timeline length (typically 1-4 weeks), and faster changes from client and stakeholder feedback. Also, through daily scrum meetings, the teams are aligned around tasks and progress. At the same time, it can take longer for bigger teams to implement the scrum methodology.
3. Kanban Design Project Management
Kanban methodology enables teams to visualize their work non-disruptively. A Kanban board is divided into columns to help teams visualize the amount of work that is currently in progress.
Image Source – https://storyset.com/illustration/scrum-board/bro
A card (representing the task) moves from left to right through each column (representing the workflow status) until it reaches the done status. This is old school technique.
Nowadays, project managers started doing this using software. We are going to discuss some of the best design project management tools later in the article.
The best part about kanban is that it helps to visualize design projects better, avoid overburdening and improve productivity. However, it can lack specific details such as timeframe and responsibilities, so it is important to have all project-related plans clearly defined and shared with the team.
4. Waterfall Design Project Management
Waterfall is a traditional project management approach in which a project is completed in a step-by-step (linear or sequential) process. Before moving on to the next task/stage in the project, the project team essentially completes each one.
This approach is known as the Waterfall methodology because each step cascades into the next, much like water flowing down a waterfall. However, it is not suited for projects that need continuous changes/updates such as software development projects.
These are four widely used project management techniques. You can choose an appropriate methodology based on your project requirements.
Top Design Project Management Tools
Gency.io is the only design project management tool that is dedicated to only designers, and that shows. The tool touts a “by designers, for designers” approach and it can immediately be noticed in the interface.
Gency does not only manage the projects, it sends project proposals with the click of a button, suggests template contracts, collects payments (optional), manages invoicing, and allows for direct collaboration with your clients in an intuitive interface.
When using the Gency single workspace, it doesn’t matter where you are in the world, you have all of your clients, invoicing, projects, communication, and designs at your fingertips.
SmartTask is flexible, cloud-based project management and collaboration software that is tailored to help design teams with all their project requirements while ensuring better productivity and efficiency.
SmartTask helps designers and project managers get projects off to a good start by providing efficient planning and scheduling. It aids in the prioritization of critical tasks, the avoidance of missed deadlines, the reduction of risks, and the delivery of desired outcomes.
You get multiple views that allow you to plan and see your projects in the way you like. You also get a workload view that helps you evenly distribute and track the workload. And real-time collaboration features ensure smooth team and cross-departmental work collaboration.
In SmartTask, you can also invite your clients as guest users on projects to keep them in the loop and share project progress.
Asana is a project & task management tool that helps you stay on top of all your tasks and design projects.
It provides a wide range of project perspectives. You have the option to see them in Kanban-style cards, on a calendar with projects and their due dates, or as a general workload overview. Switching between these perspectives allows your team members more flexibility and enables you to involve more stakeholders.
Asana offers many features around tasks and projects which can overwhelm beginners initially. Its learning curve is a bit high. However, you can also consider beginner-friendly tools like Asana such as SmartTask, nTask, Gency etc. with no learning curve.
Wrike is a popular project management and collaboration tool that helps design teams streamline their workflows based on their requirements. It makes proofreading easier, sets up creative workflows, and improves delivery while saving time spent on mundane administrative activities.
Wrike offers visual and configurable workload management, briefings, and request forms that can be customized, a place for team members to give feedback, and reporting and analytics.
It’s one of the top workflow diagram software tools that allow you to create custom drag-and-drop workflow diagrams that visualize a project, lay out steps, and keep everyone in the loop on progress.
With this fully flexible software, you can alter processes, dashboards, reports, and request forms so that your team can focus more on producing high-value items and less on time-consuming tasks.
monday.com is another popular project management platform that gives you the power to manage practically any project that comes your way. It is a great tool, especially for creative teams.
You can standardize request intakes, organize and manage assets, and centralize all design work with their creative request workflow template.
monday.com offers a plugin to use with your Adobe Creative Cloud. So you can easily review all the tasks assigned to you, read briefs, and upload designs directly to your monday.com account once you are finished working on your designs.
Visme is an online whiteboard tool for team collaboration, brainstorming, and designing. It has professional design templates and intuitive features that drive real impact. You can work alone or collaborate with your team live, sending feedback in real-time.
Visme whiteboards have a vast library of photos, graphics, and intuitive assets, so you can do more in less time.
It allows you to create personalized projects that organize virtually any form of data and strategy. It also has project management planning and project status reporting templates so all your team members can see the workflow and achieve goals according to a timeline.
Design Project Management Process
Phase 1 – Planning & Team Preparation
For the project to be successful, it is essential to come up with an efficient project plan. Every design project has a lot of moving parts that must be taken into consideration. If you don’t carefully plan each phase of the process, things will start to fall through the cracks.
Start by asking questions like – What is the project’s objective? What does the client want? What can be the potential risks and solutions to them?
It is simpler to proceed with developing a design project plan if these questions have an obvious answer. Once you have a solid plan ready make sure each of your team members is aware of what needs to be done. Here’s how you can do it:
- Gather all your design tasks in one place: List out both creative and non-creative tasks that need to be done, with a clear description. Make sure your team has the finished material, the initial draughts, and the mockups before they begin. Feed all this into your project management software so that all your team members and stakeholders are aware of the project plan.
- Set your timeline and budget: Here, you align your abilities with the demands of your client. Things can get wildly out of control if you spend too much time or resources on a single task. If you want to finish a large project, your budget must be sufficient to meet the deadline.
- Mark your project milestones: Project milestones serve as a roadmap for all of the specifics and due dates included in the project. Furthermore, they help you prioritize tasks and determine your progress.
- Assign tasks: Who will handle what? All your team members and stakeholders should be aware of who is responsible for which tasks and what is expected of them. However, keep in mind to take advantage of your team’s strengths while assigning these responsibilities.
- Establish communication channels: Depending on your chosen project management software, ensure that everyone has access to everything connected to the project at once. You might also use this chance to experiment with various ways of speaking with the members of your project team whether it’s communication via a team chat app, business phone app, or face-to-face interaction.
Phase 2 – Execution
When you plan a project well, the execution becomes a piece of cake. Of course, there will always be bumps in the road, but a solid design project management plan will be adaptable enough to handle them.
At this point, your project should be well underway, with teams collaborating and design assets being created. The design task is an exciting part of the project, but it can also be the most difficult to manage. Here’s what you should do during the execution phase:
- Communicate with stakeholders thoroughly: Whether your project stakeholders are internal teammates or external clients, you cannot go dark. Maintain as much open communication as possible to avoid mistakes and mix-ups that could have been avoided with better correspondence.
- Track your project tasks’ progress: Once your project is in action, it is of the utmost importance to keep everything going as per plan. This requires you to monitor the progress, compare it with your base plan, and eliminate any obstacles that might deflect your project from its decided path.
- Hold regular check-ins and meetings: While we’re all tired of endless Zoom calls, regular check-ins are essential for keeping everyone on the same page. Designers and stakeholders can benefit greatly from a simple 10-minute standup.
- Set aside time for designing: This is the most important aspect of the show, but it is often the most neglected. Ascertain that your team has the necessary time and resources to complete the tasks. View, manage, and update your team’s tasks using resource planning tools.
Phase 3 – Closing
The project is almost finished, and you can breathe a sigh of relief. However, design project management does not end when the brief is met.
In fact, the project closure process is the ideal time to figure out what worked and what didn’t, and how to run a smoother ship the next time. As you finish your project, make sure to include the following steps:
- Save your work: You never know when a previous design will come in handy for another designer in the future. Ensure that your team has access to all of the necessary design files, and label them for greater clarity.
- Feedback process: This is an excellent time to gather everyone together to discuss and reflect on what worked and what could be improved. It is important to give and receive feedback from clients when working together. To deliver better projects, both parties must communicate.
- Deliver the design assets as needed: Make sure your stakeholders or clients have access to all necessary files, whether they are SVG, PNG, EPS, or MP4. It’s simple to add the necessary design files, categorize each asset, and mark the task as complete within project management software.
Effective design project management requires you and your team to focus on the creative aspects rather than being bogged down by administrative tasks.
Using project management tools like Gency or Asana can further simplify the process and streamline your project’s lifecycle, allowing you to accomplish your goals without the added stress of organizing and tracking everything.
Keep in mind if you want to choose a more generic and tool like Asana or Notion, suitable for any industry, or if you want one tailored specifically for freelance designers like Gency.
Remember: The key is to play to your team’s strengths, schedule even the smallest tasks, and maintain open lines of communication to ensure that everyone is on the same page.
So now it’s your turn to create an ideal design project management process that meets your needs and rock your projects!
Head of Design at DesignBro and is responsible for UI/UX Design, managing the global designer community, and ensuring quality levels of both designers and designs remain high.