Graphic design business operations and graphic design studios that prioritize client satisfaction and employee happiness are essential. If you haven’t updated your business processes in more than a year, your organizational efforts may be holding you back or slowing you down. Your company has probably evolved in the past year. Has your client roster changed, or have your ultimate business goals shifted?
Business growth also may mean you’re still relying on old processes that haven’t scaled well. As these workflows become increasingly strained, they may be forcing you and your design team to work harder than you need to. Even small operational inefficiencies can add up. Over time, they may make it more challenging to deliver value to your clients.
Auditing and updating your business operations can be an excellent way to identify potential weaknesses in your day-to-day workflows and improve worker happiness with the resources you have. Here are some tips any graphic design business can use to update their operations — potentially saving themselves time and money.
Graphic design business operations 1: Identify business process bottlenecks
The best place to start is by identifying potential bottlenecks in your day-to-day operations. Your designers may get held up at specific steps of the design process. They may need team members to give feedback on a first design pass. They may also have to wait for notes from a client. Maybe they have a complete process brief, but they can’t get to work because they’re missing crucial assets — like a stock image, font, or vector version of the client’s logo.
You can often tell if you’re dealing with obstacles if your team alternates between periods of high-stress, crunch-like conditions as you rush to meet a deadline and idle times where workers are waiting for others to get back to them. Plus, you can identify potential roadblocks in a few ways. Many business leaders begin by mapping their processes — helping them visualize how work begins and moves through the company before completion.
Metrics can help here. If you measure how long each phase of the design process takes on average using project management software, you can get hard data on when your designers tend to wait and when they usually have too much work to deal with. Once you’ve identified the bottleneck, you have options for unclogging it.
For example, you may assign a designer or other team member to start gathering assets during the design brief phase. Doing so can help ensure that when a client has approved the short, and you’re ready to start work, designers won’t have to go hunting for assets or wait for others to get back to them. You may also adopt new tech or make process adjustments that help reduce or eliminate bottlenecks.
Graphic design business operations 2: Improve your organization and collaboration tools
Businesses are increasingly pivoting to remote operations — which can offer significant benefits, make collaboration more challenging, and strain existing processes. Your graphic design studio may have recently started offering the ability to telework — and you may still be adjusting to a partially or fully remote workforce. You may also be relying on freelancers who are sending in work from far-flung locations and various time zones.
Adopting new collaboration tools is an excellent way to reduce process obstacles and streamline business operations. The right tool can help ensure designers can share files and get the critical feedback they need, even if there’s no central office environment to collaborate in. The standard array of remote collaboration tools — video conferencing platforms like Zoom, chat software like Slack — are an ideal place to start. You can make collaboration even more effortless by adopting other platforms.
For example, online proofing tools allow collaborators on a specific project to annotate and comment on draft designs more efficiently. A file organization tool like Google’s G Suite can also offer significant benefits for your remote team.
If your team is still mostly in the office, physical organization tools can be beneficial. For example, many businesses sign and craft vinyl to create DIY in-office whiteboards or desk organizers. These simple tools can improve communication in the office and make organizing cabinets and desks a little easier.
Graphic design business operations 3: Adopt new project management styles or technology
Adjusting how you manage your team can also help make business operations more efficient. Process changes can make collaboration more manageable and help manage some of the risks or drawbacks of managing a remote team. Weekly check-ins can help keep your staff on the same page without drawing them away from their work for too long.
Clear deadlines, virtual calendars, and project management software ensure that even when you can’t quickly ask a co-worker for some critical info, you can still get an answer. If your team struggles with common issue areas — like difficulty establishing workflows and doling out responsibilities — a central project management system can keep you organized. The right tool will clarify from the beginning where responsibilities for a given project lie, helping prevent miscommunications during the design process.
If you struggle to manage a growing library of online assets and resources, you may find a helpful digital asset management system. These systems help your designers gather and keep track of the digital resources necessary to create clients’ work.
Significant benefits for graphic design studios that update operations
Updating your business operations is an excellent way to catch existing bottlenecks and ensure your team works as efficiently as possible. Small changes like adopting new tech, mapping out your process, or making the office more organized can improve productivity and streamline workflows.
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Eleanor Hecks write this article. She is editor-in-chief at Designerly Magazine. She was the creative director at a digital marketing agency before becoming a full-time freelance designer. Eleanor lives in Philly with her husband and pup, Bear.