Behind the scenes - how we workPosted on October 31, 2019 by Sarah Robertson
The way we manage the day-to-day running of our design studio is paramount to the success of our client relationships and projects.
Throughout the lifecycle of any creative job, Jonathan and I serve as trusted contacts for clients while we collaborate with freelance creatives behind the scenes. We’re involved at all stages – working on planning, design and development – but occasionally hire people who have been hand-picked for the skills they can bring to a brief.
We use a suite of management tools to keep us on track, on time and on budget. Because if we don’t run a tight ship, it’s easy to lose sight of where we are with projects and communication.
The tools we use to support our systems and processes
We’re big fans of using software to help the studio run as smoothly as possible. And with the birth of so many digital startups creating web and mobile applications, it’s easier than ever to keep a handle on your business.
When it comes to the day-to-day running of IfLooksCouldKill, we favour Trello for people and project management, Slack for communication with freelancers and Clockify for time tracking. Managing our time well is a massive help when it comes to evaluating the hours and days spent on projects, and it enables us to keep track of support hours.
The other major thing that supports us is our process, something we've honed over 14 years of working on identity, print and digital design projects.
During the design process, we use InVision for helping us prototype ideas, reviewing and commenting on concepts and making revisions at a good pace. And as we work through the development phase of a digital project, we use BitBucket to enable us to quickly and easily raise and track bug fixes.
To keep us in check financially, we use FreeAgent for small business accounting and DryRun for cashflow forecasting. We also use spreadsheets to keep an eye on changes to budgets, especially when we’re working on long-term or large-scale projects.
The other major thing that supports us is our process, something we’ve honed over 14 years of working on identity, print and digital design projects.
Our creative process
We believe that the most important aspect of our job as a creative company is to listen, to learn and to explore. Our ability to do these things well is what determines the success of any project we undertake, and so we make it our job to immerse ourselves in a client’s business or idea so we can fully understand their aims. At this early stage, we meet with all stakeholders and bring our energy to a detailed planning session. This enables us to explore a particular goal or challenge and consider how we might meet the client’s objectives. At this point, we’ll discuss the project plans, exchange ideas and materials and confirm roles and responsibilities.
There are no short cuts when it comes to effective design and so defining a clear strategy is an integral part of our approach. And so at this stage, we work with our team to create a design brief and, if we’re undertaking a website build or mobile application, a functional specification. Depending on the type of project and the scale of it, this might be accompanied by wireframe sketches or more robust diagrams and illustrations. We’ll also agree on budgets and timescales.
We find that one of the most interesting and rewarding parts of the creative process is coming up with the ideas that could support the client’s aims or solve their problem. A visual mood board is a great addition to any project as it offers a verbal and visual checkpoint before moving forward with concrete design ideas. And from time to time, we’ll host workshops and interviews in conjunction with competitor and market research, or perform user-testing and surveys if we’re being hired to improve an existing web presence.
Putting our ideas into action and getting to work on the visual design is an especially time-consuming phase of the process, but it’s also one of the most rewarding. We begin by creating concepts and presenting an agreed number of identity, print or digital designs to the client. This might involve combining suggestions or integrating new solutions as we work through a fixed set of revisions, after which we meticulously refine and execute our ideas to produce the end result.
We work hard to make sure projects are delivered on time and on budget and ensuring we’ve met the objectives set out in the planning stages is paramount. The launch phase is adaptable and very much depends on the nature of the work we’ve undertaken. But in the case of identity and print projects, we facilitate communication with printers, and with digital projects, we robustly test websites, offer training and provide walk-throughs. We will also address any search engine optimisation, social media and email marketing needs are met.
When a project has launched, we take the opportunity to review the end result in line with the agreed deliverables. This is an integral part of the process for any design studio as it’s important to assess timescales and budget and ensure the project has been managed well. With digital projects, we also initiate an ongoing support contract to enable us to provide help to clients after their website has gone live. Not only does this give them the reassurance that their web presence is being looked after, but it also gives us the opportunity to develop a long-term relationship and support the continued growth of a client’s business or idea.
We believe that a well-defined creative process is a fundamental tool for any design business as it allows for clear communication throughout a project.
We believe that a well-defined creative process is a fundamental tool for any design business as it allows for clear communication throughout a project. For us, it helps the team to get organised and it also gives clients a much better understanding of what to expect from us.
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