Graphic Design Project Plan Template

Graphic Design Project Plan Template, within the Milanote app

Plan all aspects of your next graphic design project in one place

Start your next graphic design project with a plan template. It's ideal for managing the various stages of the graphic design process.

Create a plan detailing the creative brief, research, next steps, inspiration, design ideas, sketches, notes and timelines to help consistency and flow with the project.

Milanote helps you share concepts early on and collect suggestions and feedback from a client so you can bring together ideas, inspire and stay on track.

This template is part of the Graphic Designers collection.

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Professional Design Practice :: Lesson 3 :: Project Planning

By running your business along well-oiled, well-organised lines you’ll be able to wring the most amount of time out of your days, maximise your profits, avoid mislaying things and generally inject some calm into your busy life. A modicum of planning, far from acting as a restraint on creativity, can in fact free us to spend more time on the creative process. It should therefore be an integral part of all our working lives. Follow the guides below, or a life of professional chaos awaits!

Project Planning

First things first.

To begin with, you’ll need a system for booking jobs in, and allocating project codes/numbers to them as they arrive. This could be termed “Processing”. Designing a system for these codes/numbers can be entirely your own decision, the only rule being that once you’ve devised it you should keep things consistent across all projects. You might take the first three letters of your client’s name, add a numeral(s) indicating which project for this client this job is and happens the year and month the job is booked in.

When devising your project plan, break your jobs down into clearly delineated milestones for best organisation. Image courtesy of JohnnyEnglish

Create a folder with subfolders on your hard drive. The name of the first-level folder should correspond with your client’s name. Do the same within your email account. As correspondence and attachments starts to flow back and forth between you both you’ll be able to archive and store information, messages and files in an organised manner.

Job bags are useful for storing things in which relate to projects. Plastic A3 folders make good job bags. At the start of each job you might not have a lot of physical ‘gumph’ to fill them with, but once your project is underway, and depending on how you work, you may find yourself accumulating a daunting amount of scraps of paper, printed emails and sketches from meetings and the like which it’d be useful to store all in one place. Attach a label with the client name and project number/code on it and affix to a consistent place on the job bag.

Planning Jobs & Projects

Planning is a set of systems and methods. Good planning is purposeful and clear-sighted, effective and efficient; it helps to avoid mistakes.

Download a free PDF template that you can print out or save and fill in for each of your projects, download HERE

Important Planning Questions

Without having an aim, it’s difficult to score. Image courtesy of Skyline Studio

As it states in ‘The Little Know-It-All’ “Aims are a decision-makers’s guidelines and signposts.” Without setting your aims, how can you expect to attain them? There’s a good mnemonic which psychotherapists and life coaches use when explaining aims to their clients; SMART. Aims should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-based. Put them down in writing, lest you forget things. As repeated elsewhere, once written down, aims and goals take on a concrete life and become commitments. Review them periodically and amend wherever appropriate.

Every project you embark on will need some kind of plan, which should be broken down into a list of jobs based on priority. The most important jobs should be tackled first, and anything that can be done in under three minutes should be attended to immediately.

A good project plan should remain intuitive and realistic and help you find your way around the job. Wayfinding signage from Berardo, Centro Cultural de Belém, Lisbon courtesy of Prentiss Riddle

Top Tips for Effective Job Planning

Note: A reminder system is a good thing to build in to your project plan. At risk of over-stating the point, without writing things down small jobs can fester in the mind, build up so they seem insurmountable and stress you out. Even if you haven’t forgotten anything, you may convince yourself that you have simply by not recording things on paper.

From the book ‘The Little Know-It-All’: “Self-discipline means being able to overcome our innate laziness and inertia, and to carry out even unpleasant tasks in order to achieve more in the end.” Employ SMT (single-minded thought) as often as possible. There exists a theory called ‘The 80:20 Principle’ which states that for many people we waste around 80 per cent of our time on unproductive activities, and that 20 per cent of our most productive time leads to 80 per cent of our success.

“Time is money.” Image courtesy of Patrick T. Power

Time Management

We’ve all heard the oft-quoted phrase “Time is money”. It’s a phrase that holds water as the more time we squander on useless activities the longer the time period the money we’re earning is made in. Set overall and milestone deadlines for each job within your project on paper, and stick to these deadlines to maximise your productivity and profits.

It may help to keep this overall concept of your projects in mind: A project is an undertaking with a delineated beginning and end, in terms of deliveries and timescales involved. They’ll vary in complexity, but all projects will involve stages and sub-projects within the larger whole, and each will need its own thought-through and planned timeline and defined aim. Assembled together, these sub-projects should come together to help realise the larger, project aim.

Have your expected project start and end dates in place during the initial phase of project planning. Image courtesy of Anna Leahart

The Four Prime Components of Planning

Without adequate planning, projects can quickly fail in a number of ways. Deadlines may be exceeded, milestones missed, jobs forgotten about and things mislaid. You can find yourself on the backfoot, having to play at catch-up because of your own inadequate planning.

With the best will and design skills in the world, without adequate planning, you run the risk of your project turning into a mess. Image courtesy of Frontline Blogger

Projects usually succeed if…

Further Rules of the Planning Process

By constantly monitoring project progress you’ll be able to stay on top of events. Image courtesy of Lars Schleicher

The project plan

The project plan is a detailed description of what is required of each project, and is made up of some or all of the following parts:

1. Project Definition

2. Project Variables

Another way to view the project plan is as an intricately-composed system of variable key segments. Image courtesy of Adele Turner

3. List of Milestones and Jobs to be Done

4. Project Budgets

Sometimes things just happen that are beyond our control, so always have a contingency plan in place. Image courtesy of Laura Thorne

5. Supplementary plans

6. Project approval

Case Study: CFTC Experts brochure

Client: Commonwealth Secretariat

Designer: Poonum Chauhan

Design Agency: The Fink Agency LLP

I recently caught up with Poonum Chauhan, a senior designer at The Fink Agency in London, to ask her about any projects she’d been involved in where good project planning had been essential. Her words on a particularly devilish project, in terms of logistics and planning, are given below.

The CFTC Experts brochure is composed of information supplied by countries stretching from East Africa to the Pacific Islands and the Caribbean.

This project was quite a large one with a lot of different elements involved, and which all had to be pieced together to produce a highly professional document.

With countries involved from the entire Commonwealth, and individual experts from these countries each writing profiles, the planning, collation and timing of this project needed to be highly organised and efficient, which, as we discovered, didn’t always turn out to be the case! Time zones, work trips, meetings abroad and the general hierarchy of the organisation proved to be challenge, along with budgets too!

Also, the print was given away, so liaising with the Commonwealth’s printers to ensure the job came out how we wanted it was imperative. A 152pp, 210x210mm brochure, with a throw-out cover, and a 6 colour job were all things to take into consideration when we started this. Also, having to think about courier costs around the world, we had to drop our original case-bound idea as production and postage costs would’ve been just too high!"

In ‘The Professional Practice of Design’, Dorothy Goslett writes “Many designers, though admitting its necessity, think that design administration is boring, a tiresome chore always to be put aside for doing second if something more exciting crops up to be done first. But good design + good administration = good fees well earned.” If you don’t pay enough attention to it already, get involved in project planning and administration. The routines will soon become habitual and the benefits will reveal themselves to be substantial. For what designer, or client for that matter, doesn’t want his project finished on time and within budget?

Did you meet your planned end date? Were you on time and on budget? You must’ve been if you’ve followed this guide! Image courtesy of Teena Vallerine

A chapter on project planning in the excellent ‘The Little Know-It-All, Common Sense for Designers’ book, which I recommend to you all.

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How to Create a Graphic Design Project Outline

Project outlines keep design projects on-time and on-budget.

What to Know

Before beginning the design phase of a job, it is helpful to create a graphic design project outline. It will provide both the designer and the client with some structure over the life of a given project.

Format of a Graphic Design Project Outline

How you format and present your outline is up to you. Make sure it is clear, to the point, and easy to follow. You don’t want there to be any confusion as to what is included in the project, as ambiguity can lead to problems later on in the process. However, being too-precise and legalistic can constrain the process and lead to confusion arising from unnecessary complexity.

It helps if the project outline is referenced as a governing document in a contract. For example, most professional designers work under contract. The specific "stuff" the designer will do isn't written into most contracts. Instead, the project outline is referenced as an appendix to the contract, usually in the form of a statement of work .

There's no universal template or table of contents for a design outline. Each varies based on the scope of the project and the needs of the client.

What to Include in a Graphic Design Project Outline

What you include in the outline will vary depending on the type and size of the job. The goal is to commit in writing what the designer must create. In general, outlines include a mix of the creative elements and the business processes around the generation and agreement about those creative elements.

Creative Elements

Here are just a few examples of what to include for different types of projects:

Business Elements

To protect both the designer and the client from a soured relationship, most contracts or project outlines include a handful of agreements related to the process, including:

Get into the habit of creating outlines for your graphic design projects, whether they are personal, for school, or for clients. This discipline will help to ensure that the design process goes smoothly.

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graphic design project schedule

How long should a graphic design project take?

Looking to hire a design freelancer? Considering working with a creative agency? You may wonder: “How long should a graphic design project take?” 🤔

While it all depends on a lot of factors which we’ll cover below, the short answer to this is: Every project, every designer, every agency & every client is different.

Surprise. Surprise. I bet you couldn’t have guessed that yourself.

But hear me out:

Before we dive into actual graphic design time estimates, remember: Unless you hire a fully-vetted senior designer, you often don’t have control of whom you’ll be working with directly or what the timelines will be. All you can do is trust your instincts and go with your gut feeling.

The good news? There are a few things you can do to help move design projects along faster. So let’s start with what’s in YOUR control first 👇🏼

(If you like, you can skip straight down to the graphic design time estimates section)

How you can help your designer or agency move design projects along with faster

1. have your brand assets ready ahead of time..

The first thing you want to make sure of is that you have all your marketing & brand assets ready from the get-go. So what’s my point? Every good agency or freelance will want to know about you, your brand & your company first.

I give you an example. At Design Buffs, all new clients need to complete a 10-minute onboarding form that includes details about why they exist, who they are, what they do and what their brand is all about.

Further, we ask you to submit the design assets you already have in place. Typically, these include:

books, pencils, laptop, and iphone on a desk

Other questions you may want to answer are:

💡 Design Buffs Tip: The more your designer or agency know about you, your brand or your product ahead of time, the faster the turnaround. Simples!

2. Prepare an awesome design brief!

Put yourself into the role of your designer first. Their goal is to please you and deliver high-quality work. The problem is, if you don’t tell them what your expectations are, they will come back with questions or get stuck.

Remember, if you put in just a little bit of effort in preparing the design brief in advance, the designer’s job becomes easier.

At Design Buffs, we have already figured out a great way to help you out. For example, after signing up, you’ll get your own dedicated Trello board.

It gets better.

On each board, we’ll share example briefs that you can simply copy & paste. Plus, over time, we’ll create brief templates that are 100% bespoke to you.

graphic design project schedule

Because we realized one important thing:

“Complete design briefs reduce the time it takes to finish a design project by up to 75%”

As a result, it pays off if you spend that extra bit of time outlining what it is that you’re looking for and also sharing some ideas and examples.

This leads us to the next point — sharing design inspiration.:

3. Share ideas for design inspiration.

That’s a big one.

It’s extremely useful for a designer or creative or agency to get some ideas of graphic design examples that you like.

Always remember, your designer can’t read your mind and your ideas matter.

Your Ideas Matter! Write them down :) A motivational quote on a coworking space.

Now, it's crucial to share some ideas and also let your designer know what it is that you like in any of the examples.

Here’s how you can find design inspiration yourself:

“Your designer can’t read your mind so sharing examples for inspiration, especially in the beginning, is crucial.”

💡 Design Buffs Tip : Head over and follow the Design Buffs Pinterest board to get design ideas from various industries & verticals.

4. Give timely design feedback.

At Design Buffs, you have the option to communicate with your designer in real-time.

Here’s what’s important:

When you start working with a designer or agency for the first few weeks, you want to give timely feedback. This way, your designer learns fast, adjusts and delivers quicker in the future. Amazing, isn’t it?

Remember, the more focus you give to the edits, the more refined and polished your design will be.

👉🏼 Get graphic design work done at scale, without adding headcount or breaking the bank

5. Get your copy ready.

Copy is crucial. In fact, it’s possibly the single most important asset that you need to add to your design brief to get good results.

You must be wondering why that is.

The bottom line is, your designer can’t design with placeholder copy. It makes the job incredibly difficult, especially when it comes to layout.

Here’s a secret: Your designer will base his or her design decisions based on the copy you share. Always make sure you know (at least roughly) what you would like to communicate.

Olivetti Lettera 35, typewriter machine

💡 Design Buffs Tip : Project management tools like Trello allow you to attach your own Google Docs document, which is the perfect medium for sharing texts and additional instructions. Our team loves having the copy ready before they dive into the design itself.

6. Prioritize your tasks.

The final point, prioritize.

It’s usually a good idea to communicate the deadline for your project ahead of time and communicate it with your designer. Many clients aren’t entirely sure how long a design project may take, so it’s best to start with an end date in mind and then backtrack your timeline from there.

💡 Design Buffs Tip : At Design Buffs, we pride ourselves on having a tech-enabled design process. You can simply prioritize your tasks by moving them up and down the queue.

Graphic Design Time Estimates:

I know you’ve been waiting for this.

Below is the most straightforward piece of design time estimates* (Based on our own data and experience working with over 114 clients and 1,700 design projects since 2019)

Couldn’t be more straightforward, could it?

But that’s when you might hit a snag. Again, these timelines really depend on the designer you have, the brand assets you have available and the brief you have submitted.

💡 Design Buffs Tip: Check & re-read the section on how you can help your designer or agency to move design projects along faster .

Other factors impacting how long a graphic design project takes

Your designer.

You guessed it. Junior or less experienced designers may take a little longer for a design project to complete. Typically, the more experience your designer has the quicker the turnaround time for your design project.

💡 Design Buffs Tip: Try to hire designers with different design skills. I give an example: If the majority of your design requirements are around custom illustrations, you may want to hire experts with skills in that area rather than a generalist designer. Other domain expertise exists in UI/UX design, general graphic design , marketing design & motion design.

DesignOps & Technology

One may think, gone are the days when clients communicate with the designer or agency in endless email threads.

But here’s what I realized when talking to our clients: A lot of design freelancers and clients still do.

Now, there is no problem with that. It’s just that it’s incredibly inefficient.

What’s the solution?

Tech-enabled design companies allow you to collaborate remotely in the most efficient way. The trick is to use modern tools like Slack & Zoom which allow you to communicate and collaborate in real-time to help you get more stuff done, faster!

Finally: Freelancer vs. Design Agency vs. DesignOps Service

Now here’s what I learned, freelancers that are hired from Upwork, Dribbble & Co. are awesome, but they can also be very flaky.

They may disappear for a while, go on holiday, work on other projects or simply don’t deliver quality work. Matter of fact, design agencies on the other hand can be expensive, and you may have to deal with long waiting times.

The alternative to both is working with a DesignOps service like Design Buffs. You can work with a pre-vetted senior designer for 8, 4 or 2 hours per day.

Design Buffs will work with you in real-time during the hours when you’re working. Plus, you can be reassured that processes are in place to ensure a smooth design delivery time.

Design Buff's creatives are fully-vetted, reliable & give you the reassurance and consistency you need in your business in the most cost-effective way.

Get graphic design work done at scale , without adding headcount or breaking the bank

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Design and Creative Project Plan Templates

When creativity starts flowing, it’s easy to run with an idea and worry about the details later. But moving forward with a loose timeline and undefined scope can put your entire project at risk.

Whether you’re a project manager who oversees creative projects or a creative tasked with managing projects too, scheduling project work is only part of what you do. These design and creative project management templates simplify planning so you can jump into work that matters faster, without losing sight of the deadline. 

Deliver your next design, video, or writing project on time by using these creative timeline templates to schedule tasks, collaborate as a team, and track progress along the way. 

Free design and creative project schedule templates

Gantt chart templates make it easy for busy creatives like you to build, organize, and manage project plans without getting bogged down by details. Modify a template to work for your team, or use it as a sample to spark ideas for your next planning session.

graphic design project schedule

Create your own templates to manage design and creative projects

Do you plan the same types of creative projects over and over again? 

Creating your own gantt chart templates can save you tons of time. And with TeamGantt, it’s easy to do! Simply create a new project and save it as a template . 

Use templates again and again to standardize your project management process and get projects done faster. 

Free project management templates by industry

TeamGantt isn’t just for creative projects. It works well for projects in any industry. To give project managers like you a leg up, we created a whole library of free gantt chart templates your team can use. 

Feel free to explore all the ready-made project templates you have available:

And more, coming soon!

Build your first project for free!

Start saving time, hitting deadlines, and delivering within budget with a free TeamGantt project. 

Simply choose a design or creative template, set up your free account, and get started right away. You’ll be on your way to a fully formed plan in no time!

Sign up for free!

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How long does a design project take.

Mar 16, 2020 9:42:00 AM / by Kay La Belle

Graphic design of how long does a design project take?

Before you start a design project, you have to make a few key decisions to ensure that your project will go as smoothly as possible.

Here at VMG Studios , we always strive to push the boundaries and make the most of our client’s timelines and budgets. Even so, giving yourself enough time to complete your design project will save you stress, disappointment, and most importantly, money.

In this article, we’ll give some insight into what it takes to complete a design project and what you can do to help the process go faster.

What is Your Graphic Design Budget?

It can be hard to align your design needs within a budget, however, it’s important to make sure your expectations are in line with what’s possible within a predetermined budget.

If you don’t have a budget, it’s still good to determine a top end of what you’re willing to spend. Design work has a very wide range of options , and it’s easy to lose sight of the dollar signs when you start seeing your project come to life. Giving some guidelines will help the agency you’re working with determine how long they can spend on making your project fabulous.

Design project budget artwork including a piggy bank with coins, calculator, calendar

What Are Your Graphic Design Needs: Digital or Printed?

Different types of design have different turn-around times which can cause many clients to feel blindsided if they’re unfamiliar with the process.

A great example of this is printed collateral versus digital collateral. Printed collaterals require more time than digital collaterals by a significant amount, even if the final results look very similar.

Let’s say we have two poster projects that look nearly identical, except one is a digital poster and the other needs 500 copies to be printed at 24” x 36”. The digital poster can be delivered to the client the same day as final approval while the printed poster will need an extra 4 – 7 days, depending on the delivery method and the print shop being used.

Even though some print shops will do same day or next day printing, other steps must be taken to ensure a proper print. First, the design file must be prepared for printing.

This step can either be fast or slow, depending on how accurate the print needs to be. If the print needs exact colors or the print will be a very large size, this step will take longer. However, if the print doesn’t need to be 100% perfect, it takes a lot less time.

Design project printing design


Don’t Skip the Proof

Once the file is prepared for printing, most agencies will ask for a print proof from the print shop. This step is often ignored in favor of time, however it’s an extremely important step because it can save a lot of time, money, and embarrassment if something were to go wrong.

I personally once had a client print 5,000 bags with their product name spelled incorrectly because they insisted that what they sent us was correct and they opted to skip the proof.

Never skip the proof.

It’s your last opportunity to change or fix anything before the final printing stage. And in my experience, it’s worth the extra time (unless you’re okay with paying to reprint your entire project if something were to come out wrong).

The proof stage also allows the designer to detect any odd design flaws that can happen during the printing process. Sometimes, a design can look perfect on a computer screen, but not translate to print properly.

Examples of this are ugly gradient banding, objects that are supposed to be transparent coming out completely solid, or neon colors coming out muddy. All of these things can be fixed, but we have to know they exist before we can fix them.

Once the proof has been approved, the project is then printed with whatever lead time the print shop specified. Then materials are either hand-delivered or mailed to the client.

Sometimes clients decide they would like to get their projects printed by their own means. This is perfectly fine but it’s still important to let your designer know what the intent for the final deliverable is so they can make sure it can be used for your intended purpose. A digital poster requires different settings and procedures than a print poster, whether you print it yourself or not.

How Long Different Graphic Design Projects Take

Whether digital or printed, there are many types of design projects, all of which require different amounts of time.

Most single digital collaterals take from 1 to 6 days to complete. Most print collaterals take from 6 to 12 days to complete.

Of course, these projects can take much less or much more time to complete depending on circumstances, these are just broad averages. Some examples of design projects and their general timelines are outlined below.

It’s important to note that these timelines do not include the creative development or ideation phase. These timelines also include up to 3 rounds of client review and revisions.

Graphic Design Project Example Timelines

How a Client Can Help Move the Design Timeline Along

1. set a deadline.

When do you need your deliverables? Many people aren’t entirely sure when they need to start their design project in order to get it delivered on time, so it’s best to start with an end date and then backtrack your timeline from there.

Regardless, it’s generally an excellent idea to give yourself an extra week after the estimated turnaround time in case there are unforeseen challenges along the way. With most design projects, the more time you give the designers, the better your project will come out.

I personally love to cook and bake, so I sometimes like to compare a design project to a nice stew. You can make an okay stew in an hour, but it truly takes time to simmer to really develop a delicious flavor. If you want your design project to be the best it can be, you need to make sure to give it the appropriate amount of time.

Of course, we understand that sometimes this just isn’t realistic, and we’ll do everything in our power to get rush jobs done as quickly and efficiently as possible. However, your project, wallet, and your sanity will thank you if you have the extra time.

Keep in mind, it’s always okay to call your agency and ask for a general estimate for your project if you need to.

2. Prepare Materials Ahead of Time

You can also save time if you have prepared some of the design materials yourself.

Are there specific photos you want to use? If so, make sure they’re high resolution – meaning they have large-sized dimensions (anything above 1,000 pixels by 1,000 pixels) – and they don’t look blurry. It’s important to note that you can’t make a low-resolution image a high-resolution image, so if you only have a low-resolution image, we suggest finding a different, higher-resolution image.

If you have vector versions of your logo or any artwork you intend to use, always send it along to your designer. It’s much easier for them to use and will look perfect on anything of any size. A vector file is a file ending in .AI, SVG, EPS or occasionally, certain PDFs that contain vector artwork. If you aren’t sure if you have the correct file formats, just ask your designer! They’ll be happy to help.

If you have some inspiration or examples of what you’d like your project to look like, send them to your designer to help them get a clear direction. It will save time in the ideation phase if your designer has a lead on what the client likes and dislikes.

3. Client Feedback

Most projects include up to 3 revisions. So, give your producer and designer clear, timely feedback. The quicker we hear from you, the quicker we can finish your project. The more time you give to edits, the more refined and polished your project will be.

Planning Your Next Graphic Design Project

There’s always the chance for unknown circumstances that may either delay or accelerate the timeline of your design project. However, there are several ways to make sure your project is completed as smoothly as possible.

Taking these steps and clearly communicating with your agency can help ensure your design project gets delivered beautifully, stress-free, and on time, every time.

Check out the latest trends in graphic design by clicking the image below to download the free Top Creative Trends of 2021 eBook.

Top Creative Trends of 2021 eBook

Tags: Graphic design , Design , Design project timeline

Kay La Belle

Written by Kay La Belle

Kay La Belle (aka Kelly La Belle) is a graphic designer and animator at VMG Studios. She learned web development at a young age and moved into the design world after college. She enjoys reading, baking, and playing video games on her days off.

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Design project plan template

What’s the secret to more productive design and creative projects? A smooth creative process.


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Designers have a host of tools to help them  create  designs, but what about a tool to plan and manage the work to take it from brainstorm to approved? Without effective creative project management, teams lose time and productivity going back and forth on a creative brief or spin in circles on a feedback loop.

Instead, web, graphic, and product designers across agencies and companies can rely our creative project management template to start any project strong, and manage it to success with Asana.

Create repeatable processes. Starting from square one with every design project plan leaves you open to wasting time and repeating mistakes. Our template gives you a clear process to get right to work every time.

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The ultimate guide to design project management for marketing agencies

graphic design project schedule

Effective management is crucial for the success of any design project.

Without a plan, things can get out of control quickly. And no one wants to be the deer in headlights when a client asks for that design file you promised because it was lost under a soaring stack of other duties.

Design project management is particularly unruly because it usually brings together a range of skilled and qualified individuals from across the team or from a client.

And let's be real, creative minds have the potential to clash with over-demanding client parameters. This can put design project managers in a tough place as they struggle to find the sweet spot between design deadlines and nurturing creativity.

In this complete guide to design project management for marketing agencies , we’ll share more on why these teams have unique challenges and what design leaders can do to keep clients happy while delivering exceptional work.

Design project management template

Streamline your design management process and deliver winning design projects for your clients with our design project management template.

What is design project management?

Design project management is the process of managing incoming design requests, allocating tasks to specific team members, and following through the project lifecycle to completion.

This process relies heavily on connecting two or more parties – typically the designer and requestor – to work together on delivering assets for one or more projects. The task could be anything from a webpage design, branding materials, creating a logo, or something that requires multiple assets like a digital marketing campaign.

If there’s an element of design involved (a.k.a. multiple reiterations of a creative concept), you as the project manager or lead will need to oversee all the moving parts. This means you have to encourage creativity while adhering to client briefs or team guidelines.

If you picture someone spinning plates while juggling flaming bowling pins, you’re not too far off the mark. There are many different components of a design project, but managing one doesn't have to be a high-anxiety task.

Why project management for design teams is different

Design projects aren’t like other projects. 

Don't believe us? Just ask a designer how many tasks arrive on their plate with little-to-no project information, direction, or appropriate content. It will be a lot more than you think.

This is a common problem for design teams because their requests tend to require more changes and revisions than other marketing teams. What makes this even harder is that design can be such a subjective discipline.

Project collaboration is key for effective design project teams

Designing the perfect asset requires the creator to match (or oftentimes exceed) the expectations of the requestor's mental image. Designers are then forced into the unwanted role of mind readers.

Design requests demand effective project collaboration . And without harmonious collaborative efforts from both sides, there's a very real danger of hitting a bottleneck with too many cooks in the kitchen.

Finding a compromise between structure and creative freedom is hard. But the best design project managers walk this very fine line to manage clients and keep everyone happy.

How to best manage designers and set client expectations

Listen – you could write a novel on the different ways to manage designers. But there are simple steps design leads or agency owners can take to ensure designers feel empowered and autonomous in their craft.

Graphic designers, like other creatives, are specially qualified to bring your ideas to life. Businesses rely on their innate talents and acquired digital skills to create graphics that represent their brand.

But it’s not as easy as simply telling (or demanding) a graphic designer to create a new logo and hope for the best. They need direction, goals, parameters, and the right assets to effectively optimize their workflows .

It's important for project managers to get everything from the client upfront. Otherwise, your graphic designers are left to shoot in the dark and hope their designs align with the client’s vision.

You may get lucky, but most times, the client will ask for amendments or worse, ask you to start over because it’s not what they pictured. Avoid wasting valuable time (and killing the creativity buzz) by using a centralized hub for every stage and stakeholder to communicate.

Select Predecessors Task Dependency in Teamwork

Whether it's brainstorming or creating the sharing the final design file, agencies need a flexible space for designers to work with clients or project owners without creating additional work.

That's why design agencies love Teamwork. It's simple to assign task dependencies to ensure everyone understands what's needed to get the project across the finish line.

Task dependencies prevent team members from working ahead without the proper assets or information. In fact, within Teamwork, leads can set dependencies to designers that aren't available to complete until the necessary resources are provided first.

Understand how your design team best works

The combination of different creative minds makes it hard to take a linear approach to project management for design professionals.

Your art director might do their best work in the dead of night, while some of your illustrators are more creative in the morning. Find out your team’s strengths, understand how they work best, and weave that into your plan. 

Give them a survey or workflow questionnaire to see where their skillset works best. Then, use Teamwork's resource allocation and scheduling features to effectively manage team members' workloads.

teamwork resource scheduling

Teamwork gives managers a bird's-eye view of the entire team so they can see all of the assigned tasks, availability, or when someone is potentially overloaded. It's the easiest way to prevent burnout and ensure transparency between various design projects.


Breaking down the project design structure and lifecycle

Your project design structure is essential to how well your team receives tasks and finishes deliverables. Without any structure, you run the risk of double work, burnout, and angry clients.

To make things easier, we're dividing the project design structure and lifecycle into three separate phases to help you manage your team. Let's get started:

Phase 1: Planning and prepping the team

The planning stage might just be the most important stage of all. As Benjamin Franklin once famously said, failing to prepare is preparing to fail. 

So many moving parts need to be accounted for during any given design project. Otherwise, things will start to slip through the gaps if you're not thoroughly planning each step of the process.  

Start asking important questions like:

What is the goal of the project?

What does the client want? 

A simple answer to these questions makes it easier to move on to creating a design project plan . If you need help with starting your plan, use Teamwork's design project plan template to get things in motion.

Run an inventory of tasks (both big and small as the little things can easily be missed) and plug them all into a schedule for your team.

List out every task requiring time from a designer: We’re talking about both creative and non-creative tasks needed to kickoff or complete a design project (we’re looking at you, Monday morning client Zoom calls). Ensure your team has mock-ups, first drafts, and the finalized content to get started.

Define your budget: This is where you need to align the client’s expectations with what your team can do (and let your team know how much the client has to spend) . Things can get wildly out of control if a creative designer is spending too much time on a single task.

Assign tasks to your team's strengths: Who will do what and who is the best at specific tasks? It should be fairly easy to distribute these jobs, but remember to play to your team’s skillset. 

Map our major milestones: Project milestones act as a guide for task details and deadlines throughout an entire project. They also help you see if you’re on track and what tasks need prioritization.

Create a workflow: Plug all of the tasks, milestones, deadlines, and team members into one workflow that outlines who will do what and when they will need to do it.

Phase 2: Executing the plan

If you plan a project well, the execution should be a breeze. Of course, there will always be hiccups along the way, but a robust design project management plan will be flexible enough to swallow these up. 

At this point, your project should be underway with teams working together and design assets getting made. Executing the design task is an exciting part of the project but sometimes the most challenging to manage. Here's what to do in the execution phase:

Thoroughly communicate stakeholders: Whether your project stakeholders are internal teammates or external clients, you can't go dark. Keep communication as open as possible to avoid mistakes and mixups that could've been prevented with better correspondence. 

Hold regular check-ins and meetings: We’re all sick of endless Zoom calls, but regular check-ins are key to keeping everyone on the same page. A simple 10-minute standup can do wonders for designers and stakeholders.

Set time for designing: This is the main part of the show, but more often than not, it’s the task that gets pushed back the most. Make sure your team has the time and resources available to complete the tasks. Use Teamwork's resource planning tools to view, manage, and update your design tasks.

Phase 3: Wrapping up the project

You can almos t breathe a sigh of relief – the project is nearly finished. But design project management doesn’t end once the brief has been met. 

In fact, your project closure process is the perfect time to figure out what did and didn't work, and how you can run a smoother ship next time. Make sure to include these steps as you wrap up your project:

Add design files to a shared folder: You never know when a previous design will be super helpful for another designer in the future. Make sure your team has access to all of the essential design files and name them for further clarity.

Give feedback to designers and the stakeholders: This is a great time to bring everyone together to discuss and reflect on what worked and areas of improvement. If you're working with clients, ensure they have a chance to give feedback, but also receive it too. Both sides need to communicate to deliver better projects.

Appropriately deliver the design assets: Whether it's SVG, PNG, EPS, or MP4, make sure your stakeholders or clients have access to all the necessary files. Within a Teamwork task, it's easy to add the appropriate design files, categorize each asset, and mark the task as complete.

Attach a file to Teamwork - Select Files View

The most popular design project management methodologies 

There are several project management methodologies to choose for your design team. But it all depends on the size of your team, the type of projects, and who you work with.

Here are the most popular methods to ensure your team effectively completes design projects:

Agile design project management

The agile project management methodology is a collaborative approach to project management. Teams can revise a project during the process to avoid getting stuck too far into something that isn’t going to work.

This process usually involves short, sharp bursts of work that result in tests, tweaks, and adaptation. Kanban, scrum, and lean are all sub-categories of agile project management, but in each one, the work-to-be-done is added to a backlog that teams can work through.

teamwork active projects example

Teamwork is the Swiss army knife of project management methodologies, so you can choose what works best for you. The agile view in Teamwork allows teams to see each task at glance and how it fits into the team.

Waterfall design project management 

The waterfall methodology is a very traditional approach to project management where tasks are completed in a sequence. Tasks cannot be started until the previous one has been completed and signed off (hence, the waterfall movement).

Scrum design project management

Scrum is a branch of agile project management where work is split into short, sharp bursts known as “sprints”. Each sprint tends to focus on one specific task or set of tasks, and the work is reviewed and tweaked at the end. 

Kanban design project management

Kanban is another project management framework that falls under the agile methodology. Tasks are displayed visually in a board view and work is pulled from a backlog and moved along the board until it’s completed. 

Image of Kanban board view project collaboration

The Kanban method is also available in Teamwork to easily move tasks from groups like To do , To be written , Waiting for approval , and Reviewed . This makes the workflow a simple process to manage and understand as a stakeholder.

Design project management software

There are many moving parts in a design project, some of which you won’t even think of until you’re knee-deep in a project with no end in sight. 

Project management software streamlines the process and ensures nothing slips through the gaps. It can keep a track of how long you’ve spent on designated tasks, automate deadline reminders, assign goals to specific team members, and act as a central communication portal for everyone involved in a project. 

Here are some other common types of design project management software you might want to consider:

Communication tools 

Communication tools let you stay in touch with clients as well as discuss internal affairs with your team or share design files. Having access to all conversations in one place eliminates the need to scroll back through endless email threads.  

Through software like Teamwork , everyone stays up-to-date with communication between departments and stakeholders. It's simple to address questions and share information from one easy-to-access place. Teamwork Chat lets you carry out video calls with one person or an entire team, which is ideal for remote teams.

Graphic design time tracking software

Time management or employee time tracking software tells you exactly how much time a certain task has taken and whether your team is on track for set deadlines. This also helps you keep track of your budget by logging the billable hours a designer has spent on a task.

Teamwork Time Tracking Software

Use Teamwork to keep an eye on the time spent on each task so you can better plan and allocate projects in the future. The visual overview lets you see the time blocks of a project in one quick glance.

Resource management tools 

As we mentioned earlier, identifying, assigning, and managing resources is a crucial task for project managers. However, it can be tricky if you don’t know the capacity of your designers or who has what skill set.

teamwork allocated time and budget

Resource management tools make it easy to determine your team’s talents and accurately assign the right resources to the right projects without going over budget. Avoid burnout and keep your clients in the picture by inviting them onto your projects for free.

Calendar tools 

With the help of calendar tools, everyone involved gets a visual overview of what’s happening and when. This lets your team manage their own time and avoid working in a vacuum.

Example of shared schedule calendar

It can also allow you to visualize the various projects that are underway at any given time so you can manage your overall workload. The Teamwork calendar feature pulls together tasks and deadlines to create a visual representation of current projects as well as which team member is working on what task at any given time.

File storage software

Storing and maintaining files is crucial for design project managers, especially since there tend to be several iterations of each asset. File storage software allows everyone involved to access the files in one place. Again, this eliminates the risk of an asset getting lost in an inbox and it prevents designers from working on the wrong file.


How design teams can avoid poor project management

Bad project management is the curse of any design project. Your team is relying on you to lead the march and give them direction. Without it, designers might not have the full autonomy to flex their creative muscles in the way you want them to.

If you want to avoid disaster, follow these tips to keep your project management strategy precise and effective:

Tip 1: Review internally first

Get everyone on the same page before you meet with the client. The last thing you want is an awkward moment in the boardroom because you didn’t discuss or review assets beforehand. 

Tip 2: Collaborate together – not alone

Make it easy for your team to work together. Not only does this boost team morale and make the project more enjoyable, but it also avoids instances where someone works on the wrong draft or outside of the brief.

Teamwork makes collaboration easy by syncing calendars, providing regular team status updates, and keeping everyone in the loop at all times. You can add comments to tasks, and send messages to make sure your whole team knows what’s happening in real-time. 

Tip 3: Add some buffer time for the unexpected

If you’ve been a project manager for a while, you know that things rarely happen on time. Clients might take longer to review than anticipated or team members could suddenly call off sick for an extended period of time.

Projects often have to pivot because nearly anything can derail a project from its original plan. Schedule in buffer time to ensure you’re not constantly running against the clock. Creativity is hard to squeeze out of time-crunched, weary designers. 

Instead, use Teamwork to set team members' capacity through the Workload feature. This will allow everyone has a built-in buffer for when the inevitable scope creep arrives. 

Tip 4: Avoid communication overload

Communication is important, but there’s a fine line between the right amount of communication and micromanaging. Requiring your team to check in every minute of every day is overwhelming and detrimental to their creativity. 


Avoid over communicating by adding your team and clients to Teamwork and letting them see updates on the project’s progress for themselves. 

Tip 5: Respect and defend actual working time

Your team is important. Their needs are important. Clients are notorious for scope creep. Juggling all these things is hard, but it’s crucial that you respect and defend the actual working time of your team. 

Don’t schedule calls when they’ve blocked out time to be creative. And as we mentioned earlier, provide your team with plenty of uninterrupted time to actually design. 

Tip 6: Walk the tightrope between structure and creativity

This is perhaps the hardest part of managing a design project. Creatives are renowned for being free and passionate about their work. However, team leads need to ensure designers are working together and toward a common goal.

Give your team the chance to run with an idea, but be prepared to use the brakes and slow them down when they veer too far off track. 

Keep clients and creatives happy with exceptional design project management

Managing a design project is fun but never easy. 

It requires building a robust structure around a creative pursuit - something that’s difficult at the best of times, even when there’s no opinionated client on the other end. 

The key is to ensure everyone is on the same page by playing to the strengths of your team, scheduling even the smallest tasks, and keeping communication wide open.

Still not convinced? Try Teamwork for a free 30-day trial to see how agencies across the world use Teamwork to manage design teams. 

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