How to Manage a Graphic Design Project

October, 5 2017

Project Management 101

There are some key steps to follow when managing a print design project. With these checks in place, several basic questions are answered and guidelines created, allowing everyone involved in the process to be on the same page. Whether the project is big or small, by following the same fundamental process, the potential for surprises is all but eliminated.

Ask Questions

You need to see the big picture. Step one: the job of the account manager is to gather the necessary information to fully understand the client’s needs and vision of the project. How will the end product be used and by whom? Will it need to work with existing materials? Do they have graphic standards?

Creative Brief

The creative brief is the overview for a project. It can be simple or lengthy depending on the complexity of the project and the amount of background information the creative team requires. The Creative Brief should ideally be reviewed and approved by the client before moving forward.

Elements to be included are:

  • Company information, its products and services, its competitive edge and competitors
  • Audience
  • Goals, including the call to action
  • Deliverables
  • Content outline
  • Design criteria
  • Branding requirements
  • Deadline


Key dates and milestones should be established in order for the project deadline to be successfully met. This includes the scheduling of design presentations, client feedback, content delivery, approval dates and printing schedules. Everyone involved in the project (including clients) should be aware of the schedule.

Establish Content

Content should drive the design, not the reverse. Identify the overall length and pagination of the piece including basic copy requirements. Additionally any graphic (icons or branding) elements, photography (supplied, stock or custom) or other content such as charts and diagrams you’ll need in your piece before starting the design process.

Design Concepts and Approvals

The creative process begins. Using the criteria from the creative brief and the established content materials the design team will then work towards creating appropriate concepts and creative solutions. Once complete, a design presentation to the client will take place using those same criteria to support the developed concepts.

Client feedback is provided, designs are fine-tuned (within the established number of revisions) and the official client approval is received and filed.

Design Development to Final Production

In applying the approved design concept, content is king. In a perfect world the copy supplied is the perfect length for the page designs, and the photography reinforces the messaging and is the right resolution. But as we all know this is seldom the case; adjustments and edits are inevitable.

Should the scope of the project change during this process, be sure to inform the client of any additional costs ahead of time. On larger projects, seemingly insignificant changes can add up quickly. Without a proper paper trail you could find yourself in an uncomfortable situation at the end of it all.

Additionally, before handing digital files over to your trusted printer, do ensure that you have your client’s approval. Do NOT proceed without a client’s signed approval, as edits to your files once in the printer’s hands can be costly.

Quality Assurance

Make sure you have a very thorough review process in place – a typo in an ad or brochure can be an expensive and embarrassing error. And conduct a thorough press check so your printed materials completely match your requirements and vision; don’t make assumptions -- you wouldn’t want your brochure printed on the wrong paper or the colours to be mismatched.



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Gil Binne

Principal and Managing Director Gil is an award-winning Creative Director who balances a keen design sense with the ability to translate abstract concepts into dynamic visual tools for marketing and corporate communication. 
He's an expert in using traditional and online media to elevate corporate visibility and deliver bottom-line results.