There is no question that designers who have the ability to manage projects end up with more responsibility and higher salaries. Understanding and applying basic principles of project management to your projects will make you a better, more efficient designer and move you toward achieving your career goals faster and more effectively.
The basic components of a simple project management plan are objectives, scope, resources, and schedule. There are other components of project management that may come into play in larger projects, such as assumptions, dependencies, and risks. However, for the purpose of learning about how to create and use project management, we will need to learn about the basic components only.
The Course Project and Project Management
You will be creating a simple project management plan for the course project. This will require you to think about the four components above as they relate to the success of your project.
What deliverable will you create for the project? This is the tangible finished piece you will design for the project. It may be a postcard, a poster, a brochure, or some other collateral piece.
How will the deliverable be used? This describes how you will use the deliverable to help you achieve the goals in your career plan. For example, you may mail it out, leave it behind after an interview, drop it off at a potential employer’s office, or use some other mode of delivery.
What do you want the project to achieve once it is delivered to the prospective audience? This describes what you hope will happen as a result of your audience interacting with the deliverable. This could be anything from simply making the audience more aware of who you are to nudging him or her into making you a job offer.
For our purposes, the scope of your project is defined by the requirements of the course. During each week, you will complete a different requirement of the course project. The scope of the project, therefore, is everything you must do during each week for the course project. During this week, for example, you are to complete both the project management plan and a creative brief. These will be the first two items in the scope portion of the project management plan.
To determine the rest of the scope, review the assignments related to the course project in Week 1 through Week 6.
Resources often include other people who will work on the project. In this case, however, you are doing the work yourself. However, you will rely on your classmates and instructor to provide you with feedback. Therefore, your classmates and instructor are considered resources. You may have other people you rely on for feedback who are not in your class.
Other resources include the tools you will use to complete the project, for example, the hardware and software you will use to design your project and the devices you will use to photograph or print your design.
Resources also include assets you may use such as existing photographs, portfolio pieces, and logo or name designs. Make sure to include all of these as existing resources.
Finally, you will need to determine a schedule for completing the scope of the work for the project. Each assignment defines not only the scope of work but also the deadline for turning in the deliverable for review. The deadlines partially complete the schedule. However, you should also include when you will begin work on each part of the project and when you plan on posting that part. For example, if you know the deadline for completing an assignment is Monday midnight, Mountain Standard Time (MST), you can work backward from that time to plan how you will meet that deadline. Working backward is the easiest way to plan a good production schedule. Here is an example:
Post the assignment by Monday midnight MST.
What will you need to be able to post it by then?
You will need the assignment completed. Because you have to work the next day and have to be in bed by 10:00 P.M., you will aim to finish the assignment by Monday 9:00 P.M. MST.
Complete the assignment by Monday 9:00 P.M. MST.
What must you do to complete the assignment by then?
You estimate you will need two hours to complete the assignment. If you want to be finished by 9:00 P.M., you will need to start the assignment by Monday 7:00 P.M. MST.
Start working on completing the assignment by Monday 7:00 P.M. MST.
What will you need in order to begin working on the assignment by Monday 7:00 P.M. MST?
You will need to have studied the resources. You estimate it will take you two hours to study the resources. You work on Monday, so you decide to study the resources on Sunday from 6:00 P.M. to 8:00 P.M.
Start studying resources on Sunday at 6:00 P.M. MST.
By starting with the final deadline and working backward along the production schedule, you can carefully plan your time and use of resources.
Read Part 2: Chapter 20 in your textbook, AIGA Professional Practices in Graphic Design, to learn more about creating a project management plan.
Writing a Creative Brief
A creative brief is the most common way to manage the creative part of a design project. Designers who understand how to create or interpret the components of a brief and execute good design that satisfies the objective of the brief are considered to be very valuable to companies and organizations. When a design solution satisfies the objective of the brief, it is said to be “on brief.” You always want your designs to be on brief.
A brief can describe a lot of different parts of a project. Many design firms have their own standard design briefs, and the components of a brief will vary from project to project and from organization to organization.
Read Part 2: Chapter 21 in your textbook, AIGA Professional Practices in Graphic Design, to learn more about the various components of a design brief and what makes a good brief.
You will be writing a creative brief for the course project. The creative brief will work hand in hand with the project management plan. For your project, the following components will be used in your brief. These are common components that may go by different names but cover similar ideas:
- Communication Problem: This is the problem you will be addressing with the project. For example, if you are a new designer looking for a job, your problem may be to convince a potential employer that you are worth the time and resources the potential employer will have to invest to give you an opportunity.
- Objective: The objective is simple once you have correctly defined the project. It is a simple follow-through of the problem definition. For example, if the problem is the one stated above, the objective is to convince a potential employer to invest the time and money into giving you an opportunity.
- Target Market: This is the audience for your communication solution. You want to be as specific as possible in defining who the audience is. A good way to do this is by writing a scenario of the type of employer who may be attracted by your skill set. For example, following the example previously given, you may write, “My target market is an art director for a medium-sized boutique creative-side design firm who is busy, works sixty hours a week, and needs someone to help with production. He or she is awaiting approval for a new part-time or full-time employee, but right now, money is tight. This art director has a degree in graphic design, five to ten years of experience in the business, and been in the current position for three to five years.”
- Communication Solution: This is how you will achieve your objective. This is the creative part of the brief. In this section, you will define not only the method of delivering a message to the target audience but also why the target audience will respond favorably to the message. Following the example previously used, a communication solution may be a direct-mail postcard that is well designed and creative. The message is that you are looking for opportunities to work as an intern for a month—and you are willing to do that for free. This idea removes the risk associated with investing time and resources into a new hire. It addresses the problem by communicating a clear message.
- Tone of Voice: This is the personality of the piece you will design. The tone of voice helps you in deciding what kind of color, imagery, typography, and layout you will use. This is usually one or two words that can be used to relate directly to design decisions. For example, if your tone of voice is professional, you might choose a classic typeface, conservative colors, and a structured grid with a well-defined hierarchy. Conversely, if your tone of voice is fun and creative, you might use a bizarre novelty font with bold colors and an unstructured grid.
Assignment 3: Course Project—Creative Brief and Project Management Plan
The first step in completing a successful project is to draft a creative brief and a project management plan. The lecture and reading assignments during this week detail the information you need to complete the assignment successfully. This assignment requires you to apply the knowledge gained from this week’s resources to the completion of this important planning stage of the course project.
- Study the lecture and reading assignments related to drafting a creative brief and a project management plan.
- Study the requirements and specifications for the course project and determine the direction you would like to take. You will choose to do one of the four self-promotional pieces described in the lecture. This should be explained in Part C of your creative brief.
- Draft a simple creative brief that includes the information below. Use the topics below as subheads to organize your brief:
- Communication Problem
- Communication Solution and Message
- Target Market
- Tone of Voice
- Draft a project management plan that includes the information below. Use the topics as subheads to organize your plan:
- Combine the creative brief and the project management plan into a single Microsoft Word document. Title the sections “Creative Brief” and “Project Management Plan.”
- Check the spelling and grammar of the creative brief and the project management plan. A good way to do this is to write the two in Microsoft Word and use the grammar tools to check yourself.
- In a Microsoft Word document, write the assignment in about 500–1,000 words.
- Save the document as AI_GWDA308_W1_A3_lastname_firstinitial.docx.
- Submit your document to the Discussion Area on the next page by the due date.
Participation and Discussion
Please submit this assignment to the Discussion Area on the next page as a Microsoft Word document. Read the assignments of two of your classmates and comment on them. Within 48 hours of the assignment due date, respond to at least two of your classmates as well as any comments made to you by your instructor. Ensure your comments are relevant to the topics they are exploring. Do not use this as a place to say things like “good job”; instead, add to their understanding of the topic. You can also ask questions on topics you do not know for more information and possibly more ideas for your career path.