In the design industry, the words “approval” and “misconception” are almost synonyms. Many teams are staying away from any kind of this process optimization because they do not deem it significant or necessary, and that is a costly mistake. But design approval workflow is an important element of marketing strategy that might take up the same (if not bigger) amount of time and effort as the actual design creation.
First, let’s agree on what we mean by the term “design approval”. So, the design review and approval process is a post-production phase of a design project that aims to estimate the quality of a design created, its correspondence with the client’s requests and their marketing goals, and its applicability in the current situation on the market where it is about to be used.
Speaking in a more simple language, you review the design to find mistakes and correct them so that your designer’s creation can perform. Usually, companies do it via emails and messengers of different sorts, and that is actually where the misconceptions begin. There are 7 main issues people initially take with design approval, and they remind of the famous 7 stages of acceptance by Swiss psychiatrist Dr. E. Kübler-Ross.
№1: Shock. We don’t have any problems with design approval.
That is the very first reaction you usually get. A lot of managers would be surprised by such a statement and think that there’s nothing wrong with how their current workflow design is built. Everything is pretty simple: the person responsible for the creative part messages or emails the artwork design to stakeholders, they check it, send back their comments… nothing difficult. No problems at all.
But let’s dig deeper. How much time do you spend with all that email back and forth? The process differs, of course, depending on the scope of the project, and might take from several days to several weeks. What of it? It’s fine as the company does everything within the deadline. But speaking of deadlines… what if the company doesn’t manage? The result is that the whole review thing slows the project down immensely, making it harder to find mistakes and leaving close to no time to fix it.
Everybody has been in situations like that. Finding the right emails among several dozens you’ve gotten during the working day, making sure that everyone has done their job, contacting those who didn’t, attempting a discussion, and so on and so forth. The fact that you are used to all of that doesn’t mean that it is okay. It can be fixed.
№2: Denial. Design approval isn’t that big part of the workflow.
Thinking about the design process, companies usually concentrate their attention on pre-design (creative design brief, getting information from the client, researching the market), and design stages which are considered as more time-consuming.
It is true, but none of this means that you can throw the approval process away. Researching and getting to know the demands is okay, but how do you make sure that the design complies with them if not via proofing? The fact that the client liked what you delivered doesn’t mean as much as some might think since they are not design professionals as you are. And if you launch the product that took to the client but doesn’t perform, whose fault is that? Who loses the reputation in the end?
Right, the designer and the project manager. Or the whole agency, if you hired one. So double-checking and proofing really is an important part of the workflow.
№3: Anger. We don’t work much on design, we don’t need to organize anything.
That is a common position of any company that doesn’t focus on the design but still hires a full-time designer for their marketing purposes. The truth is, the design is the most efficient meaning to convey the information because it’s visual and it can catch your attention. You might be working on anything — a new logo, packaging for your jigsaw puzzle, or artworks for your blog post, but whenever you do anything, it is much better to do your best and save as many resources as you can.
The main resources when it comes to the design are obviously information, time, and money. Optimizing your approval process and automating certain tasks, you can save more of the latter two while gaining on the first one, and that is absolutely regardless of how much you work on your designs. If you’re a standalone business, it will make your designer’s life much easier, if you’re a design agency, it will make a significant difference for the whole team and boost the whole workflow. The question is – how exactly do you optimize and automate?
№4: Bargaining. Special software is not worth the money.
Naturally, software is the best way to work everything out.
Of course, getting software means expenses, not only usefulness. The main question is if the expenses are outweighed by the benefits. Special tools that help you manage your projects boost productivity greatly. According to the 2020’s report by Finances Online, 77% of high-performing companies use specialized software, and the companies that have established project management practices waste 28 times less money than those who don’t have their workflow organized.
We’ve already established that creative review is a huge part of the design project workflow. That means that with the right approach, design collaboration software is absolutely worth the expenses, as it allows you to save much time and money in the end. You are able to finish the project faster and you have an instrument that would help to coordinate the whole process and make it more efficient.
№ 5: Depression. The app makes things more complicated.
The main counterargument here is that the tool would make things more complex and tangled. However, the reality often proves otherwise: considering how disorganized the review was at first, it is much easier to get tangled in the long strings of the messages and emails that remind rather of spider’s web than of the real workflow. The main problem is the collection of feedback which would take hours or days if you are not really sure where to look at. It doesn’t make it any easier for the reviewers as well, since they might simply not notice the message you’ve sent them.
On the other hand, an app is a single place for you to store all the mock-ups versions, annotations to them, reports, reference files, and whatever other project information you’d need for creative collaboration.
№ 6: Testing. The team/client will not be willing to implement something new.
The teams have this tendency to initially reject something new as opposed to something they are used to. Every single member somehow involved in the design process might have the arguments described above against the new tools.
Still, much in here depends on the way you present the idea to your team and on the quality of the training. Most tools are like board games: they are not really that hard to learn, and you quickly get used to them after you complete the first couple of rounds.
№ 7: Acceptance. It’s all about emails in the end anyway?
The last counterpoint is that even with a new design approval tool the team will still depend on emails: reviewers will still have to get notifications about their tasks and so on. Partially true, but the emails significance will reduce to just that of a news bearer — there will be no need to download anything, open it and a previous version via two different galleries to compare them, opening the third program to mark what you want to fix, sending the result of your review together with your comments back separately and so on.
Imagine how a project manager and a designer feel when they have 5 reviewers and everybody sends a different copy of the file with different annotations. How do they get everything together? It becomes quite problematic to collect feedback, check if everyone did their tasks on time, track the history of changes if need be. Or otherwise, you could optimize the process and have it all done for you in a single place.
There’s always initial unwillingness to accept new ways and methods of work that usually based on some misconceptions, and design approval is not an exception. With this part of the workflow built incorrectly, there’s a huge risk of miscommunication and dragging down, which would, of course, make you spend more time and money on the project than necessary. We hope that this article will help you re-evaluate your approach to design review and change it for the better using online proofing software.