Project managers are not there to kill the creativity

 

I don’t hate Mondays. I really don’t. There was a time when I used to, but that was back when I was in a workplace where I felt I didn’t serve any purpose, where the given goals didn’t match my capacities and skill set. Luckily, I left my old job, played a bumblebee buzzing from one flower (job) to the other, trying to find the perfect team to join in. Eventually, I settled down in Saturized.

Now when I get up on Monday, I think about the people I will see that day at work and I can’t wait to actually get to the office and have those quick, yet essential chit-chats on the margins of the daily meetings. I have 10 to 12 of those, depending on the number of projects I am helping the team accomplish at a given moment.

So, as you would assume, I work as a project manager in a creative agency. Creativity and management. Seems like a bit of a paradox, doesn’t it? When you think of a project manager, you might think of a suit, bossing around his/her team, pointing at the clock and randomly muttering concerns about deadlines. On the other hand, when you think about creative industries, you would probably generate an image of a place bustling with endless creativity, the endless number of ideas, endless solutions, dreams, visions… So being a project manager in a place of endless freedom that allows people to express themselves can definitely be challenging.

What do I do to accommodate clients’ needs to have a fixed time and fixed budget with the needs of our designers who are artists and creative minds who usually don’t enjoy being limited, especially by time?

The answer is, as always in this line of work, both extremely simple and very complex — communicate, communicate, communicate. That’s the only thing you as a project manager can do. Ok, but what are the main points of this communication?

Communicate the needs and the vision of the client to your team

What does the client want? Is this design made in order to validate a certain idea? Maybe we don’t need to nail the perfect design, we just need to provide a rough sketch that will be enough for user testing and the client will want to work in several iterations until we get to the targeted conversion? Do they want an impeccable visual experience that will take them to another reality? All these questions can influence the pace of the project and by that, influence the time frame and the budget.

Communicate the progress to the senior management

Sometimes it happens that we need to re-estimate the agreed time frame (which is usually not such a big deal for the clients unlike the budget) but then it’s the CEO’s who decide that we are not going to charge extra for the additional costs. This again gives us extra time for creativity within the team.

Communicate with the client

When we estimate a project, we can’t estimate the level of creativity (which cannot be measured anyway). We can only say how much time we usually use for X number of website pages. When establishing the design direction, we take into account the time limit that we have, so that we don’t go overboard and try to design a super-hyper-trendy-flying-cutting-edge thing (what we would love to do with enough time on our hands 🙂 ) but try to keep it concise yet beautiful. However, this is sometimes not enough for the clients and then they do ask for something more wowy, which usually needs additional time. This is a good time for the PM to step in and communicate with the client. Usually one of the two scenarios happens: the client accepts a leaner (yet beautiful) design or they approve the additional time.

Communicate with the Art director

It’s absolutely essential that the Senior designer / Creative director / Art director and the PM understand each other. The PM has to understand the way designers think: they like to get into the flow, to experiment, to do iterations and refining all day long. They see those little flaws like Neo sees Matrix. But PM has to let them explore their creativity. So I turn into a Santa’s little helper and manage all those boring little tasks that annoy the average designer, like making Trello cards. On the other hand, the creative people have to understand that we need to fulfil our business needs, not just the creative needs of the designer’s soul.

Victor Hugo once said: “The human soul has still a greater need of the ideal than of the real. It is by the real that we exist, it is by the ideal that we live.”

After all, don’t we all wish to understand each other better? We all need to communicate better, to be better negotiators, to influence people, to lead them? To know how to evoke the best in people, how to motivate them? Sure, we do!

Work on your communicating skills

Listen and learn how to truly hear people. Then you’ll know how to manoeuvre every tricky situation, every now and then when you stumble upon one. Yes, the organizational skill is extremely important for a PM, but being a good communicator is important as well.

Get in touch and let me know about your thoughts and experiences.

Until next time!

Things to consider when choosing your ideal design partner

Every now and then, you come to a point where you need to select a designer to join your team. They are the key makers, those with the ability to catapult your product and/or services to new heights. Making a well-informed hiring decision is no different than choosing a business partner or a new flat. It is one of those mind-boggling and stressful challenges a leader can face. Without a roadmap, most leaders simply hope and pray for the fail-safe solution to magically appear that will leave them feeling good about the choices they’ve made. So, what, or rather WHO does it take to transform your hiring anxiety into a deep sense of relief? This is the person who can create a design that truly GOES BEYOND.

The question then becomes, “Where should I start?”

Navigating “minefields” such as Behance or Dribbble can be very complicated. You may land on a superb designer portfolio. Premium quality! Inspiring! Pixel perfect! Yes, they are all there. You may even start feeling comfortable, hoping that there is no nasty surprise underneath the surface impression. Maybe you are right. But many times the polished presentation hides a lack of experience, knowledge and well-rounded skillset. To the average eye, this person looks great — but they are the mine you’re actually trying desperately to avoid.

Why is this so?

There are a few reasons:

  • Some providers are just a bit too green. They simply do not have sufficient exposure to the real and “on the field” clients. Therefore, they frequently end up investing a lot of time and effort to create a perfect design concept, much more than an actual project would allow. It is often easier to produce a concept than to overcome a real challenge. Designing a “wow” page or a screen for an app in order to achieve the “perfect shot” does not necessarily take into account things like the information architecture, usability, user-experience or user-journey. The end result could easily look outstanding while not truly delivering the commercial benefits of a well-designed web page.

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  • I won’t disagree that picture (portfolios) is worth a thousand words. However, these portfolios do not necessarily contain some vital words which describe an actual designer or an agency behind them. The missing words can only be generated by relevant experience working within both small and big teams, successful cooperation with the developers and expertise within a certain industry. The essential vocabulary should be able to describe your partners as people who think strategically, analyse various aspects of your project while applying their well-tested methodology and processes and ultimately delivering top quality within the defined timeframe and budget. With all this in mind, do you still believe that just by skimming different design marketplace pages and selecting the “wow” portfolios you could make a fail-safe choice?
  • The impression made by a well-designed portfolio is akin to “love at first sight”, but in order to turn those early flutters of the heart into “happily ever after” I strongly advise you to conduct a thorough due diligence. Check out their Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn profile. Do they have any published articles? Interviews? Blogs? What is their company culture? This should help you evaluate your future partner’s profile based also on “organic” data such as their way of thinking and communicating interests and how they present themselves to the world. In the same way, as the books on the shelves speak volumes about its owner, your partners’ social network content could say a lot about them.

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  • Finally, after applying these filters and getting yourself off the “minefield” it is advisable to establish direct and visual contact with your potential partner. In the ideal world, it would be great if you could meet them in person. However, depending on your level of business, Skype or a similar audio/visual platform could also do the trick. I learned to insist on the video component of the call. Just like on your first date, it is important to see the person you are talking to. Focus on their facial expressions, the tone of their voice, body language and even their work environment. Many studies have confirmed that more than 80% of the message is nonverbal. If that is true, would you really make your decision based on an email or a phone call? I wouldn’t. That’s for sure!
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A quality life demands quality questions. Use this formula: quality questions = quality of answer = quality of outcome. Simple right? It’s amazing how the simplest things can make the largest amount of impact in our lives both personally and professionally.

Why does this matter? Because my team has been trained to always put themselves in the shoes of our client. Then they ask 10x quality questions:

1. Am I playing in the right sandbox? (Is my market able to sustain 10x business growth?) )

2. What’s the ONE THING you need to do that would 10X your growth in the next 12 months?

3. What kind of risk and commitment are you ready to take on your 10x journey?

4. Am I able to identify my strengths and strengthen them even more?

5. How can the experience be easier, cheaper, safer, more interesting, more worthwhile, more fun?

6.What is the X factor of my business/industry? How do my values correlate to that X factor?

7. What is something I believe that almost everyone else disagrees with me about?


Even after 10 years in this business, I am often surprised by the answers we receive. The answers may not address the quality of the design, but they ALWAYS reveal our partners’ ability to align their values and principles with those we have here at Saturized.

Our partners sometimes see us as “ideas breakers” because of this approach. We don’t work with any client, we work with the right clients. Those we choose to work with soon realize that we just want to ensure that their most precious commodity — TIME — is well invested. As a leader, this is the only thing you can never get back. Therefore it is infinitely valuable. We believe that if you invest your time wisely, with a partner who has complimentary values and principles, both sides will be able to maintain a strict focus and feverish enthusiasm. This is the magic recipe for excellent design, alongside investing in proper due diligence for effective budget planning.

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By leading with values and principles, it’s really hard to make a mistake. This is why if you’ve already chosen to work with someone, I would encourage you to give yourself enough time to deliberate further. Any uneasiness about who you’re working with? Stop. Take a healthy step back to identify the reasons why you feel this way. If you are not able to eliminate them through further due diligence, consider changing your partner. The sooner you get off the “pins and needles” the better.

To be completely honest, choosing the ideal design partner may at first appear to be rather easy. But there is a multitude of choices, and to sift through the white noise is extremely stressful. To make life easier, apply the filters mentioned to narrow down to the strategic options. Your first step should be to focus on designers’ portfolios by exploring their background skills and methodology. Understand how they lead to a successful product delivery. Then conduct a thorough due diligence of their social media and online presence. Finally, set up an in-person meeting or a video call to ensure the partner under consideration has the ability to connect with your values and principles by asking quality questions.

At every step in the process, take your time. Invest in assessing the way you feel about them. Your ideal partner should never have to persuade you with their technical skills alone, but also with their ability to understand and connect with your journey.

Do get in touch and let me know about your thoughts and experiences!

Startups — Why we won’t take your money just because we can

Because we don’t want to work for you, but with you. It’s important to us that we develop a partnership with our clients, as opposed to a client – contractor kind of relationship. Our objective isn’t to milk you for all you’re worth, but to make the best versions of your ideas, even if they turn out to be different than what you originally imagined.

Sure, the money is a factor, after all we have to eat and stuff. But it’s not all about that. The feeling you get when you’re invested and you feel as if you’re making something with the client, as opposed to making it for them, is just amazing. When that feeling hits is the moment we know we did well.

Continue reading Startups — Why we won’t take your money just because we can

Fashion competition – win a website

Hear ye, hear ye! All ye dudes and dudettes we have an announcement to make.

In the following weeks all you great people from the fashion industry will have a unique opportunity before you. Saturized’s organizing a medieval tournament (well it’s not really but there is a prize) in which fashion brands will joust and compete for the best thing we can offer – a website.

That’s right, an entire website!
Continue reading Fashion competition – win a website

What’s it like being a Saturator?

It’s dope. The End.

Just kidding, for the most part anyway. Even if it’s an appropriate summary it doesn’t do justice to what the guys and gals of Saturized had to say about it. We’ve been thinking about writing something like this for a while, and it just kind of sat on a shelf somewhere in the back of our minds. Then, all of a sudden, eureka! We realized that if we were to do this thing, there was only one way to do it, we’d let the people speak for themselves. What a great decision it was. It’s one thing to believe in what you do and to believe that your team is on the same page, but to hear it from everyone is just… stupefying.

Hearing ideas like family, friendship, and happiness linked with being a Saturator really made some eyes water. These ideas are something we all have in our minds, but it’s nice to hear it loud and clear from time to time. There’s a lot to be said, so let’s jump right into it.

Continue reading What’s it like being a Saturator?

Digital solution for Stores & Goods

Many times clients approach us with a need to help them digitalise a real life experience. This might sound pretty straightforward, like: “How hard can it be to design a virtual shop window?”. Yes, exactly. It sounds simple. But choosing a wrong approach can lead to a rather unpleasant user experience, high bounce rate and ultimately, quite a dissatisfied client. Au contraire, Stores & Goods is definitely not one of them.

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Saturized — from inception to evolution

Today, after almost a decade of work, we know who we truly are, and where we want to go.

In order to survive in today’s market, design agencies need to learn how to evolve. It’s easy to get lost in the day-to-day of a business and forget about your vision. That’s what happened to us a couple years ago. We were so eager to progress that we (almost) lost track of who we were and who we wanted to be. Thankfully, we noticed this in time and were able to make changes that allowed us to continue doing what we love. We evolved. To tell you the story of our evolution, we must first tell you the story of our inception.

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Discovering and Nurturing Young Designers and Developers

Young people rule. Seriously, they do. Especially in our industry. The generation that has been dubbed “millennial” has grown up used to having a computer in their home, and having an internet connection that doesn’t produce that dreaded dialing sound every time they connected to the internet. In our industry, that’s a major advantage. Young designers and developers that belong to this generation have been exposed to the web for such a long time that they usually develop a keen sense for web design. All they need is some guidance and knowledge to become great at what they do, and that’s where we usually jump in.

From the very conception of Saturized we knew we wanted to work on developing and nurturing young talent from our city. In some part because we were all young once (and at the time), and in need of some guidance. Some found it, some managed on their own. But largely because young designers and developers bring a lot to the table in terms of motivation, creativity, and pure drive.

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We have a winner!

We are proud to announce that we have chosen a winner for our fashion competition!

This was an amazing month for us, with many cool applications coming in.

Of course, with such great applicants, the selection process was hard. If it were possible, we’d gladly make a website for many of our applicants but, sadly, there could be only one.

Continue reading We have a winner!

What's new in Saturized world?

The past few weeks have been rough! We were looking for a community manager. After 71 application reviews, we were thrilled that we have found the new Saturator.

Our thumbs up went for Ivana Jovanovic! Welcome to the Saturized team! Our thumbs up went for Ivana Jovanovic! Welcome to the Saturized team!We chose her because of her experience, which was super compatible with our needs. In the past 4 years, she has been blogging on her own website and she was managing Facebook & Instagram pages. You can visit her website: “Just Imagine – Daily Dose Of Creativity”. Her experience in social media networks and digital advertising was quite fitting! We realised she has the required qualities to be our newest member.  So there she is!

Continue reading What's new in Saturized world?