Lead time is one of the most often overlooked aspects of a design project. For some projects it’s not a huge concern — you just need to get your designs reasonably quickly so you can start marketing. You should expect quick service from any designer.
But if you’re planning an event, make sure you start designing any promotional materials well in advance. This includes events like an open house, creating a class, or speaking at a conference. There are several aspects to the timing of a project. These aspects must be taken into consideration when you begin to plan your project and determine your project’s start date.
Before the design even starts, you need:
- Time to search for, and hire, a designer. You want to make sure that you schedule a few days — if not a few weeks — to go through this important step. It can take time to get a referral to a great designer or search the web for one. Then you have to review their work and get in touch with them. Then add on a couple more days to discuss the project and get a quote.
If you’re getting quotes from several designers, or want to have a face-to-face meeting, it might be necessary to add on a few more days to the schedule. Then once you’ve chosen a designer it takes another couple of days to get the contract written and signed. Then you have to pay the deposit before they can get started. Be sure to allow plenty of time to go through this process. And be aware that sometimes the process won’t go as smoothly as you’d like.
You may get part of the way through the process with a designer then hit a stumbling block in the negotiation process. Then you have to start over again. Don’t make another designer rush your project because you can’t come to an agreement with the first designer you find.
Even if you already have a designer who you’ve worked with, keep in mind that they might not be immediately available. I know that my schedule is typically booked up a couple of weeks into the future — I stay busy! So sandwiching another project into my already-full schedule is usually difficult if not impossible. Give your designer as much advance notice as possible so that they’ll be able to set aside time for you.
Be sure to respect the time that your designer has set aside for you. There’s nothing worse than clearing my schedule for a project that has to be done quickly and then sitting around waiting for the contract to be signed, the deposit to be sent or the project text to arrive. If you schedule some time with a designer, get them your materials on time so that they can help meet your deadline.
- Time to define both your company and the project. When I work on a design project, I require the client to fill out a questionnaire about their company, the purpose of the project and the results that they would like to get from the project. This takes some time and attention from the business owner and is often not scheduled for. Set aside plenty of time to think over the message you want your designed pieces to communicate. Also think about the results you want to create with this designed piece, so you can set your project up for success from the very beginning.
- Time for you to provide any needed information. If you’re designing any sort of marketing piece that includes text, the designer will need this text before beginning the project. So you’ll have to write the text — or get the text written before the project can be designed. This also applies to your logo and Visual Vocabulary elements from prior designs, photos, website hosting, package pricing and product information. Include any other background information that may be important to the project.
One way to cut down the amount of time needed in a design is to make sure that the text you provide to your designer is complete and has been proofread. Text changes can be very time consuming and add time to the overall length of a project.
Then you’ll need:
- Time to design: Unfortunately the creative process isn’t instantaneous. And it doesn’t always happen on demand. So allowing a bit of time in the timeline for the designer to think about the project, your problem and how to create a design that will bring the results you need will result in a more unique and effective design.
It also takes a bit of time to put together a design file — especially if you’re designing a website or a detailed or multi-page printed piece. There’s a common misconception that design programs like Photoshop or Illustrator enable designers to click a button and instantly produce gorgeous, finished designs. But putting together an effective design requires time. A designed needs time to strategize about your project, research your competition and conceptualize a few design solutions that will help you meet your goals. Then time is needed to go through a review process with you, complete any revisions and prepare the final files for use. In all, this takes some time — 3 to 4 weeks for a logo, or 2 to 3 weeks for a 5 page website for example.
- Time for you to review the designs. Most designers will give you a couple of design options and variations to choose from. You’ll need time to review those and get back to the designer. Many design processes include a couple of rounds of available revisions — make sure there’s enough time to do those and for you to review them.
Make sure that you’re available for reviews! If your short timeline requires the designer to work after hours or on weekends and you’re not available to review the designs at those times you could delay the project. Make sure you can review the project quickly and get back to your designer so you don’t lose precious time.
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