Tag Archives: project management

Tight Deadlines

We’ve all been there. Clients need something by the next day. Your boss wants something by the end of the day…and it’s 4:30PM. A friend calls up with an emergency and it was due an hour ago. I actually got called 10 minutes before a deadline for something that, on a normal day, would take about an hour to complete. Luckily, I honed in on that supersonic plane that we all have worked on and got it done in 40 minutes (I EXPECTED a 30 minute extension because I was uninformed that a-I was UNDER a deadline and b-that I NEVER promised ANYONE I’d be done at that particular time.)

What do you do? There’s ALWAYS options. Seriously? You need it by the end of the day? Why? So you can look at it for 30 minutes and turn my files into your vendor the next morning?? Here’s a couple questions you should ask yourself when faced with unrealistic or unknown deadlines that have been imposed upon you:

1. Will anyone DIE if this doesn’t make the deadline? Usually, the answer is no. But by all means, if that answer is YES, move your ass.

2. How important is the client? Have they not paid their bill? Screw it. I’ll get to it when I see the check you owe me. Have they paid their bill but are just big pains in your carpal tunnels? Ask for an extension. What’re they gonna say, No? Fine. Drop some rush fees on them. When THAT happens, they’re usually more than happy to accommodate your hectic schedule. Are they friends and family? How good of friends and family? This scale, however you see it, should relate directly to whether or not you do the work.

3. How important is the project? Does this project reflect directly on you? Or is this one of those anonymous, Alan Smithee projects that you reluctantly accepted a fee for listening to your client dictate why their logo should overshadow the message…you know…for branding? If it’s an important project. Get it done. No? Ask for an extension.

4. Is this simply for review? What a fun term. Anyone that wants a project by the end of the day is simply going to take it home and look at it on their own time. Leisurely…several hours later. Ask for an extension. Does the client need to review it with several team members? Ask for everyone’s email address. You can copy the entire team. Do they need to meet and talk in person? Get it done.

5. For fulltime employees, unfortunately, you have more than just yourself facing clients. So often times, REGARDLESS of whose fault it is, the project still needs to get done. And in the end, the more miracles you can pull off, the better you are. Think of it as job security.

For future reference, can this type of experience be mitigated? What kind of processes is your team putting in place to avoid last minute issues. Is your team communicating? Are you laying down CLEAR guidelines for your client as to what their impact is on the schedule and how you are NOT responsible if they take their sweet ass time.

More importantly, remember this: EXTREME DEADLINES HEIGHTEN STRESS. Try to take a step back and dissect the project. What is the client TRULY needing to see. Where can you ask for extensions of time? Can you work directly with the vendor? Is the client willing to stay up a little later to do reviews via email? Hell, they’re asking YOU to stay up late. (I know, I know…every situation is different.)

In the end, it really comes down to a simple needs analysis. Do you need to get this done? If the answer is Yes, stop thinking about how pissed you are and who’s to blame and take the higher road. If not, don’t fret, put out the dreaded email and work on it in the morning.

Divorcing Your Ideas

I’ve heard the term a few times, especially in writing: Don’t be married to your ideas. But so many times, I see the artist or creator confuse that sentiment with giving up your creative morals or principles. I was even confused by the term for a couple years. But as I grew to understand the creative process for myself and others, I began to realize the many levels of accomplishing a goal. And as I always tell my clients, design is ALWAYS subjective. There is never just ONE way to do something. Granted, some may be massively more successful than others…but I guarantee, no one EVER knows if their idea is going to be “the one.” You simply throw what you’d like to see, read or hear out there. And if you’re working with others, you try to find that synergy and reach a solution that everyone can be happy with.

Your idea is the baby of your creative world. You are the mommy and daddy, with delusions of knowing you have all the right answers for your baby. But if you ever work with anyone other than yourself, you may find yourself dealing with, what seems to you, a homewrecker. That insolent being that wants to come in, sleep with your wife and break apart the family that is your project. OK, maybe he’s the guy that just wants to convince you to have dinner with your wife. Either way, your ideal family is no longer yours. What to do?

Unless you’re paying for the project and get final say over the end result, remember one thing: The client is king…or queen as it were. You say, “But what about this?? What about that??” Yes. There’s exceptions to every rule. You have to use your best judgment on when and why to push back. The ideal situation? They absolutely trust you to do what you do best. Yay for you! But more likely, your client wants to hire you for your insight and skill set and then explain to you the vision they want you to bring to life. Because in the end…it’s their project. You may want this cool new opportunity to be the platform that propels you into the awards hall of fame. I’ve been there. And I’ve seen my vision changed into some of the worst choices in design simply because the client has a different vision in mind. So you have a choice. Abandon ship or help your client get to the destination they’re trying to get to, regardless of the end result. Here’s a great example:

Even better are those projects that are run by committee. I see these often with larger corporations. No way around that. You just need to make sure you set down guidelines before you start working so that you’re not trapped in that endless cycle of changes. Like this poor guy:

Haha! “…and our partner logos.” Both of these videos encompass the best of the worst experiences that every designer has gone through at some point in their career. And if you wallow in sorrow that is your vision gone awry, you will never be happy as a designer. Instead, follow that motto: Don’t be married to your ideas.

What does it mean? It means be open enough to understand that design is subjective. What may appeal to you may NOT appeal to someone else. And vice versa. I have a great interview with comedian/actor Robert Kelly that talks about that very same thing. He loves bold contrast and the basic color palette. I love other things.

Divorcing yourself from your ideas means to bridge the gap between what you see for your client and what they want. (And what they’re willing to pay for.)