How to Fix the Biggest Bottlenecks in Your Art Department
Your shop’s customer artwork files are among the most valuable assets you have. By extension, your art department is one of your main profit hubs. However, if your processes aren’t as efficient as they could be, or the rest of your team isn’t communicating effectively with your art staffers, then you might need to make some adjustments.
Here’s a rundown of six questions to ask yourself and your staff about how well your art department is running—and where you can make improvements.
1. Do your sales and customer service team get the right information the first time from clients?
Ideally, you want your clients to approve your first round of artwork more than 80% of the time. Is that far from what’s currently happening in your shop? If the answer is yes, the problem may be that your sales or customer service team isn’t asking your client the right questions. Also, your team might not be sending your artists and designers the exact details they need to turn out a near-perfect first draft.
The solution: Work up a creative brief questionnaire for your team to review with your clients. Whether you have an in-house art department or you outsource your artwork, this brief will give your designer the information they’ll need to move ahead clearly with the client’s artwork.
Here’s an example of how it could work. If a client asks for a dog on their T-shirt, ask: What type of dog? A big dog? A small dog? A poodle? A German Shepherd? A collie? Is the dog smiling, laughing, yelling, or crying? Should the dog be wearing anything, like a hat, sunglasses, or a T-shirt? Should the dog look realistic, or more like a cartoon character?
Then, discuss the copy and logo placement. Ask: What should the copy say? Where should the copy go? Where should the logo go? At this point, your team member can do a quick sketch, so the client can visualize how the key elements will look together. Your client will probably go through a few placement iterations until you land on one that feels right.
Don’t forget to talk about fonts. It’s helpful to have a staffer armed with your five to 10 most popular fonts on hand to show clients. Should the copy be big and bold, or more of an elegant handwriting-style? Also, what font size and colors do they want to see?
Finally, it’s time to verbally sum up what the client requested. Your staffer can ask if there’s anything else to note down. For example, is there’s absolutely something they don’t want to see, like: “The dog can’t be black with white spots” or “Don’t use a green serif font.” Oftentimes, clients may not think of these things ahead of time, so getting this feedback out of them not only helps your designer, but also helps your clients process these details. It might even lead to them to go in a different direction after thinking their design through further, which is better to do before than during the actual design process.
2. How should you start thinking about your creative brief questions?
Before you get worried about bogging your sales or customer service people down with a long artwork questionnaire, break the brief down into three key areas:
- What does the main artwork element look like?
- What’s the copy or text, and where does it go?
- Where should the company logo go?
Your sales or customer service person should go into as much detail as possible with your client in each of these areas. And of course, you should have an online system where your staffers can enter artwork details so that anyone can access them.
3. Is your customer and artist invested in the creative process?
Every time your client requests more edits to the design, that’s more time lost, plus costs your shop absorbs. However, when your client gets involved with the design brainstorming process and signs off on the creative brief (and even a hand-drawn mock), they’re more likely to be thrilled with your artist’s first take. On the other side of that brief, your artist is free to be creative within the client’s very clear direction.
4. Are there bottlenecks to address in your processes?
Ask your staff if they see any repeating problems in your workflow. If they say yes, it’s time to drill down and see why and where these bottlenecks are happening. For example, one area where shops often get stuck is the actual artwork approval process. Do you have an online system where an artist or salesperson can easily generate a virtual proof to send to the client for an e-approval? If not, it may be time to upgrade your system.
Ask your staff how often these issues occur, and what they’ve already done to try and solve the problem. Also ask: “What can we do on a larger scale to fix this issue for our staff and customers?”
5. How do you store your art files?
This is one of the biggest time wasters in many shops. Implementing a cloud-based drive that can store your customers’ art files is a good way to prevent them from getting disorganized and being saved in insecure locations.
As an added plus, it’ll be accessible to all of your staff, and give you a way of organizing these files by job and category, translating into a huge time-saver.
6. Does your team know they’re part of your shop’s success?
When you onboard team members, you should review your expectations for their role and how they fit into your shop’s biggest goals and successes. This is where you talk to them about what success looks like in your shop, how long certain processes should take, and who they should go to for help when they run into problems.
Helping them understand these things will help speed up the overall workflow of your shop, because everyone will be on the same page, and won’t have to wonder what to do when problems arise. You never want your team to avoid asking questions either, so having these kinds of check-ins and meetings will give them the opportunities they’ll need to speak up.
Sometimes the simplest things can make the biggest difference, and in business that’s no different. Implementing some of these ideas could be the first step in helping to further streamline how your art department operates, so things run more smoothly and profits can soar.