Guiding your creative team

March 02, 2014

The primary function of an Account Manager is to be the intermediary between your client and all the resources required to complete a project. These resources include your creative team of art directors, designers and copywriters. 

An Account Manager is not an Art Director or a designer (though you may certainly possess some of those skills), therefore there has to be a certain degree of latitude given to your team to do their job and present their creative interpretation of a brief. However, no one knows your client - and their needs - better than you do. Here presents one of those precarious tightropes that we have to walk as Account Managers, and the trick is knowing how to ensure you receive creative that your client will love.

THE BRIEF: First up you need to write a comprehensive brief for your design team. This is your main (and non-threatening) opportunity to offer creative input and guidance. You can be as "big picture" or as detailed as you like. Remember to include information such as: demographics, inclusions and exclusions, mandatories, image/colour/font/logo guidance, regulatory information, etc. 

“AM-Insider briefs for download

UNDERSTANDING THE MARKET REQUIREMENTS: Sometimes a designer may design what they think looks good, rather than what the specific type of design requires. Ensure that your designer understands the parameters they need to work within, or else you may need to request (or contract) a designer with specialist skills/experience.

Here are some examples of design "types", each carrying their own specific requirements:

  • FMCG campaign: in-store presence, AIDA principles, picking the right images/fonts, understanding of store requirements.
  • Packaging: dielines, barcodes, nutritional information, printing limitations, on-shelf presence.
  • Publishing: layout, print limitations, grids, maximum ink coverage.

Hopefully the first concept you receive wows your socks off, but what happens when your designer returns a concept that doesn't "hit the mark"? The main thing to remember is that you must never...ever...let a concept/proof go to the client which you are not happy with. You have to be very firm on this, even if you are dealing with a 'design diva' who may push back at every turn. In this instance you are the voice of your client and you need to trust your intuition that the design you see in front of you is not going to be acceptable to your client. Keep pushing back until you are happy with the result.

To be fair to your designer, you will also need to constructively point out what needs to be modified, and offer potential solutions to the situation. Simply handing the concept back and saying it doesn't work is unhelpful, and you will be lucky to receive anything much better on the second attempt. Whatever you do, never verbally abuse your designer, say their work is cr#p (which I have heard too many times), or make it personal. All you will do is create resentment towards you which may never go away...and good luck getting quality work out of that designer in the future!

The consultative approach usually proves successful. For example, try using phrases such as "what do you think?" or "how could we best alter this to fit the purpose?". Everyone likes to be asked their opinion rather than told what to do. It makes your designer feel valued, and can help diffuse an awkward situation where you are challenging their design decisions.

Throughout the design process, remember to be the encourager. Offer praise where it is due, along with gentle suggestions and directives to keep the project on track. Aways thank your design team for their work...you can't do it without them!

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