Then, after a longer period of time you would have expected, the layout drafts arrive but they’re entirely wrong for your brand. Or the content doesn’t describe the idea correctly. Or it features images that don’t represent your company at all. You’re disappointed, irritated, and concerned about your designer’s capabilities all at once.

So what happened? Could it have been prevented, and more so, can it be fixed?

Simply, yes. It could have been prevented if you had held a kick-off meeting for the project. Typically, these meetings don’t take longer than one hour, and when covered properly, can avoid a plethora of potential project issues. If you’ve found yourself already into the project and are experiencing any of the issues above, it’s not too late to cover the four W’s and get everyone back on track.

Why = Project Objectives

Why does the project exist to begin with? It’s likely that however the conversation got started, this has been covered already (i.e. we need an overview brochure to educate people about our services) but it’s well worth covering one more time in this meeting. Talk about the audience specifically and what goals you want your final deliverables to achieve for your company.

Your input here will influence everything else, including the designer’s choice of layout, copy needs, image selections, and more.

What = Project Deliverable Details

The project deliverables should cover both design considerations and production items.

For the design components, below is a sample of items you need to discuss:

  • What will the content be?
  • What types of images should be used, and where will they come from (i.e. stock photos or commissioned)?
  • What’s the production budget?
  • If you’re selling a product, does pricing need to be stated for the reader?
  • What specific contact information should be included? (i.e. basic website or social media icons also?)

It’s important to cover production details also, including the following:

  • Will the final piece be mailed, hand-delivered, or deployed online?
  • Is there a particular paper stock or web size the final needs to utilize?
  • If it’s being printed, how many colors can be used and is there a way to reduce costs?
  • If it’s online ads, how many sizes and variations need to be provided?
  • Is there a launch plan in place for online deliverables?

Spelling out specifics here provides everyone a checklist of what needs to be included. By triple checking the final draft against this checklist, you can avoid going into production with the logo missing (yes, we’ve heard of this happening!)

Who = Who’s Responsible For What?

There’s almost nothing worse than waiting two weeks for the initial draft, only to find out the designer has been waiting on you to provide starter content or images. Or vice versa. Either way, when miscommunication happens about who should have done, now your project will be behind schedule and everyone has to rush to catch up. And rushing to catch up introduces the opportunity for more mistakes. You will avoid all of this by assigning roles in the very beginning.

When = Project Milestones and Deadlines

We typically use a mix of backward and forward dates when creating our project schedule. By identifying the in-hand dates and corresponding required production/design deadline date, you can then chop up the remaining time with what is manageable for gathering all content and creating milestones for draft reviews.

Try determining dates in this order in your next kick-off and see if it’s easier to identify who does what by when:

  • In-Hand/Launch Deadline
  • Design Approval Deadline (i.e. when it needs to go into production to meet In-hand Deadline)
  • Full copy and any required images to designer
  • Initial concepts to client
  • Second draft to client for review
  • Final draft to client for review

Take advantage of this meeting to also address other issues.

A kickoff meeting can also be used to address other items. Underlying concerns you or the designer may have, brainstorm initial concepts, review design or production preferences, the tone of voice you want the copy to have and a lot more can be included in the creative brief.

The final step is ensuring that a creative brief is generated from this meeting and sent to everyone working on the project. It becomes the outline/checklist for everyone to remember the why, what, who and when. We’re confident that if you hold this kick-off meeting for your next project, everything will go more smoothly!