Managing a team of professionals who think in a creative, visual way is different from managing other types of teams. You need to give your team space to do what they do best — being creative, innovative, and imaginative — yet also ensure that deadlines and business objectives are being met.

We spoke to Eric Sams, Shutterstock’s art director, for tips on how to effectively lead a design team and manage successful projects.

1. Leverage Your Team’s Strengths 

Each contributor will have a slightly different skill set, so use that as an advantage. “For example, some designers may be great at retouching, but need to develop stronger typography skills,” Sams says. “If time permits, consider having two designers work on an aspect of a project at the same time — one who has a demonstrated skill, and one who needs to develop that skill. By letting each team member do what he or she excels at, you can ensure outstanding results every time.”

2. Communicate Clearly

Young group of people discussing business plans
Young group of people discussing business plans by AstroStar

This sounds deceivingly simple, but it’s so true (and often overlooked): Good communication is crucial to success. “Whether you’re outlining scope, communicating deadlines, or reviewing deliverables, it’s good to recap key items at the end of a meeting so everyone understands what is expected of them. Always close with asking if anyone has any questions,” says Sams.

3. Identify Dependencies Early 

“Your team is going to be working exceptionally hard on the creative elements of the project,” says Sams. “Ensure the overall project’s success by outlining necessary information or tasks you need other teams to complete in order to finish your project.” It’s a good idea to collect all that information early, in order to avoid any last-minute scrambling or roadblocks that hinder progress.

4. Engage Your Team in Reviews 

Manager Leading Creative Brainstorming Meeting In Office
Manager Leading Creative Brainstorming Meeting In Office by Monkey Business Images

It’s critical to let designers have a voice. “Invite your team members to review creative deliverables with stakeholders. This not only increases their feeling of ownership on the project, but also lets them hear internal client feedback firsthand,” explains Sams. When people take ownership of their work, they feel more committed, motivated, and engaged. By hearing feedback directly, designers can also better understand what clients are looking for and get closer to the strategy.

Unexpected hurdles can pop up in any project, but you can take action to minimize the possibility of that happening. With these tips, you can nurture and support your designers’ creative talent, while also making sure that your project runs smoothly.

Top image: White frame with succulent in DIY pot, hipster interior by Julia Karo