017-Working with Creatives

017-Working with Creatives

Creative projects can be very fulfilling and provide tremendous value to any organization. But, they can also be very susceptible to scope creep. For those of us used to dealing in data-driven GANTT charts and Risk reports, how can we effectively approach a project with creative deliverables? Especially if we are not sure what those deliverables are supposed to look like? And how do we get objective results when it depends on subjective  feedback?

Today’s guest, Shawn Hardy, will walk us through his process for approaching a project as a creative, and help us understand how to succeed in a Creative project. Proof in point: he was the designer for our amazing new PM Happy Hour website!


Our amazing guest, Shawn Hardy:

For the past 17 years Shawn has worked with hundreds of clients ranging from mom-and-pop’s in Phoenix, to startups in San Francisco, to global corporations in Boston. Shawn believe that ideas, design, and marketing should always motivate and inspire people. Working closely with business owners, other marketers, and creative teams to co-create effective and engaging work is what he is passionate about. His work takes a wide range of deliverables including brand identities, interactive websites, print, advertising campaigns, traditional marketing, TV, content marketing, video, and motion graphics.  Beyond his career as a creative, he lives an active life which includes triathlons, running, and cycling. Shawn keeps his family and dogs close by, always with the end goal of simply enjoying life.

See more of SmittenLabs amazing work on their website, here: Smittenlabs.co

And you can reach out to Shawn directly, here: shawn@smittenlabs.co



Get access to all podcasts, PDU certificates, bonus content, exclusive member Q&A webinars and more from our new membership! https://pmhappyhour.com/membership



We love to hear about your tough PM issues, so please hit us up at podcast@pmhappyhour.com and we’ll see if we can help you. If we use your question, we’ll send you a PM Happy Hour coaster you can enjoy at your next happy hour.

Check out this episode!

Show Notes

Today’s show is about working with creatives, and we’re going to talk with one of the guys who helped make our gorgeous site possible. He is our amazing designer, Shawn Hardy of Smitten Labs.

Who is Shawn Hardy? [2:00 – 2:50]

Shawn helped hundreds of clients ranging from mom and pops in Phoenix, to startups in San Francisco, to global corporations in Boston. He believe that ideas, design, and marketing should always motivate and inspire people. Shawn’s work includes brand identities, interactive websites, print, advertising, campaigns, traditional marketing, TV, content marketing, video, and motion pictures. Beyond his career as a creative, Shawn lives an active life, and is into triathlon, running, and cycling.

Shawn’s Journey to a Creative Field [4:01 – 4:45]

Shawn grew up as a creative kid. He loved all kinds of arts, whether it was music or classical art, but he couldn’t draw. Because of this, he was secretly afraid that since he couldn’t draw he will never become an artist. It was in high school when he found out about creative design, and this inspired him to get his bachelor’s degree in the field. He was almost 20 years old when he landed his first job at an ad agency, and after 20 years, Shawn is helping clients of all different kinds all over the world.

Shawn in the Creative Field [5:04 – 5:40]

Shawn loves what he does. What he appreciates most being in the creative design is that he gets to use his talent to help people in launching their products and starting and growing their business or non-profit organization. He finds it fulfilling to get involved in so many different kinds of businesses even at this level.

Shawn’s most valuable lesson in business that he learned the hard way [6:03 – 6:50]

Shawn learned that projects and companies don’t live in a vacuum- the people you work with and the people we work for are just as important in work as the work itself. Ultimately, no matter what you do it’s all about the people. When Shawn was younger, he thought that he can do things by working around people and situation. Then he realized that he need to work, trust, and rely on people so much and deal with situations. He needs to work WITH them and not around them.

What is a Creative? [8:33-12:30]

According to Shawn, being classified as a Creative is awesome, and he loves being in this category. To him, anything that requires creative output, such as designs or writing, is creative. However, one of the negative connotations of being in creative is the assumption that it’s an exclusive club that is closed door. Apart from this, creative people also get a bad reputation of not being as concerned about timelines, details, or even being on time. Hence, they also need to understand the client’s business, and not simply focus on aesthetics. It is important that everyone on the team understands both the goal and the end users.

What is a Creative Project? [12:45 – 13:12]

A creative project is not different from any other project- the output may just come out in a different way. There are a few different ways to work on a creative project, but they all boil down to knowing who’s on the team and what their expectations are.

Process When Starting A Project [14:15 – 23:15]

1. Identify your audience:

The first thing we need to focus on are the people who will be using the creative project: the end users. We need to define who they are, what do they like, what they don’t like, and their personality. Sometimes we call these “personas” or “user groups”.

2. Identify the client’s goal and the creative team’s goal:

After identifying the user groups, you should understand the goals of both your audience and  and creative team. If your goal is to sell them more product or to have more visitors on your website then, you have to understand how this goal fits in your target audience. You have to determine the end result that you want for them, and understand the things that they want to do with your creative project.

3. Figure out what you want to communicate

Creative products are ultimately a method to communicate with people. It is a must that we know what we want to relay to these users. An example of communication medium is the aesthetics of your creative product.

4. Determine the emotional and practical message:

Some of the questions you need to answer are: How do you want the users to feel after using your creative product or application? Do you want them to feel inspired, happy, sad, motivated? Practical messages, on the other hand, center around making users aware how they can navigate the application. Designing your website with an easy step-by-step procedure on how to reset a password is a good example of this.

Two Distinct Approaches To A Creative Project [27:19 – 38:15]

1. Working on a limited budget, timeline, scope:

This requires an attentive team. You should choose people who will show up on meetings, who are open in discussing limitations, and who will be available when you need to make revisions, and who have sense of accountability. Likewise, you as a project manager need to be honest when discussing the progress.

2. Handling exploratory projects:

This is when you don’t know where your project is going to go. A very common scenario is when you’re working on a new brand or on a different market. This is the best time for project managers to rely on the creative team by giving them more responsibility and challenges. They need to feel accountable, and must have enough authority to steer the ship where it needs to go in creating something fresh, new, and unexpected.

TIP: It’s okay to call a timeout if the objective is not moving. This could be done by re-establishing the goals to get back on track.

What Makes the Best Project Managers [31:18 – 40:18]

Best project managers are in-tune with their project, and build relationships with the creative team. They ask a lot of questions and try to understand the process. Their most common ask is the history and progress. Asking these questions will help the project manager to build a good partnership with the creative team. Do note, however, that project managers should just check timelines and updates. They should also learn how to take feedback and take it personally, instead taking the opportunity to dig deeper into why the client is not satisfied or why they are asking for revisions. This is for the team to effectively counter attack if the demand doesn’t make sense.

Partnership Between Creatives and Project Managers [43:32 – 50:00]

Building engagement with the creative team should be one of the main priorities of project managers. They should know their Creative in a personal level by getting to know them as a person and finding out their work habits. Everybody’s working style is different, and taking the time to understand what kind of structure works for someone is really important for the success of a creative project.

Asking what kind of help Creatives need while working on a project is also important. Checking the progress of the project is okay, but the project manager should know the history on his own.

Project managers also need to understand what the creative team needs to get the job done. They have to make sure that feedback is consolidated, and everyone agrees on the same thing to avoid wasting time.

Kim’s Takeaway [50:01]

Creative are professionals just like other professionals on your team.

Kate’s Takeaway [50:08]

Creative project should be structured just like any other project.

Bottom Line [51:30 – 53:0]

For a project to become successful, project managers should partner with the creative team. 

If you need amazing creative design assistance you may reach out to Shawn by visiting smittenlabs.co

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    Kim Essendrup

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