The scope of the design projects we undertake can vary enormously, from relatively small projects for iPhone and iPad applications, requiring just a handful of files, to larger software applications that require hundreds of individual icons in many sizes and states, leading to the production of thousands of files, all needing to be documented and approved by the client.
With any production environment, automation is the key to maintaining quality (and sanity), and this is as true in the design world as anywhere else. We needed a system which allowed us to automate as much of the management as possible, whilst being flexible enough to cover the wide range of projects we take on.
Historically we would manage projects by referring to a ‘Project Document’ that included the brief and a list of all the icons, descriptions, file formats, sizes, priorities etc. Both the client and the designers would constantly reference and update the document and correspond via email. We found this method of project management rather inefficient, and prone to miscommunication and document mismanagement. Even using off the shelf solutions such as Basecamp did not give us the kind of transparency we required.
After a long time struggling with these inadequate solutions, we decided to develop our own software to manage icon design projects, which we appropriately christened ‘Icon Manager’. The idea behind the software was to create a single repository for the entire design process, from a design brief/specification reference (so no one can argue the scope of the project), to the day to day development and production of the icons themselves.
There are two elements to Icon Manager: the client facing area and the back office. Everyone involved in the project is given an account, including the clients. The designers add designs, and the client can confirm, reject, and comment on the individual designs. The client is even able to change the background colour to simulate the look of the icons in their own software or website. The designers can then respond to client comments and make necessary changes. Everything remains available online, including all iterations for all to see as a permanent record of the project. All comments and state changes are automatically sent to all project account members so that everyone is kept in the loop. The client is also free to download any icons throughout the project for testing etc. in any format they require, including ICO.
The Icon Manager has reduced our project time-scales significantly as well as reducing the need for hands on involvement from our account managers. Projects come as close as is possible to running themselves, and feedback from our clients has been extremely positive.