The vital role of production in a design agency

Connecting creativity and realization

In the dynamic world of design, creativity often takes the spotlight, and rightfully so. After all, creativity is the beating heart of any design agency, driving innovation, inspiration, and the pursuit of aesthetic excellence. However, amidst the spotlight on creativity, it’s easy to overlook the unsung hero of the design world—the production designer.  

Production is the engine that brings those creative ideas to life. Its importance cannot be overstated, as it bridges the gap between concept and reality, ensures consistency and quality, maintains efficiency to hit deadlines and budgets, embraces technological advancements, and enhances client relationships.  

Production designers are responsible for turning design concepts into tangible products, whether that’s a print advertisement, a website, a product prototype, or any other design deliverable. Their role is to ensure that every intricate detail, from color accuracy to pixel-perfect alignment, is executed flawlessly. They carry a big picture concept through the huge variety of deliverables that can flow from it, including ads of a plethora of sizes, event touchpoints online and on-site which can easily number in the thousands, banners, apps, icons, buttons… the list goes on and on.

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Ensuring consistency and quality

Consistency and quality are two hallmarks of a successful design agency. Clients expect their branding, messaging, and design elements to be consistently applied across various media and platforms. Production professionals help maintain this consistency by meticulously checking every nitty-gritty detail: from adherence to brand guidelines and design standards, ensuring measurements are accurate, and verifying all content is correct.

Designers are engrossed in the conceptual, creative flow of designing, which can make it easy to miss small inconsistencies and details. Production designers bring an eagle-eye employed systematically to ensure both consistency and quality.

This process includes double-checking the colors in a design against the brand swatch palette. Each item needs to be checked using CMYK breakdowns for print, and RGB for digital, to verify that every hue, tint, and shade is spot on.

Production designers also confirm brand typefaces are used correctly, checking that appropriate weights, sizes, and styles are used to conform to established typographical hierarchy standards and meet legibility requirements. If there are any widows or orphans in the copy, we correct them. In digital design we double check legibility and accessibility standards. Non-curly apostrophe or errant hyphen in place of an en dash or em dash? Banished.

When photography or other imagery is used, we are the last line of defense against anything too low resolution, blurry, or distorted to properly represent what is needed for print or digital purposes. Size affects clarity. If an image was used at a smaller aspect ratio, it can get blurry at larger sizes. Production designers are a backstop against this faux pas.

Production designers ensure that the final output meets the highest quality standards. Whether it’s print materials with vibrant colors or digital assets with responsive designs, production experts make sure that every project reflects the agency’s commitment to excellence. The number of individual deliverables for any execution can easily number in the hundreds or thousands, all of which must be perfect, accurate in brand, and created to the highest standards.  

Moreover, production designers make stunning creative concepts ready for the big stage. Without this crucial step, this creative vision remains a mere concept, never reaching its full potential. It’s not for the faint of heart or those low on patience!

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Meeting deadlines and budgets

In the fast-paced world of design, deadlines are sacred. Clients have strict timelines for their projects, and meeting these deadlines is essential for client satisfaction. The members of the Sans Serif team are experts at managing project schedules, optimizing workflows, and ensuring that every project stays on track.

Sans Serif offers what we call “sleep-well project management”: a hands-on, collaborative, and transparent approach to guiding a project from start to finish so our clients can focus on KPIs and business objectives without losing sleep over execution. Our production designers work closely with our project managers to get our projects over the finish line.  

When Sans Serifs’ creations have gone beyond conceptualizing and creative design, they are handed off to our production designers. Similarly, when a design system for a group of assets is set, the work can be transferred to a production designer who can faithfully execute any number of assets according to the system. This division of labor makes everyone more efficient, keeps budget costs down for clients, and assures the most professional product.

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The last link in the collaborative chain

Our designers, project managers, and production designers collaborate and support one another, consulting frequently on what stage of design a product is in, whether it would be best served by a creative or in production. These handoffs ensure creativity, precision, and redundancy in review (multiple sets of eyes with different skill sets and priorities, whether designer, project manager, or production designer) resulting in work we and our clients are proud of. Without solid collaboration, the whole design process can break down. Production wraps up this collaborative process to faithfully execute the vision of the whole team.  

Finally, production designers get the satisfaction of packaging up and sending off the final product. This includes any exports, filetype conversions, or transfer processes that need to be observed; cloud-based storage or, for larger print files, FTPs. We ensure all linked imagery is in the correct folder, and that everything from which the file is built is where it should be and functioning.  

Efficiency is key to managing budgets. By streamlining production processes and minimizing errors, design agencies can deliver projects within budget, enhancing their reputation for reliability and staying within costs.

Production teams are skilled problem-solvers, capable of finding creative solutions to unexpected roadblocks.

Adaptability and problem-solving

Unexpected challenges and issues can arise at any stage of the production process. Production teams are skilled problem-solvers, capable of finding creative solutions to unexpected roadblocks. We must have deep knowledge of the capabilities of every software design tool we use, and to be able to troubleshoot and solve both design and technical problems to allow creative work to shine. Production designers’ adaptability is invaluable in ensuring that projects stay on track and that the final product is of the highest quality.

The underrecognized key to quality

Design agencies must recognize the vital role of production to thrive in today’s competitive landscape, delivering outstanding results and exceeding client expectations. So, the next time you see a stunning design project, remember that behind the scenes, a dedicated production team is hard at work, ensuring that creativity becomes a tangible reality.

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