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Art Director

Conversation During Quarantine Outsourcing with A.K. the Art Director

BY White Label IQ

It’s About Efficiency

As an Art Director, finding creative solutions to problems is all in a day’s work, right? Sure, we need to make rad stuff and think outside the box, but we also need to stay on (aka under) budget. Then there’s the task of being efficient and utilizing all those hours in a day… which, yeah, can be a tricky situation when you have multiple projects and your Creative Director is sending in more by the very minute.

You probably find yourself constantly asking, “What if the rest of my team is maxed out?” or “How am I supposed to juggle five projects with the exact same deadline?” Well, as a staff of one myself, I know the pain all too well.

So, do I cut corners on all my creative output or water down my ideas? Do I sacrifice nights, weekends, and potentially my sanity to get the projects done? I know we’ve all done that last one – no shame. Okay, a little shame, but not always avoidable. However, I’m here to tell you that, just maybe, there’s a better way.

And as you probably guessed from the title and the URL and all that jazz, it’s outsourcing.

Frankly, We Do Give a Damn.

Outsourcing isn’t some back alley, shady deal; it’s the expansion of your abilities with the help of qualified experts to produce work for your clients. It only gets a bad rap because once upon a time it had very little oversight, was still something everyone was trying to navigate, and focused more on the bottom dollar deliverables than a healthy, actionable balance.

Today, it can be a nice source of steady income that alleviates common agency problems in the meantime. With just a few helping aides — a system in place, a trusted ally in the form of offshore talent, and clear expectations with the client — it’s a win-win situation. And me? I’m the one conducting the creative madness. The common thread that takes high-level creative and client demands and melds the two together. But, my job doesn’t end there.

Because I care about the final delivery. As an Art Director, I don’t just assign tasks and checkout for the day. I don’t cross my fingers and hope for the best.

  • I’m available for questions from the offshore team
  • I’m available for questions from the client team
  • I work with vendors and software providers and the account team to keep things moving
  • I ensure the timeline is well, on-time
  • I match the original request with the final deliverable to ensure satisfaction
  • I also do a lot more, but this gives you a good idea of the high-level stuff
Raising the Bar

Now, let’s squash the age-old rumor that white label work (aka outsourcing) just adds another task to an already packed day.

The truth is, when the team is working through production, I’m able to focus on certain elements more than I ever could if it was just me. By taking the excess details off my plate, I’m no longer inundated with every piece of the puzzle and can therefore be more forward thinking. This allows me to do more of the high-level design at the start of a project that we can then use throughout a campaign. And as an Art Director, that’s the best feeling in the world. I’m free to be creative and elevate projects that would normally tie me up with the typical nuts and bolts of digital production.

That’s how you raise the bar on even the most innocuous project requests. In the classic triangle of Speed vs Quality vs Cheap, I can get you two of them, if not all three.

Programs to Lean On

Imagine a Swiss Army Knife. Each little tool has a specific use, right? “I need to cut down that tree, so I’ll just flip out the saw tool!” Okay, not the best example, but you get the point. So anyway, after spending a few months getting the tree down, I take a step back to see what I could’ve done better.

More people with Swiss Army Knives? More time? A smaller tree? Or maybe a tool that makes sense. Probably that last one.

Having worked with countless freelance graphic designers and industry-trained digital artists, I’m still surprised by how many of them don’t know the vast number of tools right at their fingertips. Trust me, I’m not throwing stones, I find myself finding new tools every day. Ones that would’ve saved me tons of time… and headaches.

Here’s an honest peek at how I tackle new projects that hit my desk:
  • I Google it. Some old-fashioned R&D to direct some of the creative traffic in my head.
  • I see what other creatives are doing. We’re talking inspiration, not copying. Why? Because I’m on a deadline and there’s not always time for fonts and color theory. Remember, we all stand on the shoulder of giants. Lean into that.
  • Of course, there’s Adobe. The G.O.A.T. But it comes with a fee. So, if you’re looking for a free alternative, PEXELS is perfect for clip art, stock images, and more.
  • There’s also Pinterest. Bag on it all you want, but it’s actually a great resource for animation inspiration or to see what the pulse of the consumer landscape is. People from all over the world are pinning items because they like them, so I try to leverage that. Then, I make my own pinboard to draw back from.
  • At the end of the day, there is no silver bullet. Just use what works for you.
Time Management

Ever turned down work because it wasn’t in your wheelhouse? I have. It sucks, to be quite honest. But there’s a limit to what I can tackle and by choosing to focus on my strengths, I can deliver an awesome project and not a chaotic mess.

But, have you ever turned down a project due to lack of time?

Now that’s a real tragedy.

By directing some of the work that can be completed overseas, there’s more time all around. As I setup clear objectives and priorities from a U.S. nine-to-five – including art direction, templating, outlining, inspiration sources, and ideal platforms – my offshore team clocks in as I unwind and head to bed. Essentially, this allows for a 24-hour work cycle.

Now let me be clear… clear communication is critical. No project will be perfect. Nothing will go off without a hitch. But the client doesn’t have to know that. I learn on BugHerd to add changes and fixes to this and that as the production cycle moves along. I’ll also get on phone or video calls to walkthrough tasks that just don’t translate in text. This allows for a real give and take.

It’s amazing that I have the ability to continue a project when I’m not actually working on it. There’s no real “downtime.” Sure, it can be fractured by other things coming and going, but the real actionable items move forward without the interference of client meetings, office meetings, and common (watercooler) distractions.

Now, What About My Team?

Since you’re reading this on White Label IQ dot com, then you know where this is going. So, don’t mind if I take a moment to give you the elevator pitch.

When clients need PHP, we have that. HTML, WordPress experience, Magento, etc. – we have that, too. All professional web developer and highly skilled expertise ready to be utilized when needed.

What if you needed time to think about high-level strategy on a specific project instead of how you’re going to do it. We’ve got that covered, too. “Great Scott!” you might be screaming from behind your computer screen. You actually have time to do some market research! You can even concept the social media strategy that’ll happen after launch… all while the high-quality work is happening at the exact same time. Well, more or less while you’re sleeping.

Plus, this work is being done across multiple mediums… which is a real game-changer. Outsourcing allows you to focus more on your clients, the work (we’ll do that part for you), and more of the things you wanted – nay, needed – to do.

And That’s Me in a Nutshell

Whether it’s crushing my multiple fantasy football leagues, building extravagant LEGO builds with my kids, or striving to elevate my output as an Art Director, I won’t settle for anything less than my A-game. It’s not just because my team depends on me or my creative itch is never satisfied – it’s both. And if getting bigger and better results requires me to lean on outsourcing to get it done, then I’m more than happy to do it. I hope the same goes for you, too.

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