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The Two Paths of Dealing With Deadlines
By: Tom Roarty
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When I used to work in the publication-design field as an Art Director, I faced a weekly deadline that could not be missed. As part of the process, I had to work with editorial staff, freelancers, photographers, and printers. My predecessor, who had a nervous breakdown while at work due to the pressure, which ultimately lead to my promotion, always planned things as if they were grid-based. Monday would be spent sitting with editorial and sales teams to determine a page count. Tuesday would be spent with the creative team to translate the direction. Wednesday would be laying out the rough copy and approving ads. Thursday we would put the book together, and Friday would be spent on the press. As organized as this process seemed, it was this grid-based scheduling that was the cause of most of our pressure. In my time there before the promotion, I saw flaws in such a scheduling tactic. All too often there would be factors that prevented the schedule from playing out the way it should. The writers would not have story ideas in time, the models would call in sick, and freelancers weren’t available; all it took was one bump, and the ripple effect would make a deadline night go from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m....which used to happen a lot.
 
I found immediately when taking over the position that being flexible made everyone’s life easier. There, of course, were certain things that had to stay on schedule — things such as page counts, cut-off times for ads and editorial content — to ensure that we made press on time. However, incorporating a more fluid schedule allowed us to get the talent we wanted as opposed to the talent we were tied to due to our schedule constraints, in order to create the best product possible.
 
Was this an easy transition for everyone? Not at all! Managers are usually analytical thinkers. Having a set schedule for every aspect of a project is exactly what they exist for. Creatives, on the other hand, which were those people who actually did the work to meet the deadlines, loved the concept. It allowed them to be more creative in their field of expertise. As most designers, writers and photographers know, you can force your skills to a point, but the best results come when your mind is relaxed and open to concepts that you were not overly focused on.

After our third issue using this ideology, management bought into the system and realized the benefit of this new process. Our advertising revenue was up along with our page counts and distribution numbers. The bottom line was we were better and although change was not easy for everyone to accept from an operational standpoint, it was a proven factor in the success of the publication. A fluid schedule is something I have never abandoned after that experience, and over time, it has always proved to be a successful method for any creative environment I have been a part of.


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