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Accelerate Your Art Department

(July 2007) posted on Fri Jul 06, 2007

Establishing best practices in the art department can save time and boost quality. Trimingham describes some methods you can use to initiate such improvements.


By Thomas Trimingham

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Creating best practices for your art department sounds simple, but not everything is smooth sailing when dealing with artistic personalities. One of the foundational elements of success in implementing any of these ideas is having the leadership to push the change and express a continual attitude of positive purpose and achievement. Artists have a tendency to be a little more emotional and sensitive than the average worker, and it means everything to have new standards implemented in a positive light rather than creating the feeling that every screw up will be broadcast—or worse, recorded for a performance review. I have seen the best success in raising standards come from a combination of three basic principles: downplaying the negative and keeping the focus on achieving goals, implementing a clear and structured incentive system that encourages cooperation, and creating a celebratory atmosphere when goals are achieved.

Downplaying the negative is the most important principle—and also the most difficult. Putting time constraints in place for the first time can quickly reveal some really costly habits that need to change. The manager’s first instinct is often to start pointing fingers and detailing the problems and issues. An example of this is when artcreation tasks are logged for the first time in a strict manner for every job, reviewed in a meeting, and compared to what is actually estimated and billed. Things can get ugly in a hurry when it becomes apparent how much money is being lost by poor estimation or excessive time spent above estimates. This is where it is so critical to remain focused on the purpose of the process, rather than the initial results of an evaluation.

The purpose of evaluation and establishing standards in an art department is reaching the optimal efficiency and quality with every artistic process. People have to really care to achieve anything close to high efficiency. Criticizing and reprimanding an artist (or any worker, for that matter) produces feelings of resentment and anger that undermine the goal of getting people to care. While it is true that fear can prompt an art team to care for a short while, the end result is never close to the potential of those whose are motivated in a positive manner.


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