As a producer, you'll be the liaison between various components of a project, ensuring that everyone's efforts align with the project's creative vision. Your role as a producer isn't to be the principal creative mind but to possess enough artistic knowledge to communicate effectively with those who are, to do so you should understand the creative process, its constraints, the complexity and time of various tasks.
This enables you to interpret creative concepts into actionable items for the rest of the team, to better communicate creative decisions to the client, ensure your team’s work is steered towards meeting the client’s strategic goals and use this knowledge to push back on unachievable requests.
This mutual understanding fosters respect within the team as it demonstrates your commitment to understanding their work and challenges, it also puts you in a position to propose solutions or to notice issues others may have missed.
Key areas to develop a understanding in:
- Graphic Design: The art of creating visual content using typography, images, and colors to convey a message or idea.
- Motion Design: The craft of bringing graphics to life through animation and cinematic techniques.
- 3D Design: The process of creating three-dimensional graphics and models for various media and purposes.
- Creative Direction: Guiding and overseeing the visual and conceptual direction of a project or brand.
Which we’ll be covering in the Fundamentals section to give you an understanding of the fundamentals so that you can find common ground with your creative colleagues!
What do creatives need?
Ideation and execution
Effective leadership in the realm of interactive production requires a deep understanding of two pivotal stages: Ideation and Execution.
As a producer, you'll need to facilitate these stages, applying a distinct approach to each. It's also important to keep in mind that the creative team will often have different personality traits than the technical team, it'll be your responsibility to help find a balance between exploration and execution at different stages of the project, with different personalities pulling in one direction or the other.
The ideation stage is often nebulous and unpredictable, it can be playful, it can also be a conflict of personalities. Recognise that you can't predict or entirely control this part of the process. There will be tension if you try to impose constraints too early, and you’ll inhibiting the free flow of ideas.
My recommendation here is to help centre the process around strategic objectives and needs the client has, don't let the creative team completely disregard them - the risk being multiple days of work invested, only to be rejected by a client who's requirements have been disregarded.
Once you've gathered a wealth of ideas, you’ll need to start focusing them into a single tangible project. This transition is subjective and can be challenging to pinpoint, but it's an important turning point in every project. You’ll to determine the right moment to start introduce constraints and begin assessing the viability of the ideas at hand alongside your technical team.
These constraints are time, budget and technical feasibility.
Advocate on behalf of the client
This is the most important note in the chapter, make sure your creatives clearly understand the client’s requirements and the audience’s needs. If they don’t, their ideation will be flawed and the results will inevitably be rejected by the client - this builds resentment and insecurity, which in turn leads to poorer results.
Championing the client’s needs internally is oftentimes your responsibility, even when people don’t want to hear it.
Protect your creatives
Creatives are often reluctant to share their work before reaching a certain level of perfectionism, particularly if the project has a large audience or a senior audience. They’ll undoubtedly be worried they might miss the mark or receive negative feedback on a concept they believe in deeply, part of their identity might be attached to it.
So, how do we help them?
- When they share their work, if it is off the mark and requires a lot of feedback (from you or the creative director), I’d recommend taking it to a private channel (preferably async) to create a less public setting.
- Make sure the priorities are clear. Prioritisation removes the superfluous and removes a lot of complexity. Your designer might spend hours polishing a detail that will probably be getting feedback from a stakeholder down the line, priorities mitigate perfectionism and remove a lot of anxiety.
- Check in sometimes, something might be bugging them and they’re missing broader context that you have!
Your art director’s schedule (and brain) might start to get chaotic when they need to communicate with different creatives while delivering assets. Or maybe your creative director has suddenly been staffed for a day on a completely unrelated project, while handling a lot of client work and giving feedback on a vendor’s delivery.
Interruptions will come, these distractions are even more harmful for creatives and developers than they are for the producer, it’s up to us to protect their time - most often from colleagues and sometimes from clients.
It’s pretty self evident but I’ll mention it anyway, leading a technical team requires a certain degree of respect, mutual understanding and trust, I’ve found that this doesn’t come from being the nice guy, and I’ll explain why right below.
Since producers are the bridge between the creative and technical aspects of a project your responsibilities will be to make sure they have the information and assets they need and to understand their challenges, finding beneficial solutions with the client or the team on their behalf. Your expectations should be for them to deliver what was promised in good form and on time, if they don’t there’s a communication or leadership issue that needs to be solved.
Finally, you may not write code but eventually you’ll need to understand the technologies involved, the constraints these technologies impose, and the timeframes needed to implement them. yThis understanding will also give you the ability to respond to clients questions and requests without always having to rely on your team, or at least to have those limitations in mind when discussing strategic options.
Don’t be the nice guy
In this video Joe outlines what I fully agree to be the best traits in a reliable tech lead, or the responsibilities you might need to take on in smaller teams when there is no tech lead. If you’re too nice with the creative team’s ideas or the client’s requests it’ll be at the expense of your technical team. You need to brutally prioritise and communicate the complexities of adding new features to the rest of the team, if your developers need to continuously explain these problems they’ll be losing a lot of time.
Client’s will inevitable make smaller scope requests, we’ll look into handling feedback later but what you need to know now is that accepting these inevitably sets an expectation and adds much more complexity than we usually imagine. “I just need an extra button”, that button may displace other layout items, it may break on mobile or tablet, it will need to be tested on multiple browsers, it might interfere or interact with other user journeys.
Managing Technical Risks and Challenges
Technical risks are an inevitable part of any project, you’ll want to prompt your lead developer towards anticipating potential issues by preparing for them and having a plan to address them if and when they arise, having these plans in place will build trust and rid you both of a lot of anxiety.
I’ve often found that my developers regularly think and worry about these issues without necessarily communicating them to the rest of the team - while others do, all the time. Having these contingencies in place helps remove those anxieties and focuses energy on the task at hand.
Task Delegation and Tracking
This won’t be your role, but I have worked with tech leads who weren’t as involved in task delegation and needed to be encouraged or even pushed to set up the tools and the delegation, so it’s good to keep this in mind should you be in a similar situation.
Effectively delegating tasks involves clearly defining roles and responsibilities, setting achievable deadlines, and maintaining transparency about the project's progress - you can ask them to schedule a 15min standup to discuss their priorities for the day and their progress the previous day.
Developers are persistent and self-reliant, if they hit a bug they’ll do everything in their power to fix it before asking for help. Create a regular open forum to discuss issues so that they’re encouraged to communicate when they hit a wall, without spending hours or days debugging alone they’ll have a space to mention the issue and 99% of the time someone else on the team will have encountered it before or offer a different perspective.
Our field is evolving incredibly quickly, and so should your team. Encourage continuous learning and growth among team members. Support their efforts to keep up with the latest technologies and methodologies, schedule some time for research and experimentation (outside and inside projects). Create opportunities for learning within the team and foster an environment that values skill expansion and most importantly knowledge sharing.