Why a project manager is a creative team’s mechanic

For magazines, project managers handle the daily minutiae so the creative team is free to be creative.

BY Connie Otto
VP, Production

If you think of a magazine’s creative team as the drivers and navigators of a high-end race car, the print project manager is the mechanic.

The editors, writers and art directors make sure the car hums along at full speed on the track, but they can only do so if their pit crew is ready to make tuneups when needed.

With that in mind, here are three ways a print project manager watches out for creative partners.

Sweat the small stuff

People who’ve never worked on a magazine would be amazed by all the little things that happen along the way. It starts with building a robust schedule, but it doesn’t end there.

Project managers update deadlines, print specs, advertising request and more with the printer based on client needs. We track copy to make sure it gets to production on time. We watch for incoming artwork—from a client, a photographer or an illustrator—and make sure it’s ready to go when art directors sit down to design. We make shipping labels, proofs and PDFs for review.

In other words, project managers handle the daily minutiae so the creative team is free to be creative.

Think inside the grid

There are many types of quality control. When reviewing print layouts, an editor or proofreader looks for structure, consistency and errors. An art director looks at elements such as image placement, color correction and more.

A project manager’s review is more on the technical side. Are bleeds in place for proper printing? Are photo credits and other little details aligned correctly? Are ads properly placed and vetted? Is half of that lovely full-spread image an art director worked so hard on going to disappear into the gutter because of bad placement?

These little tuneups help make a good magazine something great.

Be the institutional memory

Working on magazines for clients means learning their preferences inside and out.

Let’s say a client has noted, over and over again, “We really don’t like green.” Then a magazine spread crosses your desk with a big, bold green headline. Personally, I tend to stay out of the art director's hair to avoid the old “too many cooks in the kitchen” scenario, but in a case like this, I’m definitely going to point out the error with a big red pen.

Why? Because if I can help my creative team avoid negative client feedback by being their institutional memory, I feel like I’ve done my job.

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