What is the creative review and approval process?
In any creative project, the work needs to be reviewed by directors and managers before it can move to the next phase. In manufacturing, product label and artwork development take place in numerous stages. They often undergo long and tedious revision cycles during the approval process.
Most companies use their workflow for creative review and approval. However, these processes can be relatively slow and error-prone. Errors in product labels can often lead to massive losses. For instance, between 2011 and 2020, 2470 food products were recalled from the market globally because of labeling errors. In the US, nearly 50% of drug recalls happen because of errors on the product label.
The product label is not only a creative element but also a crucial part of Creative Ops. It also conveys a lot of information about the product. Product labels are an integral part of customer safety and have a direct effect on public health. Furthermore, in strictly regulated industries such as pharmaceuticals, food, alcohol, beverages, and personal care, compliance issues related to artwork and product labeling within Creative Ops can lead to massive fines.
An approval process is a formal process that enables a project to move to the next phase. Generally, a manager or a senior authority approves the project outcome so that it may advance to the next stage.
For example, in a product label development process, the marketing department can approve the artwork for the label. A legal team can check the label for regulatory issues and ratify it. The quality control department can check for typos, readability, and more.
The anatomy of an approval process
The approval process is not just a simple sign-off by the higher authority. For label proofing, the management needs to be responsible and ensure that the entire label is free from errors before they can approve it. The approval process involves lengthy feedback loops. Here is a simple example of how an approval process takes place.
Step 1: Select Reviewers
When a product level is developed to a certain stage, the design team forwards the artwork to the project manager. The manager then selects the people who should approve the artwork at that stage. The reviewers get a copy of the artwork files and a deadline by which they should submit their feedback.
Step 2: Gather feedback
The reviewers will then check the artwork and submit their feedback. The feedback can come via chat, emails, or phone calls. Managers should collate all the feedback and forward it to the design team. If any reviewer missed the deadline, the project manager should notify the reviewer.
Step 3: Forward the feedback
The project manager then forwards the feedback to the design team. Based on the feedback, the design team will modify the label design. Steps one through three will keep on repeating till all the errors are taken care of.
Step 4: Final approval and logging
Once all the reviewers approve the product label, the project can go into the next stage. At this stage, the project manager can maintain a record of the approval process. This logging helps maintain transparency and act appropriately in case of any discrepancy.
Key challenges of the traditional approval process
While each company uses its in-house workflow and tools for product artwork or label approval, most brands use a form of iterative workflow. Often, the approval process takes place over chats and emails. Spreadsheets and other generic project management tools help with organization. However, artwork and label proofing require dedicated tools. Without such tools, such a workflow can cost brands time and money.
Here are some of the major challenges.
#1. Lack of clarity
Without strictly defined to-do lists, reviewers often do not have a clear-cut idea of what they need to review. Product labels contain a lot of text and visual elements. The ambiguity can become problematic as reviewers may miss out on minute yet important details, thereby overlooking errors.
#2. Low-quality feedback
Without the right tools, reviewers struggle to provide precise feedback. Checking for color accuracy or the size of elements requires software tools that most people may not be familiar with. Furthermore, not every reviewer has the technical expertise needed to handle artwork files. For instance, colors and fonts may render incorrectly depending on the software and hardware used for reviewing.
#3. Incoherent feedback
Feedback can come over different channels. Project managers need to organize all feedback and manually weed out unsound feedback. Furthermore, they can receive contradictory feedback that may cause further delays.
#4. Lack of accountability and security
Most brands use emails and spreadsheets to handle the artwork and label development and proofing process. Logging the entire approval process using these tools can be challenging. Moreover, misplaced artwork files can lead to intellectual property theft or unwanted confidential information disclosure.
#5. Increased Go-to-market times
The reduced feedback quality increases the number of feedback iterations needed to finalize an artwork or a label. Hence, the development process gets unnecessarily prolonged.
Accelerating creative review with Artwork management tools
Artwork management and artwork proofing tools can automate the entire feedback process and speed up the approval process. Every process takes place on a secure cloud-hosted platform. Here are some of the best practices to ensure that the artwork approval takes place efficiently and with minimal manual intervention.
#1. Automate feedback collection using checklists
Project managers can easily use checklists to instruct reviewers on what they need to verify. A Checklist is a versatile tool that brings clarity to the review process. Reviewers can “approve” or “reject” the items listed in the checklist. In case of a rejection, reviewers can even comment on the item or on the artwork file itself.
For example, if a reviewer needs to reject a label because the size of an element is incorrect, they can directly comment on that in the checklist. This system makes the feedback process concise yet comprehensive.
#2. Use checklist templates to prevent overlooked errors.
Checklists can be saved as templates and used across multiple projects. To ensure that you do not miss out on any item, you can reuse old checklists for new projects. For example, you can have a checklist to ensure FDA compliance that you can use across multiple product labels to develop projects. Templates ensure that you do not have to create lists from scratch, potentially missing out on crucial elements.
#3. Encourage use of built-in proofing tools
Artwork management platforms come with built-in proofing tools. Reviewers can use tools like color picker, font checker, spell checker, artwork PDF compare tool, and more for proofing right within the browser. Not only is this system convenient, but it also adds security as the artwork files never leave the platform.
For example, the FDA or FSSAI has strict guidelines on how sizes of certain mandatory visual elements should be. Tools like a online measuring tool can help measure them right. A color extractor tool can list all used colors in the document in CMYK or Pantone. A font finder tool can help verify if the correct font has been used across the label.
#4. Leverage collaborative capabilities
With artwork and label proofing platforms, you no longer need to wait for one department to approve artwork before you forward it to another. Multiple departments can work the approval process simultaneously.
Managers can also onboard external agencies such as legal teams and printers to ensure that they too are on the same page as everyone else.
#5. Keep data secure with digital asset management
Stop sending files over emails or personal cloud storage. With artwork and label proofing platforms, each project has its separate secured storage. The cloud-hosted storage also supports file versioning to prevent data loss.
With digital asset management, managers can assign role-based access to individual stakeholders and even revoke them as needed.
#6. Enforce Accountability with Audit Trails
With audit trails, you can automatically keep a record of who is reviewing which artwork. When dealing with multiple projects, audit trails can help trace errors to their roots and enables you to take appropriate action.
Do you use an artwork proofing tool for the creative review and approval process? Let us know in the comments below!