How Has the Creative Review and Approval Process Changed Since the 1990s?

When it comes to concept development, creative organizations have always been poised for a high level of engagement with their clients. Despite the natural shift toward a technology-loving economy, things were not always designed to be conducive to a creative review and approval process. Take a look at the last two decades to see how creative review and approval has changed over the years.

1990s: Painfully Slow Drifting Exchange

1990s fax machine

The nineties are earmarked by grotesquely large phones and bulky office hardware. While cordless phones may trigger painful flashbacks for us today, two decades ago we saw it as a shift toward progressive telecommunications. And though the nineties saw a record number of businesses adopting computers, the creative review process was still mostly resigned to copy machines and color printers. You might have seen approvals or projects communications pushed through fax machines, painfully aware of the fact that most fax messages were little more than ink splotches on tissue-thin paper.

Despite the first step toward the collective adoption of technology, the bulk of the creative review process was still carried out by couriers and FedEx. There were many late night trips to the printer or delivery drop boxes, and creative assets were still something viewed as a hard copy that traded multiple hands before it reached a final version.

2000s: Email Picks Up the Pace

email icon

In the 2000’s, the creative review and approval process saw faster communications by sharing PDF files via email and FTP servers that allowed computers within a network to share files. The mobile economy was in its infancy; so while smartphones were still a decade away, we did begin relying on email to speed up communications. For the creative review and approval process, this meant increased productivity that helped move a project along faster than relying solely on couriers, in-person, or phone communications. We relied on hard copies for final creative review, but the steps before that were a little more optimized than the decade prior. However, the creative review and approval process was still another full decade away from being truly collaborative.

Today: Hardwired to Collaborate

modern review and approval process

Today, we have that level of engagement courtesy of a full transition to online review and approval. The creative review process is no longer crippled by a need for hard copy review. The advent of easy-to-use desktop publishing tools, along with online proofing, real-time collaboration, video conferencing, and project management software, has made it possible to experience a collaborative review and approval process.

Thanks to technology that has adapted to the needs of the modern workforce, the creative review process has shifted beyond being just a review; we can now call it creative strategy development or creative collaboration. Today, clients have the option of being part of the creative process as needed from the start of a project. Rather than getting a pitch after a concept has been developed, clients are now able to influence that development.

What it all shows is that the nature of work has changed. The last two decades were marked by presentation, by the delivery of creative assets for the review process. Today, the creative process is defined by the ability to foster a hybrid team made up of creatives and their clients. And the review and approval process have fully moved online, allowing all parties to be engaged in it from anywhere in the world.

If you haven’t yet moved to an online review and approval process, here are three tips on where to start:

Tip 1: Determine your review and approval expectations

Most organizations produce a variety of materials. It is important that you take into consideration the types of collateral and media you will be reviewing and ensure that your solution provides the appropriate review tools. For example, if you produce catalogs, you will need to do page-by-page reviews instead of reviewing a single, large document. Producing text-heavy materials will require text markup tools rather than drawing tools.

You should also consider the file types that are used to create your materials to make sure that your online proofing software works with each e.g. Adobe InDesign, Microsoft Word, SFW, or web pages.

Most organizations also experience peaks in workload. Be sure to check that your solution provides the flexibility you need to handle fluctuations in volumes, storage, and the number of reviewers.

smartphone approval

Tip 2: Define workflow stages

The solution you select should work within your existing workflow and offer flexibility to improve your workflow easily.

Talk to your stakeholders to understand the issues that your organization faces with your current workflow. Getting their input will help you justify the implementation of a new online review and approval software and ensure high levels of user adoption when you deploy. You will need to know how you want to build your workflow and how many stages your projects typically need.

Tip 3: Find the online proofing solution that’s right for your business

The final step is to find the application that will meet your organization’s need. Make sure to carry out thorough research of what’s available in the market, compare different solutions, justify your selection, and evaluate the solution you choose against items like user interface, features, functionality, service support, and user training.

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