April 2019

The Role of a Studio Manager

3 minutes

Studio Manager, Account Manager, Project Manager, Traffic Manager are all fairly similar in role description when it comes to a creative agency.

Each is an integral part of any client-facing business, whether it be a small agency that only requires one or two of these roles or a large company that requires multiple individuals in each area of creative and resource management.

Can you study to be a Studio Manager? It depends on which direction you want to take. If you are more creative and want to be hands-on in the creative process you can study Graphic Design and work your way up the ladder into Studio Management, Art Direction or a Senior Designer role depending on a company’s needs. Design management courses provide skills on how to foster great client relationships, creating and implementing workflow management processes and setting and maintaining budgets. Bite the bullet and get yourself a bit of both on the CV, it will benefit you in your understanding of design and processes and will give you that edge towards the job success victory dance.

Here’s a general rundown of what a Studio Manager gets up to:

  • Managing a project from briefing to completion – taking client briefs, consolidating clients needs, assigning designers to a project, managing outputs and ensuring deadlines are met. No matter what.
  • Creating and implementing workflow and project management processes to make for a smooth, efficient project lifecycle
  • Reviewing daily resource and workload schedules and booking freelancers when it gets a little crazy busy
  • Creating estimates for studio time, printing and print management
  • Keeping everyone up to date on the status of a project – stakeholders, clients and the team
  • Quality control – does the design adhere to the client brief? A must.
  • Proofreading – double, triple checking of documents before they fly out of the inbox
  • Assessment and debrief management – celebrating the wins and booing the losses, but discussing solutions to improve for next time
  • Administration – archiving and backing up the back up (do it, you won’t regret it), file management and ensuring a steady flow of social media content (when you don’t have an SM manager)
  • Keeping things in line – managing the team’s feedback, annual leave requests, birthday cakes, dishes… anything that’s needed around the office!
  • Design and Creative Direction – if you come from a design background and the structure of a company requires it, you may also work on the creative side assisting with design and providing creative direction.

Most importantly, the Studio Manager provides support to the team and a point of call to funnel information between client and studio. Without this integral role, much of the management of a project falls on a designers’ shoulders, allowing less time for the creative design and artworking itself. Being a personable character is also an important trait of a Studio Manager. Does the team want to work with an unsupportive task manager with zero empathy and a chip on their shoulder? No. It’s about teamwork in creative, and a happy studio makes for an enjoyable work environment, increased productivity and an all-round warm fuzzy feeling.

Of course, as with any role, there are challenges – learning to say ‘no’ but providing an alternative, understanding and navigating client team politics, and balancing individuals wants and needs on a professional and personal level. There are by no means a single set of rules or best practices that project and studio managers can whip out and refer to. It all comes down to communication, respect and teamwork, constantly re-evaluating processes and learning how to balance constraints and freedoms to achieve the best end result.

Stephanie Leak is Studio Manager at NU Creative, specialists in design and branding.

NU Creative have been supporting people like HIREWORKS, Enfield Council and Ed Broking with their design projects. We are passionate about creating truly stand out designs for our clients. Get in touch to find out how we can help you evolve.



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