Design projects, also known as creative projects, are a particular flavor of digital projects. They require massive amounts of participation and collaboration because there is high dependency between departments to complete a job. Chances are you will not be working on one project only, so you need a tool that can help you and your team manage multiple projects at the same time.
Even though I’m covering these tools from a design-focused and client approval lens, remember that design is not the only component. In website design projects, for example, it’s important to have a good looking site. Equally important is to have a content creation process because that’s what will make the reader stay after being lured by the design.
Enough of my blabbing, let’s go to the tools!
What do I look for when I select the best design project management software? Here’s a summary of my evaluation criteria:
- User Interface (UI): Does it offer clear displays and intuitive navigation that your team members would like to use?
- Usability: How easy is it to move the content from one stage to the other and alert teams of what is happening with the project? Additionally, I want to see if it’s easy to manage files efficiently and access team members through built-in communication features.
- Integrations: I’ll look for pre-built integrations with Adobe’s Creative Suite (Photoshop, Premiere Pro, InDesign, Illustrator, etc). Anything that can help the team import or export their work, and make the transition to this software easier.
Design Project Management Software Key Features
- Briefs & Intake Forms: this simplifies the intake process with dynamic forms that allow your teams to set specific question flows for incoming requests, storing all these details in a central location.
- Visual, Customizable Workload Management: this includes project planning and task tracking features that help everyone manage their workloads. They should be able to see projects, tasks, deadlines, dependencies, and scheduling conflicts in a timeline, and track their progress on visual dashboards. And because each creative team works in its own unique way, custom approval workflows are a useful feature for defining and monitoring your work.
- Collaborative Feedback: feedback, revision, and collaboration is a major part of the creative process. The best project management system for creative teams should facilitate this process with real-time collaborative editing in a shared workspace, visual markups, feedback consolidation, and version control that clearly shows the item’s changes and approval history.
- Reporting Features: because of the nature of creative work, justifying the cost of creative teams can present a challenge—the best software includes beautiful, simple reports that illustrate your team’s progress and value to stakeholders.
- Budget Management: includes estimation, invoice management, billing, time-tracking, and financial reporting features that capitalize on project data already in your system, saving you from administrative headache.
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monday.com is a feature-rich tool that will allow you to handle almost any project that comes your way. Their creative request workflow template allows you to centralize all the design work in one place, standardize request intakes, organize and manage assets.
Want to start simple? Build a ‘creatives board’. It will give you some structure on the main table view, like a status and file column. Add a kanban view to your board, start changing the status to the stages of your design project cycle and voila! You have your first attempt at a design project board.
Once you upload files, anyone added to the board can click on it, add comments, and download files. Great to keep your client and team feedback in one place.
Designers rejoice! monday.com has developed a plugin for you to use with your Adobe Creative Cloud software. You can review the tasks assigned to you, read briefs, and upload designs directly to your monday.com account once you are done.
monday.com is free for up to 2 users and paid plans start at $8/user/month and offers a 14-day free trial.
Among the many use cases that ClickUp has, design work is definitely one of the top ones as the tool has templates for projects like clothing design, website design, interior design, graphic design, and more.
Design work requires a lot of interaction with clients and this pm tool is ready for it. It has proofing and annotation features that streamline content approval communications. Want to invite your client into the process? ClickUp lets you share a customized link to a task, where you can choose the information your client will have access to.
You can embed Figma and Invision designs directly in ClickUp. The software can also integrate with Adobe Creative Cloud through Zapier.
ClickUp is free with limited storage for an unlimited number of users. Paid plans start at $5/user/month and offer a free-trial.
Wrike is a powerful project management tool that will give you all the common features you are used to, like task management, resource management, and the ability to track project progress through dashboards and reporting… aaannnddd design-oriented features.
First thing I noticed is that they have a creative brief template to help you start your project on the right foot. If your work is properly planned, you will move into the design phase where you’ll need to go back to the client for comments and approvals. This is where you use version comparison.
Version comparison lets you see side-by-side multimedia content and comment so you don’t get lost with the ocean of comments coming your way from different projects.
Wrike’s integration with Adobe Creative Cloud lets your designers stay focused, allowing them to interact with the client without leaving Photoshop.
Wrike is free for up to 5 users. Paid plans cost from $9.80/user/month and come with a 14-day free trial.
Intelligencebank is a marketing operations platform designed for agency projects. Centralizing your digital assets, collaborating with team members, and approving content are only some of the features this tool has to offer.
What I really like about this tool is that when you look at a design you can access other versions of that work in a couple of clicks. Go to the pane on the right and click on the revision tab. Want to compare two versions? Simply select the two and the tool will display them side by side.
Intelligencebank integrates with Adobe Photoshop, InDesign, and other tools from Adobe’s creative suite.
Intelligencebank pricing is given upon request and grouped into 5 tiers.
Hive is a platform that is pleasing to the eye. Its UX and UI are great, it’s friendly and easy to learn. As any important project management platform, they have a use case for agencies! What I can tell you from before I wrote this article is that it’s already great to handle project management.
However, when you add the design-side of things, it’s super cool. The dashboard is great to track campaign progress and approvals. The kanban boards help keep track of designs, stages, and communication around them. Their mobile app means content can be approved faster.
Designers! Hive developed a plugin for Photoshop so you can proof your work and keep track of your tasks without leaving your design tool. Thousands of other integrations are available through Zapier.
Hive is free for up to 2 users. Paid plans cost from $12/user/month and come with a 14-day free trial.
Screendragon has capabilities in their software that help streamline creative production workflows. Version control, file sharing and automated approvals are only a few. They also pride themselves in having a software that was well-thought out and designed before it was developed. No patchy work here!
What I like about this tool is their version comparison feature. You can see side by side different versions of the same content being worked on, you can highlight a section with a free hand tool or forms, and track the history of changes and comments. Perfect for internal audits!
Screendragon has over a thousand integrations through Zapier.
Pricing is available upon request.
Gain is a collaboration and client approval tool that intends to assist with marketing content production. If you have been struggling with stakeholder approvals and input in your projects, this might be your solution.
After trying the tool, my favorite part is in the content detail view. When you are looking at a design, there is an option on the right panel to view the activity. This is a window that allows for your team to leave comments and will display, highlighted, approval comments to avoid confusion.
If you just want to follow up on your approvals and remove the other noise, you can click on an approval section to focus your conversation and see the stages in the approval workflow.
Gain lets you upload content from products like Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, and importing content from file sharing sites like Dropbox or Google Drive.
Gain is priced at $99/month for the first 10 users. $10 per user after that, and offers a 14-day free trial
Asana is a task management tool that is trusted by the likes of Amazon and Discovery. Their strengths have always lied around organizing your to-do lists, and preparing colorful kanban boards that let you visually manage your tasks.
When you have content uploaded in Asana you can click on the image and go to the ‘add feedback’ button. This will open a proofing feature for you to leave comments and open a subtask after you save so you can assign it to the one responsible for acting on it.
Asana integrates with tools like Adobe Creative Cloud and Lucidchart, and lets you access over a thousand integrations through Zapier.
Asana is free for up to 15 users and paid plans start at $10.99/user/month with a 30-day free trial period.
Design projects involve dozens of different media types that are normally difficult to upload to our project management tools. However, Ziflow supports over 1200 of them PLUS live and staged web pages and HTML5 banners 😱.
Besides having a very functional mobile version of the platform, I like Ziflow because it allows me to highlight areas of the multimedia file that I want to comment on. When the other person sees it though, it visually connects the written comment to the highlight with a line so I don’t get confused if I get 3 or more comments on the same design.
Ziflow integrates with Adobe Creative Cloud, Final Cut Pro, Google Drive, and many other apps through Ziflow Connect.
Ziflow is free for personal use. Paid plans start at $20/user/month and offer a 14-day free trial.
Teamwork is a creative project management software that will help you keep track of your ever-changing priorities so you can deliver on-time. This tool offers you a beautiful user interface and use of tags so it’s easy to do your job.
Although they don’t have a proofing feature so you can collaborate on content creation and approval, Teamwork has unlimited free access for clients, time tracking, and invoicing. So if your projects don’t require too much client interaction, you can use Teamwork up until you need an approval and write that beautiful email we all love sending.
Teamwork integrates with the Microsoft Office suite and thousands of apps through Zapier.
Teamwork is free for up to 5 users. Paid plans start at $10/user/month and offer a 30-day free trial.
The 10 Best Design Project Management Software Summary
14 days free trial
|From $8/user/month||Check out monday.com|
|From $5/user/month||Check out ClickUp|
14 days free trial
|From from $9.80/user/month||Check out Wrike|
|Pricing upon request||Check out Intelligencebank|
14 days free trial
|From $12/user/month||Check out Hive|
|Pricing upon request||Check out Screendragon|
14 days free trial
|From $99/month for the first 10 users||Check out Gain|
30 days free trial period
|From $10.99/user/month||Check out Asana|
14 days free trial
|From $20/user/month||Check out Ziflow|
|From $10/user/month||Check out Teamwork|
Here’s a few more that didn’t make the top list.
Kanban views that can easily map your design projects and keep everyone on track.
A work execution platform with useful content collaboration tool features and project dashboards to keep creative teams in sync
All-In-One Management Solution For Creative Agencies
Creative project management software for Google Workspace
Intuitive project management software for creative teams
Creative project management solution for enterprise
What Do You Think About This List?
That’s all folks! (in a Bugs Bunny voice). If you are still curious to find more tools, check out our list for creative agency project management. I also know you want more awesome project management content delivered right to your inbox, so join our Insider Membership Newsletter for fun facts, articles, and everything DPM.