At their core, all creative deliverables are customized products. One of the most magical things about design and animation is that they are like liquid fitting into a container. This magical quality can also become a downfall for creators and customers when creative projects try to fit into too many containers, spill out over time, or dry up because the shape is never defined. 

Far too often, when you ask marketing teams how their latest project is going, you will hear something like, “Ummm… okay, but we just can’t get this last project with our agency completed”. For companies, that means that teams may have missed their relevant launch window, opportunity costs are piling up, or internal processes are breaking down. For agencies, that translates to specific projects that have destroyed cash flow, your external/internal communication has broken down, or your team has not developed a baseline set of mutual expectations. 

Creative projects that nail the brief on time mutually benefit all parties. However, if the common goal is so obviously mutually beneficial, why do some break down? Below, I have listed a few common causes and what you can do to avoid this on your next project or turn around your current one. 


Commonly, the problem originates before you start the first round of work. So many clients and vendors ride the wave of dopamine like a surfer on a wave of emotion. And when an idea pops up, we rush to set up meetings with vendors and enter into contracts shortly after that. Internal teams rush the process due to the urgency of a leader, and vendors don’t want to stop the momentum, so we are left like a mouse checking out a new piece of cheese. Unlike the mouse, the consequences of our poor decisions are not swift and unmistakable. Here are a few questions to ask BEFORE you get quotes or start processes from vendors: 

  1. Do we have the authority to make this decision? 
  2. Do all stakeholders have the time to dedicate to kick-off meetings and ongoing approvals?
  3. Based on internal and external market events, is this the right time for the organization?
  4. Why shouldn’t we do this project? Do the pros outweigh the cons?

If I had a time machine, I would be traveling right now to tell my past self to ask these questions when I was on either side of the table. While these seem so common sense, they get overlooked repeatedly. Write these down, or make it the agenda for your first internal meeting. For vendors, those questions might look like this: 

  1. Why this project, and why now?
  2. Is doing nothing an option?
  3. What are the positive and negative consequences of this project?
  4. And what are the answers to the previous questions :)? 

If one question can kill the momentum of a project, then it is the question that must be asked. There is a reason that builders survey the landscape before breaking ground. Be brave for 5 seconds to avoid a condemned project due to a cracked foundation. 

If your project is off track, it is still okay to ask these questions. Revisiting these questions may uncover the root cause of your delays. Questions are your friend. Discourse and disagreement are only bad when both parties are not working toward mutually beneficial solutions. 


While most human-to-human problems ultimately boil down to communication, it is essential to establish solid communication between vendor and client for creative projects because design can be so subjective—nuisance and subtly tricky to communicate over an email, text, GIF, or emoji. Creative projects MUST have live person-to-person communication with audio and video. In the last few months, I have heard clients use a mix of verbal and nonverbal communication to relay feedback that would be impossible to encapsulate in words. In animation, little sound effects are an accepted and encouraged form of communication. “Zoom,” “bop,” and “sshhhewooor” are all excellent ways to communicate movement. 

If your vendor is not recording meetings, they should begin. Often, agencies cannot have their entire teams on the call. The information from those meetings is expected to be relayed to designers and animators. Having specific time stamps ready to send to teams can often avoid the game of design telephone where communicated changes become future mistakes. On the flip side, not all customers can have their teams on the call, and a recording can be beneficial for providing context outside of the raw images or animatics. 

Every creative project needs to have lined out milestone meetings complete with what will be delivered, what will be covered, and what the ideal outcome of that conversation would be. It is important to note that if your schedule includes no discovery time, that is a red flag. One or two well-run discovery sessions can save weeks. To be precise, electronic forms of communication are acceptable and expected; however, for crucial stages of the project, live human-to-human communication should not be overlooked. 


Within creative projects, feedback is the oil that keeps the machine running. Most projects are organized to make incremental progress so that your team can provide feedback on concepts early for efficiency and cost savings. Much like animation is an art, feedback is also an art that requires guidance and practice. And it is something that BOTH parties must engage in to make the end project a success. The type of feedback and who needs to give the feedback is important to define at each stage. 

Every stage should come with something like “This is what we are looking to accomplish, and this is the type of feedback we are looking for.” For example, in the early stages of projects, the type of work tends to be more conceptual, with more focus on ideas and less on details. During this stage, it is vital to resist the urge to rush toward rigid manifestations or hyper-focus on the quality of the rough sketches. Many people don’t know what the concrete looks like on the foundation but benefit from its security. At this stage, it is imperative to have your higher-level decision-makers provide feedback about the concept and direction and not the crude visual outputs. 

As the foundation begins to form, changing it can be costly and time-consuming. Ensure your team is doing their due diligence to provide clear instructions on the type of feedback you are looking for and when you need it. Squeezing in feedback with an executive who traveled three time zones at the last minute sets no one up for success. I have found that blocking out time in their schedule with attachments and the type of feedback they seek benefits all involved. And whatever you do, keep a written record of the feedback. Undocumented rushed feedback fuels the nightmares of most experienced marketers and creatives because it is amongst the highest-ranked offenders for the finance department’s most wanted list. Your feedback plays a foundational role in the creative process. 


Because creative projects are only successful when both parties are doing their job, mutual accountability is paramount. Most scopes of work heavily emphasize vendor accountability for specific deliverables by specific dates. However, they tend to be light on what is expected of the client. 

When you enter into a relationship with a creative agency, you also commit to providing timely feedback and payment. Clients should understand that time is money, and most successful agencies are not waiting around for the phone to ring for feedback. If you cannot provide clear, timely feedback, you can expect delays in your final deliverable and/or higher costs. 

We all understand that things happen and only sometimes go according to plan. While deadlines might change, planned accountability should not. We are not assuming that all agencies are clear communicators or hit their deadlines based on the precise consumption of your feedback. Accountability should not be implied; it should be defined and discussed at the start of the project. 

If your project has gotten off track and you did not plan for accountability, I suggest making that the only agenda item for your next meeting. 


Many of these areas mentioned above can be wrapped up in a nice container called a process. Your creative agency should provide structure by outlining a transparent process from start to finish so your team clearly understands each step and why. 

Additionally, you should share your internal processes for making decisions and how your team plans to use the creative deliverable. If you don’t trust your vendor enough to share these basic details, then I suggest not entering into an agreement in the first place. Often, projects break down because of a need for more understanding of how their respective parts impact one another. 

If your project does not have a process, then you should work to build some scaffolding immediately to help begin to bring it to a close. 

Overall, these items can also be viewed through the lens of building trust. Trust is not built through a series of yeses of vague understandings. Instead, it is through a thorough and intentional understanding, questioning, and accountability journey. When you invest your time, you should expect a return on the end deliverable and for a relationship that you can depend on for years. 

Kru Creative would welcome the opportunity to build relationships with your team for design and animation projects. We also encourage human-to-human communication. Please schedule a time on our calendars to discuss your current situation or next project.

We look forward to hearing from you. 

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