As the leader of an in-house creative services department, your responsibility is to ensure that all work developed by your team measures up to departmental quality standards, follows corporate messaging and branding guidelines, and meets clients' needs. One of the best ways to ensure you are consistently achieving this is to conduct internal reviews of work in progress.

In-house reviews are your best opportunity to ensure that copy and visuals work together and meet the requirements addressed in the creative brief and tie back to overarching corporate messaging and graphic standards. You will also want to be sure that the proposed concepts can be achieved within the client's budget and time frame.

Value of Internal Reviews
An internal review is also the most effective way to make sure your team is meeting the performance requirements you hold for the group. It is a high-quality tool you can leverage and should be a routine step in your creative development process.

Use in-house reviews (1) to assess the best overall direction you should take your team, (2) to provide direction to your team's efforts and (3) to keep the project on track. All substantive work should pass an in-house review before the final creative is presented to the client. This step can earn you credibility with clients who will see you as thorough and conscientious, and it can also prevent embarrassing missteps.

In-house reviews have quantitative and qualitative benefits; they:

  • Improve creativity and elevate work to a higher level
  • Guard against "cookie cutter" solutions or off-the-wall solutions that are strategically unsound
  • Ensure efforts target the right audience
  • Make certain that solutions are practical and within the client's budget
  • Detect defects early, allowing time for course correction, redirection and improvement
  • Narrow the options to the concepts that show the most promise

What is Effective Direction?
Effective creative direction should be done thoughtfully. Feedback is essential to developing ideas; it gives the creative team greater perspective, which will help make better choices moving forward. Seasoned creative teams know the positive impact that a great creative leader can have on the final product and, as a result, welcome their leader's feedback and perspective on their work.

Effective direction:

  • Requires putting aside personal preferences and focusing on what will work best within the client's schedules and budget
  • Provides the creative team early validation of whether or not the proposed solution(s) meets the requirements and addresses the project's goal
  • Focuses the critique on the project, not the people who created it
  • Motivates and sharpens your team's creative thinking
  • Keeps ego and personal agenda out of the conversation
  • Provides encouragement to overcome creative road blocks
  • Educates and helps creative team members grow

Why Creative Individuals Resist the Idea of Creative Reviews
Creative teams cringe at the idea of internal creative reviews if the reviews are not handled properly. Too often, from the view of individual team members, the reviews are unorganized, unfocused, take up valuable time and do not provide true value. Some creatives fear evaluation as it kills their love for doing the creative activity. Others see reviews as "policing" which demotivates them.

As the leader of your creative team, remember that your staff puts their heart and soul into developing their concepts and generally takes criticism personally. When offering input, put yourself in their shoes, making sure your feedback is direct, simple and tactful. Be specific on what works and what doesn't work. If you aren't, your input will back fire and yield negative results.

Here are common missteps you want to avoid:

  • Too much direction stifles creative team members' ability to explore new options, reduces morale and inhibits creativity
  • Intimidation makes the creative staff feel like management is judging their competencies
  • Being tactless sends the message that your feedback is subjective, uninformed and based solely on personal preference
  • Biased direction becomes emotional and often pits people against one another and creates an unhealthy win/lose situation
  • Pushing your own creative agenda squelches the creative team's enthusiasm to be innovative

How to Keep Creative Reviews Objective--Stick to the Creative Brief
Use the creative brief to establish a context for internal creative reviews. The creative brief positions the work in the context of specific objectives and provides a tool for measuring the effectiveness of the concepts and creative solutions. Failure to use a creative brief as the basis for reviews will result in work being judged on personal preference or a gut reaction and end with meaningless feedback. The best creative solutions emerge when teams can weigh solutions against the creative brief because it:


  • Reiterates the problem and ensures the project objectives were not lost between the kick-off meeting and subsequent work
  • Ties problems to objectives and recaps how design and messaging tie back to objectives--this is important incase the client raises questions and challenges your decisions.
  • Shows how you solved the problem and supports your creative recommendations with data points

Some Other Helpful Points



  • * Plan for reviews. Establish a set time for internal reviews. This will help everyone with time management. Allow ample time in the project time line for any changes resulting from the internal review to be implemented. Time boxing the discussion will help keep the review focused on the project's objectives and help curtail discussions from going off track.
  • * Hold the review in a neutral setting. Meet in a conference room or some other neutral setting that will lend itself to a more formal environment. It will eliminate unnecessary disruptions keeping those involved focused on the task at hand.
  • * Get the right people involved. Be sure all of the creative team members instrumental in the project attend the review. You may consider involving others (peers) to add a fresh and independent perspective.
  • * Reviews can serve as a dry run. Think of the review as a dry run of your actual client presentation. Running their ideas by you will help your creative team learn to better articulate their ideas to nonvisual people. The questions you ask may come up during their presentation to the client.

The best-organized creative services groups need an ongoing way to measure their effectiveness and benchmark their performance. Evaluating creative as a routine part of your process will lead to positive results for your team, your client and your company.