Over the years I have been working on creating and massaging office standards that not only help to maintain consistency within the office but are also something that team members are willing to use. I will say that the biggest challenge has been on the side of user compliance, the standards themselves were not very difficult. If you start your company with standards in place, even if it is just a one-woman shop, scaling up for new employees will be a lot easier. People do not like change but will take to standards if they are encouraged, and enforced, on day one. This post focuses on standards for a design practice but can apply to virtually any business environment.
Why Use Project Standards?
It is crucial to be able to communicate with everyone collaborating on a project. The various documents utilized for a project serve as a central source to collaborate and share information on a project. Therefore, standards such as consistent layer names, document templates, colors, text styles, and procedures may be necessary to share information accurately and consistently with all members of a project, including designers, managers, marketing, and sales associates, production or construction staff, contractors vendors, and clients. The Standards ensure that all drawings within a project or company use the same layer names, dimension styles, linetypes, text styles, and so on.
Imagine the frustration and inefficiency of working with a set of drawings for one project created by several drafters using several methods, each drawing having its own set of layer names, dimension styles, linetypes, and text styles! Standards provide better coordination among teams, a more efficient design process, and ultimately increased production and profits. Standards are also an important factor in producing documents that look professional rather than thrown together. So, remember that no standard is any less important than another.
My goal in collaborations is to work effectively and efficiently as a team to produce high quality, consistent documents. While seeking unique presentation methods, I maintain focus on the fact that these drawings shall be legible and well organized for the utmost efficiency in the construction stages of the project. This goal is achievable only if everyone complies with these office standards and submits suggestions to improve the Standards to the standards manager for consideration.
Note: The above section is reposted from a blog entry previously composed for Rittiluechai Architecture.
What Types of Standards Should My Office Have?
Essentially, if there is something that you need to generate for the office it should follow a standard. If there is a document you need to create more than once, it should follow a template that was also generated based on the standards. Below I have developed a list of common areas that require office standards to help you get started:
Standards do not only ensure efficiency when working in teams, they also ensure consistency of branding. Branding is important because it delivers the message of your company to your potential clients. The following are a few areas that you will need to think about in order to develop your brand standards:
How will your logo be presented when it must be scaled down to fit on a return address label? What if it is scaled up for a billboard? Can your logo colors change? Does the logo design change when it is in black and white? What style of fonts are appropriate and in what situations are they to be used?
If you ask a team member or third party to make an ad and then later ask a different person to make an ad, don't you want them to appear as if they came from a single entity? This is where standards and templates come into play. These can be as simple or as complicated as needed for your own brand. Many corporations have pages and pages of do's and don'ts related how to use white-space, fonts, margins, slogans etc. What kinds of marketing standards might you need? Standards for Postcards, Brochures, Holiday Cards, Business Cards, etc. User Image, Banner, Ad Standards etc for social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, Houzz and LinkedIn.
Word Document Standards
It doesn't have to be "Word," I actually use G Suite. But no matter what word processing platform you use, you want to develop templates for every type of document you may need to issue. A good place to start is to create a company letterhead that can form the basis of for developing standards for transmittals, letters of recommendation, proposals, etc.
Ever get an email from someone whose signature is unprofessionally composed of twenty colors, personal/religious/political statements, and uses comic sans? Hopefully, this person isn't on your design team. Do you want that person to decide how to fashion their email signature when working for your company? If that person is you, apologies, you do you. But for most businesses, it is best to have a consistent template that is followed for generating email signatures. Short and sweet with no graphics is best: First/Last Name, Title, Company, Phone, Address, Company Slogan, Social Media Links, and perhaps a gentle request to save paper by not printing. Try to use the same font styles you selected when working on your logo and document standards.
Communication Log & Process
If someone is working with a client and gets sick or goes on vacation, you want to be able to know important meetings or conversations they had without calling that person. Having standards in place for logging important meetings, calls, texts, etc can save a lot of headaches. Try not to make the logging process too tedious to help ensure that your team will not be too bothered by following procedure.
Develop a system for exactly how certain types of files should be stored both physically and digitally. You can you something like G Suite's drive to share digital files with team members and clients. No matter what you choose for file storage, be consistent. Don't use Dropbox for one project then switch to Google for the next; you'll quickly forget where things are. Same for hard copies, store them all in a dedicated area so that anyone in the office knows where to look.
Employee Conduct and Dress Code
What your employees wear can be a continuation of your branding. What is appropriate for your business type and style? Do you need employees to dress in a certain manner daily or only when a client visit is planned? I personally prefer to dress casually but in a client ready manner. Your employee manual should include dress code along with expectations of conduct.
This sounds like a lot of work.
Developing standards for your company involves a lot of thought and time. However, once established you and your team can get right to work without having to worry about formatting and where Larry may have placed that file before he left for his 3-week vacation to the middle of nowhere.
Need some help?
WHF offers bespoke branding services on a limited basis. Send information about your company's needs and we will see if we are a good fit to work together.