Creative firm streamlines client approval for large-scale sports facilities design
Nashville-based design and build firm Advent specializes in creating custom facility design and engagement experiences for professional sports teams, universities and college athletics departments, and corporate clients across the US.
The firm’s 80-person team works closely with clients like the Dallas Cowboys, the University of Southern California, and Providence College to craft unique brand identities and engaging storytelling across multiple facilities. Through tailored interactive displays, exhibits, and more, Advent uses its custom design process to create experiences that impact the audience and fan experience, activate donor and sponsorship needs, and achieve major strategic goals for athletic and university organizations.
Advent’s projects often span multiple sites and facilities, from visitors centers to exhibits, sports arenas, meeting rooms, and more. As such, many different reviewers are typically involved in approving design proofs from initial consultation through project installation.
“Every single delivery is a custom solution. We don’t rinse and repeat, which means there are a lot of moving parts,” explained Mandi Cannon, Advent’s Operations Manager. “A project might start with a single client-contact, then involve a facilities team, and so on. Some people are focused on design, others are focused on the physical installation. There are a lot of different stakeholders within the project team.”
Previously, the firm relied on PDF markups to facilitate internal design review. The project management team would then email design proofs to the client, who would print them out, manually add markups, and scan or ship back their changes.
“We lost a lot of the commenting in that process. A lot of the intention or reason behind the changes could get lost in translation as it was shown to new people,” explained Cannon. With over 100 projects in progress at any given time and each design proof often totalling over 300 pages, the firm needed a better way to centralize feedback and confirm revisions with clients throughout the production cycle.
Advent conducted a year-long search for a creative collaboration solution that could streamline both internal review for its designers and the external client approval process.
The team considered implementing systems like Wrike and MavenLink that included some review features within a project management framework. Ultimately, the firm selected Ziflow because its creative collaboration environment could provide flexible, one-click access for Advent’s clients. Direct plug-ins with other project management and other collaboration tools meant the team could still incorporate review and approval into those systems in the future without limiting the client experience.
“One of the barriers in the past has been people not knowing how to log in or needing to share content with someone else. One of the things that really stood out to us about Ziflow was we could do just that. You click the email, it takes you straight into the content. It created much higher adoption for our clients,” explained Cannon.
Advent now uses Ziflow to create one history of record for all design work from the initial consultation all the way through project archival. All project files for each client and comments and changes related to those files are kept in one client project folder.
For example, the firm first used Ziflow to manage client approval when designing the The University of Texas Athletics Hall of Fame inside the school’s famed football stadium. Designing the attraction for the space required gathering thousands of articles, names, historical articles, and data points from different teams, incorporating that data into the graphics, and working with each athletic director to approve the content related to their sport.
By using Ziflow to streamline this process, Advent’s design team was able to:
Projects that span so many physical spaces also create a huge variation in page numbers between production design sets. Advent’s design team can now use side-by-side comparison at the page level to accurately review changes even as on-page elements and page numbers change between versions. Assigning tasks and deadlines also helps the entire design team deliver projects on quick deadlines while working on the many interconnected graphics in a project.
"Usually our timelines are really quick. People sometimes only have three hours to get to the proof to review it because we don't want to hold up the process,” said Cannon. “It has significantly reduced the amount of emails related to a proof because it's more collaborative inside the walls of a response that's correlated to the actual picture for what you're looking at.”
Having one record of project dynamics is also an invaluable asset when the agency needs to update designs for its clients or reference previous work, such as adding a new name plate or year to an awards display.
Instead of having to manually search through PDFs, any designer coming into the project can immediately access previous design files and all the contextual history of comments and changes about those files to:
“We always have a knowledge base of who our clients are and what their brand guidelines are. Now, we can quickly get to the information that we're trying to find on previous projects. If the baseball team wants something this way or volleyball team is asking for something that may not be brand cohesive, having the record of why something was changed on a previous project with Ziflow has been helpful.”
Mandi Cannon, Advent Operations Manager
Expert knowledge base ultimately fuels Advent’s client engagement model, which is founded on the same personalized interactions built in the firm’s design approach. Importantly, using Ziflow has enhanced the face-to-face client experience by demonstrating a checks and balances system that shows clients exactly when changes were implemented.
“Our team will still start the first review together in person and talk through it, marking up the paper proofs. Clients still like that aspect of discussion in live time,” said Cannon. “Once that initial discussion happens, the person that's responsible for updating all the design now has a way to say, ‘"Did we actually implement all the things we discussed?’”
With Ziflow, Advent is able to manage complex design review across facilities, stakeholders, and projects by:
Ultimately, Ziflow’s strong customer support makes implementing new initiatives easy for the team—enabling designers to focus on building creative solutions for clients, not chasing down feedback.
“I've been really impressed with Ziflow's responsiveness and their support. Anytime we have a question, we immediately have somebody who will talk through how we can make the tool do some of the things that we need it to. That's been really helpful to have such a great implementation and support team once you are a user,” said Cannon.
Mandi Cannon, Advent Operations Manager
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