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How Creative Firm Advent Streamlined Client Approval for Large-Scale Sports Facilities Design

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About Advent

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.

“Our work ranges from graphics and branding all the way up to what we would call experience creation. What are people going to react to when they walk in the building? What's going to keep them in the building? What's going to entice them to interact with the building? Maybe it's within one facility, maybe it's throughout the entire campus. That’s the majority of the work we do,” explained Brewer Owen, Advent’s PR Specialist.

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The Challenge: Managing PDF Proofing for Hundreds of Custom Projects

Because Advent’s projects often span multiple sites and facilities—visitors centers, exhibits, sports arenas, meeting rooms—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.

Prior to using online proofing, the firm relied on PDF markup 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. 

“Prior to Ziflow, 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. 

Prior to Ziflow, 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.

Mandi Cannon, Advent Operations Manager

The Solution: One Collaborative Record of Changes

Advent conducted a year-long search for an online proofing tool 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 proofing features within a project management framework. Ultimately, the firm decided on using Ziflow because its standalone proofing environment could provide flexible, one-click access for Advent’s clients. Plus, direct plug-ins with other project management and other collaboration tools meant the team could still incorporate proofing into those systems in the future without limiting the client experience.

“One of the barriers in the past to our online collaboration 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 to 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.

One of the barriers in the past to our online collaboration 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 to the content. It created much higher adoption for our clients.

Mandi Cannon, Operations Manager

 

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:

  • Turn initial consultation notes into a proof demonstrating that client requirements were built into the initial design proposal.
  • Add new articles, photos, and content sent from the client to the same proof as designs evolved, keeping all related design proofs, comments, and change in one place.
  • Enable different athletic department leaders to access the same proof, provide feedback directly to the design team on the display elements that related to their sport or area of expertise.
  • Assign internal deadlines and use proof tagging to direct different teams to the exact content and feedback they need to address among hundreds of proof pages.
  • Provide project managers with a real-time master view of all project flows, internal and external review tasks, and proof approval statuses.

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Advent used Ziflow to proof hundreds of display designs for The University of Texas Hall of Fame. Leaders at each athletic department were able to access proofs and provide feedback on the designs that apply to their sport, in one place.

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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 if the total number of pages changes from version to version.

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.”

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Side-by-side comparison allows the design team to quickly review the same content even as on-page elements and page numbers change between versions. 

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:

  • Instantly find the proper art files to update or change. 
  • Get a full view into the internal project history, context, and status.
  • Confirm that new designs match previous artwork.
  • More quickly complete updates and send new artwork to the client without relying on email or PDF.

“We always have a knowledge base of who our clients are and what their brand guidelines are. Now, we can 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,” said Cannon.

That 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 exactly when changes were implemented in the design.

“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. “Just because we’re adopting an online platform, Ziflow’s not replacing those face-to-face interactions. 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?’”

 

Benefits

With Ziflow, Advent is able to manage complex design review across facilities, stakeholders, and projects by:

  • Using one space for internal design production and external client review and revisions.
  • Producing a system of checks and balances that demonstrates design revisions to clients from planning to installation. 
  • Eliminating reliance on email communication, PDF markups, and manual printing.
  • Creating a full record of client project dynamics and providing access to the entire comment trail and history of changes for every client project. 

In addition to continuing to use Ziflow for its client approval process, the company plans to start using intake forms to manage design review with the firm’s subcontractors and vendors. 

“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.

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."

Mandi Cannon, Operations Manager

 

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