How to Start an In-House Creative Department Part 1: The Job Sheet

In 2012 I was hired by Enterasys Networks (now Extreme Networks) to be an in-house designer. At the time, the company was using the services of two different creative agencies. Enterasys’ main concerns were 1) the cost of external agencies and 2) the delay in getting requests completed. I was brought in to address both of these issues. Since then, I have built up a team to address the high volume of design/creative requests that we receive.


The job sheet is our [insert your favorite holy scripture here]. Without this, the department would be thrown into chaos. Emails can get missed or accidentally deleted. Hallway conversations or phone calls can be forgotten, or worse, misconstrued. But once a job is logged to the Job Sheet, it will be completed.

Because I’ve worked as a designer in both an agency setting, as well as an in-house agency setting, I immediately set about creating a system to track projects. It took me two days to build the perfect project spreadsheet, but it was, by far, the most valuable item that has contributed to my/our current success.

Our job tracking sheet is a Google spreadsheet. This sheet tracks the following information for every project we receive.

Our job tracking sheet is a Google spreadsheet. This sheet tracks the following information for every project we receive.

  • Job Number
    The form system we use for submitting design/creative requests (more on this in a future post) automatically assigns a number. This number can be used as both a project number and/or a document number.
    Once a document has been assigned a number, it will retain this number, no matter how many times it is resubmitted for edits. Future edits can be submitted as a design/creative request, and the system will assign it a new number. At this point, the document retains its original number, but for job tracking purposes, it now has a different project number.
  • Associated Job Number
    This field serves two purposes. 1) if the project is to update an older document, this field will show the original document number. 2) if the project is part of a larger set of deliverables (everything related to a product launch, or everything associated with a major corporate event) this field will show the original project number that this project ties back to.
  • Kick Off Date
    When was the job submitted? This one is pretty clear-cut. And it will help in a future field.
  • Contact
    Who submitted the project? This is the person who will receive the proof and is the primary point of contact for the creative team. If there are multiple stakeholders that will contribute to this document, it’s up to the Contact to organize their feedback. They become the conduit between the creative team and everyone else associated with that project.
  • Project Details
    This is the area where all of the details for the original project are collected. I usually like to keep this high level. It’s a quick view of the project. Nitty gritty details can be included in the Current Status field.
  • Due Date
    This is not the date it has to be released or go to print. This is the date the reviewer needs to see a proof. There are times when a project will go through several rounds of edits. It’s good to have this time built in before you start.
  • Days To Go
    My spreadsheet uses a formula that tells us how many days until the due date, minus weekends and holidays. These fields also change color based on how close we are to the deadline. 3 days to go: light yellow. 2 days to go: yellow. 1 day to go: orange. 0 days to go: red. Past due: black!
    It’s never fun to open the job sheet in the morning and see a bunch of red fields screaming that they have to be addressed that day.
  • Current Status
    Every communication or action with the Contact is recorded here. An example: 5/12 – Jim sent proof to John. 5/13 – John sent edits. 5/13 – Jim sent new proof to John. 5/14 – John approved.
    This can end up being a large field, but it’s a great way to protect yourself when someone claims they didn’t receive a proof. And if another designer has to pick up the project, they’ll know where you left off.
  • Open/Closed
    This is a Data Validation field. The options are “Open,” “Closed,” or “On Hold.” This column is also sortable so at the end of the week after I send my weekly summary, I sort the column to only show “Open” and all of the Closed or On Hold jobs disappear from view.
  • Assigned To
    As the department grew, this field had to be added so we can all see who is working on a project. It also helps to see who might have time to tackle rush jobs that always seem to pop up. Speaking of which…
  • Time Allotted to Design
    Another metric I measure for my weekly updates. Very often we are asked to turn around projects in a very tight time frame. I now subtract the Due Date from the Kick Off Date to see how much time people give us to work our magic.

Our team has relied on this job sheet for the past 3 years. We are a small department and usually have more than 100 active jobs at any one time. Without this document, things would fall through the cracks. Initially, it wasn’t easy to get everyone on board with this process. But it’s worked out very well so far.

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