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Staying in Sequence – The Importance of Working in Stages

by Taylor Slattery | November 17, 2022

Creative work is exactly that—work. And in order for it to work, you need to follow a process. Like a recipe, there is significance to the order of the steps and doing things out of order makes the whole process unnecessarily complicated when it’s really quite simple. Imagine trying to add chocolate chips to a cookie once it’s already been baked. The time for that has long passed.

Workflows vary between industry, company, and individual but generally follow the pattern of starting with a problem or challenge and exploring potential solutions before landing on the best option and further refining it over the course of several stages until you’ve arrived at the final product. The idea being, to work from broad to narrow, with each successive stage becoming increasingly focused as the thing being produced begins to reveal itself.

Because this is the most efficient way to work, creative collaboration should happen in exactly the same way. It wouldn’t make sense for a model to ask a photographer who’s shooting with film to pause a photo shoot mid-way so they can develop their roll and check their shots, nor would it make sense for a designer to build the layout of a magazine spread for an article that has yet to be written.

Unfortunately, when working with teams where ownership of the project’s various aspects is divided, due to deadlines, revisions, and a number of other factors serving to complicate things, working in a linear fashion can sometimes become difficult. However, it’s exactly in situations like these where following an agreed-upon set of steps is especially important. A project’s success depends on a mutual understanding of what needs to happen and when and who is responsible for what.

Projects have many different teams involved whose ability to work depends on the completed work of the team prior. Take a massive production like film-making for example. Before the audio engineers can mix and master, the editors need to put together a rough cut and before they can do that, the shots need to be planned and filmed. Before filming, costumes need to be made and before that can happen, concept artists need to design them. And none of this can be done without a script.

Breaking this order, for example, by changing your mind about a costume during the editing stage after you’ve already filmed everything would create a massive headache for everyone involved. This is why sticking to the sequence of a workflow is so important when working with teams. Keeping everyone on the same page makes for smoother collaboration and less wasted time.


Taylor is the Managing Editor of Notes on Design. Taylor is a graphic designer, illustrator, and Design Lead at Weirdsleep.


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