11 Top Project Management Software for Designers
According to a recent survey, only 4% of businesses rate their efficiency as “excellent”, with 13% combined believing they are “below average” or “poor”.
How can you jump from the bottom bracket all the way to the top? Hint: the answer is in the title. Investing in project management software for designers can optimize your daily workflow and let you dedicate more time to what matters most: great visual design.
As logical as this sounds, the amount of project management apps available on the market complicates your choice. Instead of spending months onboarding your creative team for a design project management tool that will ultimately end up being too limited or too complicated for your needs, take a couple of minutes to find out more about the best software out there.
Key Features of Project Management Software for Designers
Sometimes it might not be enough to skim through a list of features some design project management software offers. Among a plethora of advanced features, which ones should you focus on?
Here are some of the main features that top software for design teams should offer:
- Polished User Experience
Is it cliche to say that creatives are visual thinkers? Maybe, but that doesn’t change the fact that design project management software should be easy to understand, and even easier to use. In general, having an intuitive user interface and navigation is a criterion most project management tools should meet to provide a great resource planning and project execution experience. Creative projects are no different.
- Flexibility for Individual Workflows
Your team members probably have different standards when it comes to how to best manage and track their workflows. Instead of settling for compromises, consider investing in a tool that provides enough flexibility to internal teams. Features such as customizable dashboards and project views can have a significant impact on your team’s collaboration and work satisfaction.
- Effortless Teamwork and Communication
If you need to use five different kinds of project management tools to cover your processes, then you’re taking a step backward rather than forward. This is why it’s best to invest in a tool with a wide range of features that can centralize your team communications and let them focus on their creative process. An example is a tool that allows real-time collaboration, such as writing and managing documentation, along with task management.
Learn all the ins and outs of project management: Mastering Agency Project Management: The Ultimate Guide
Taking these considerations in mind, we’ll now dive into the 11 best project management products for design teams.
1. Productive – The All-in-one Creative Project Management Software
Whether you’re a design studio, software development company, or marketing agency, Productive has what you need. As a leading end-to-end project management solution, Productive offers advanced, seamlessly interconnected features. This includes time tracking, custom management and resource planning insights, budgeting, billing, sales integrations, and docs.
Now let’s take a closer look at what Productive can do to simplify your management and design process.
Key Features Include:
Don’t let your information float in the ether. It’s easy to set up task dependencies with Productive’s task management and time tracking feature. Efficient management and precise data go hand in hand, and Productive lets you achieve both. Simplify your administrative tasks by seamlessly converting time into billable or non-billable hours, and processing time off and sick day requests through Productive.
In order to enable efficiency and productivity, Productive also lets you create and collaborate on documents with the real-time collaboration and communication tool: Docs. Docs are seamlessly integrated with your internal team’s task management. You can tag your team members and create tasks straight from a document.
You can also download Productive as a mobile app and stay in touch with your creative project no matter where you are.
Build budgets for your projects, whether fixed, hourly or mixed. Furthermore, if you’re on a retainer, you can easily set up your billing services with Productive’s recurring budgets feature. Productive provides agencies with a great system to streamline administrative tasks and keep the client in the loop, both on a management and financial level.
Budgeting for your projects empowers your business with essential insights – what is your profit margin? Is your budget close to running out? With consolidated project reports, Productive lets you anticipate these questions and adapt to any situation that may occur.
“Insights have become our central place to follow key metrics, analytics, numbers, graphs, and—simply said—the pulse of our agency. Currently, it’s hard to imagine what our jobs would look like without insights. It’s a lock-in feature for us, for sure.”
Infinum Scaled From 70 to 350 People In the Last Five Years Using Productive
Get long-term planning for current and future projects. Productive’s capacity management feature lets you visualize and forecast your utilization by taking into account not only your team’s efficiency and availability, but also individualized metrics such as seniority, team composition, and demand over time.
Why is optimal utilization important? Because it lets you get the most out of your team by making sure that no one is underworked or overburdened. In the long term, this will improve your profit and overall employee satisfaction, and let you scale your business through data-driven decisions.
See also: 11 Top Capacity Planning Software for Agency Project Managers
Productive can help your team work more efficiently, and your clients get a clear view of your progress. With multiple project views, including list view, spreadsheet format, board view, calendar view, and timeline view, your design team can pick and choose how they want to access and manage their workflow.
Onboarding your creative team is efficient thanks to a comprehensive tutorial and user-friendly design. According to Capterra reviews, “Productive is pretty easy to set up and the UI is very clean, modern, and not clunky in the least bit like many competitors”.
Integrations with other company-wide teams and processes will help you manage complex projects with ease, such as the in-built sales funnel that replaces cumbersome spreadsheets and lets you effortlessly turn won leads into projects.
- Plans start with the Essential plan at $9 per user per month, which includes essential features such as budgeting, project & task management, docs, time tracking, expense management, reporting, and time off management.
- The Professional plan includes custom fields, recurring budgets, advanced reports, billable time approvals, and many more for $24 per user per month.
- The Ultimate plan has everything that the Essential plan and Professional plan offer, along with the HubSpot integration, advanced forecasting, advanced custom fields, overhead calculations, and more for a custom price.
- You can also check out the Enterprise Plan with custom pricing for companies that would include more than 50 active users per month.
Productive offers a 14-day free trial, so you can check out if it is the right project management software option for you, commitment-free.
2. Basecamp – A Good Graphic Design Project Planning Software Solution for Internal Teams
Basecamp is a graphic design project management and team communication tool well-suited to small-scale organizations. As the main benefits of Basecamp, users highlight its range of essential features to facilitate teamwork, such as “centralized project creation, task assignment, deadline setting, and file sharing” (Source: G2).
- Communicate with teammates and view updates in real-time
- Track progress and deadlines with to-do lists
- Get a birds-eye and up-close project view with custom dashboards
- Manage file sharing and document storage
With a 30-day free trial, Basecamp is a great choice of project management software for designers who work in smaller teams with agile workflows and don’t want to immediately commit to an option. However, users report that Basecamp’s “reporting capabilities fall short of competing project management software in terms of comprehensiveness” (Source: G2). Additionally, features such as sales revenue forecasting and agency utilization insights are lacking.
Businesses with complex projects that could benefit from a complete picture of their creative project development would do well to consider more comprehensive project management systems instead.
3. ClickUp – A Creative Management Software Solution with Advanced Features
ClickUp is a comprehensive project management tool that offers both basic and complex features to help graphic design teams streamline their project planning and workflows. Users on Capterra recommend the tool to growing businesses due to its essential management features that support simpler projects and additional functionalities that streamline complex project timelines.
- Create a customizable interface with widgets
- Track your project progress with time tracking
- Quick invoicing with billable and non-billable hours
- Get data across the entire project with Gantt charts and custom reports
As ClickUp’s biggest downside, some users point out the steep learning curve. Some users also underline that the high level of workflow customization can feel slightly overwhelming even after the initial onboarding. Additionally, some complex features regarding agency utilization and profit forecasting are not present.
Overall, ClickUp is a great option for larger organizations that are willing to invest the time to use the online project management tool to its full potential. For smaller and mid-sized teams of graphic designers, as well as those interested in robust financial reports, it might be good to explore other available options.
4. Monday.com – A Fine Project Management Solution with User-Friendly Interface
Monday.com is a project management solution aimed at streamlining workflows and boosting teamwork for hybrid or remote teams across the entire project. Along with its basic features that enable project management, such as customizable dashboards and task management, users often praise the tool’s “intuitive” and “visually appealing” interface (Source: Capterra).
- Resource allocation and workload management
- Customizable project templates and dashboards
- Task management with time tracking features
- Define and track top-level goals & strategies
Although users are overall satisfied with the tool, they frequently report that the pricing plans for adding more team members could be more flexible. Moreover, Monday.com lacks some notable features when it comes to financial considerations, such as agency utilization and profit forecasting.
Monday.com is a great project management app for larger teams that use complementary tools for financial data, but growing businesses might want to look for options with centralized management, financial, and sales features.
5. Asana – A Great Software Solution for Designers with Essential Features
Asana is a creative project management tool that is frequently recommended for its flexible project views and user-friendly, intuitive interface. G2 users also report that the tool has a gentle learning curve and a wide range of features that are essential for custom workflows.
- Flexible project views with boards, lists, and calendars
- Tracking team progress through task management and goals
- Consolidate key project insights
- Integration with third-party apps and productivity tools
If you compare Asana to other comprehensive project management tools, features such as revenue forecasting, budgeting, and profitability tracking are either entirely lacking or could be better developed. Smaller and larger teams that are not looking for a project management tool with in-depth financial insights, but rather a more specialized option for project workflows, might want to consider Asana.
6. Jira – A Robust Project Management Tool for Software Development Teams
Jira is a robust project management tool with complex features aimed primarily at software development teams. However, thanks to its great usability, intuitive navigation, and user-friendly interface, as reported by users on G2, Jira is also a good creative project management software option for graphic designers.
- Supports agile workflows with Scrum and Kanban boards
- Optimized for bug tracking and reports
- Get critical reports and insights into your project sprints
- Integrates with development, communication, and design tools
As with other comprehensive tools such as ClickUp and Monday, the biggest downside of Jira is the initial learning curve, especially for teams that are completely new to agile methodologies. Businesses that are looking for a more flexible system with customizable features might want to look at a generalized graphic design project management software option instead.
7. Hive – A Management Software Solution for Complex and Individual Projects
Hive is a creative project management tool that provides businesses of all sizes, from startups to enterprises, with comprehensive project management features. Users report that their favorite thing about Hive, among others, is that it is adaptable across methodologies and project types (Source: G2).
- Customizable project views and dashboards
- Manage project scope with task lists and time tracking
- Determine your team capacity with reports
- Integrations with collaboration tools
Although Hive has many useful management features, users report limited customization options when it comes to project template statuses and that the budgeting feature lacks depth. Additionally, there is no financial forecasting feature, making it a less-than-ideal system for teams that are looking for a truly all-in-one solution.
8. Notion – A Fair Graphic Design Management Option
Notion is a task management software solution that keeps projects on track with customizable workflows and a proprietary real-time collaboration tool. Users love Notion’s flexibility and customizable features, highlighting that it helps them and their entire team stay organized and efficient.
- Build your flexible workspace with drag-and-drop
- Consolidate your project information in docs
- Break up project timelines into tasks
As for the downsides, multiple users have reported that the interface can be challenging for new timers, as well as that more robust features are only accessible through paid plans. Though Notion is a good graphic design project management option for teams interested in organizing their content, as well as structuring their to-do lists through task dependencies, advanced features for comprehensive resource management are lacking: for example, budgeting or profit forecasting.
9. Wrike – An Online Project Management Tool for Designing
Wrike is a versatile project management software solution that empowers teams to stay goal-oriented and maximize their performance. Users frequently praise Wrike for its flexibility and range of useful features.
- Time tracking and task organization with Gantt charts
- Resource allocation and optimization
- Fully-fledged mobile app available alongside desktop view
As the main downsides, users mention limited integrations, as well as its challenging learning curve: “One of the weaknesses is that Wrike can be a little difficult to use, especially for new users. The user interface can be a little confusing and takes some getting used to. However, once you understand how it works, it becomes much easier to use” (Source: Capterra).
10. Trello – A Design Project Management Software Solution for Tracking Project Timelines
Trello is an online project management tool with polished collaboration features. Trello approaches task management software through a visual-first lens and focuses on providing a user-friendly interface and intuitive navigation. According to G2 reviews, Trello is “visually appealing”, “incredibly simple”, and “straightforward to use”.
- Customizable templates for seamless product management
- Advanced project view features with custom dashboards, tables, and calendars
- Provides numerous essential app integrations
Users report that: “One of Trello’s shortcomings is the lack of built-in reports and analytics, which are important to gain actionable insights. In addition, Trello may be of limited use for projects that require complex visualization and automation, as it was primarily designed for simple projects with few workflows” (Source: G2).
This is why Trello is best used for businesses that are expanding on currently used graphic design project management software, especially small teams with agile workflows.
11. Miro – A Visual Collaboration Tool with Limited Features for Management
Miro is a collaborative, online whiteboard platform that facilitates brainstorming and ideation with real-time updates. User recommendations for Miro highlight that the system makes “sharing and discussing project implementations in real-time effortless, allowing colleagues to contribute and refine ideas seamlessly” (Source: G2).
- Digital whiteboards that work on any device
- Ready-made templates for meetings, ideation, research, design, etc.
- Keep track of time with an in-built feature
As the main issues, users report some problems with the loading times and input delay, especially when larger teams are working on a single session. Despite this, most users still recommend Miro. In the team collaboration tool category, Miro is a great asset that can serve as an addition to a more robust project management tool, especially for remote teams.
Takeaway: Which Management Tool Should My Creative Team Use?
Using an online project management tool has become an indispensable part of project management, and this goes for creative projects as well.
In this article, we’ve explored some of the best project management software for designing available on the market. Some of the key concerns to keep in mind are the user interface and the onboarding process for beginners, flexibility and customizable features for task management and project views, and the extent to which the tool enables team collaboration, i.e. whether it centralizes all necessary features in one platform.
For a comprehensive project management tool that provides all of the above, book a demo with Productive.
What software do most designers use?
Designers use different kinds of graphic design software, depending on their workflows, design disciplines, and project requirements. Frequently, graphic designers will use multiple tools at the same time, depending on the particular task. Some of the most popular software for graphic design are Photoshop, Sketch, Illustrator, InDesign, and After Effects.
How do you manage a design project?
To manage a design project, you need to make sure you have an answer to three core questions: what are your team’s capabilities? What are your design project goals? How will you collaborate? All other considerations come naturally out of the answers to these fundamental concerns.
Some general tips and tricks are:
- Utilize your team’s full potential by being aware of their strong and weak sides
- Have specific goals in place with associated schedules and budgets
- Ensure smooth collaboration with design project management tools and other channels of communication
Can a designer be a project manager?
Project managers who work on design projects and lead creative teams should have deep knowledge of the entire design process. This includes managing design requests, understanding where potential roadblocks might occur, and how to best resolve them. The above reasons are why designers are a natural choice for these positions. In order to minimize the amount of administrative work you need to do and leave time for creative endeavors, a project manager on a design project should invest in scalable, all-in-one graphic design project management software.