Project Manager in a Design Agency: Is This Job for You?

An inside view of the PM’s role and the skills needed to become a strategic communicator between the client and a design team.

Dmitry Riabovol    |      May, 2023

Team collaboration on a project (Photo from Pexels)

Who is responsible for a project’s success? At first glance, it may seem that everything is decided by the marketer, the designer, and the developer. There is, however, a very important link between them: the project manager. It’s the PM who is responsible for the project’s quality and completion schedule. It’s the PM who is responsible for the client’s impression of the team and the resulting decision to work with the company in the future. It’s a wonderful and promising position for communicators, for people who can create the perfect conditions for the whole team to be effective. Read on to see if you might like it — who knows, you may be the person behind the success of the next big digital product!

What is project management about?

The project manager syncs up the work of different departments. He or she combines all the disparate project parts into a single logical whole. The PM’s main task is launching and supervising the project lifecycle, whether it’s web design, app design, branding, or development.

The PM is thus responsible for the key success factors, such as:

Don’t be intimidated by the long list of responsibilities. The principles of project management are similar to driving a car. You start with the destination (a detailed brief from the client) and check if you have enough fuel (the first payment has been made). This can be learned by communicating with the relevant departments of your company. Then you just drive, observing all the laws.

An important area of the PM’s responsibility is time and resource management. If necessary, the PM works with the sales department to evaluate any additional work and negotiate payments. The PM also acts as an intermediary between the designers and the client; it’s the PM’s job to explain the team’s design ideas in simple terms and make sure there’s no misunderstanding.

The 3 fundamentals of the PM’s success

To guarantee success, the PM must follow a path of constant evolution, with no destination in mind. This requires agility and adaptability. Just look at Netflix or Meta, who stopped innovating when it was absolutely necessary.

Let’s take a look at the rest of the skills required.


Communication skill is central to project management. It is essential for organizing all project work, both with the clients and the team. It’s very important to be friendly, to know how to make people feel good about themselves and instantly win them over, to be convincing and straightforward.

Recall a time when you turned down an offer because the service was unfriendly; or maybe it was the other way around, and someone gained a loyal customer just by making you feel welcome.

The PM must be able to clearly convey the essence of what they need to say and to set the client on the right track. Good spelling is also important.

Lifehack: Use Grammarly to write quickly and correctly (even the free version is better than nothing). You can install the Grammarly browser extension for writing emails.

When it comes to speaking, I suggest screen-recording your calls. You can also make a test call and record it by enlisting a friend’s help. Give them a list of typical questions and then try answering them promptly and accurately.

The next day, watch the recording and analyze it. Write down every mistake you need to work on, such as not looking into the camera, using filler words, being too stiff, etc. This will let you see your strengths and weaknesses so that you can grow as a professional.

An important sidenote: don’t overuse corporate language. Speak clearly and avoid using uncommon terms; this sounds both friendlier and easier to understand.

Reading aloud in English is another great way to practice pronunciation and sound more natural. As a bonus, this will make you sound more diverse as you’ll definitely expand your active vocabulary.

Here are some useful books to understand what makes an innovative product successful: Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim and ‎Renée Mauborgne‎; Hooked by Nir Eyal; The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton M. Christensen.

Task management

Another vital skill is the ability to sort through large sets of data on current projects and put them in a logical order. This is similar to the Eisenhower Matrix. By trying to keep everything in your mind, you’re always at risk of overlooking something, and the consequences may be dire. Use Todoist, Notion, or Evernote for notes and to-do lists. These platforms are easy to use and have lots of advanced options, so it’s a good way to simplify project management and organize your tasks.

Despite everything you’ve just read, project management is not a set of algorithmic instructions. It also requires a great deal of creativity, both in writing readable updates for the client and in grasping the basics of design. After all, you’ll be having lots of discussions with the designers on things like usability solutions, writing appropriate and effective copy, etc.

In practice, there are many cases of this kind, so even if the project cycle is always the same, each case will be different. This is what motivates you and helps you grow.

Team building

Last but not least, the PM is responsible for maintaining a comfortable workplace environment, providing support to the team, and helping the designers manage their time and achieve maximum efficiency.

The PM is a team player first and foremost, and as such must coordinate the entire team and make sure the project goals are accomplished. For that, each member of the team should value their teammates’ time, opinions, and skills.

The PM also provides considerate and prompt feedback to maintain efficiency of the team as a whole and each individual designer.

Some examples of project management

So, your team gets a new project: to do a full design package for a startup that runs a cryptocurrency exchange and wallet platform.

You start with branding unless the company already has a brand book prepared. The first step is to check with the client on all the additional details you may need in your work.

UP — Onboarding Screen for Mobile App

Then you start organizing the work process. You detail the task for the graphic designer in a task manager (we at Outcrowd use Worksection), supervise the work, and hold brief discussions when necessary.

Then the PM writes the first update for the client (the usual communication tool is Slack). From here on out, the PM acts as a link between the designer’s ideas and the client, finding appropriate ways to present them in the best possible light.

The PM argues for those design ideas that will bring the most value to the business and the end user. However, some clients forget the importance of expertise and attempt to impose their own creative concepts. Your job is to hold their hand through every iteration and lead them to the final approved version.

This is one of the PM’s most difficult and responsible tasks: you must make the client realize that the design you are proposing is exactly what they need to be noticed and grow as a business. This is where you’ll need emotional intelligence skills and the ability to read other people’s thoughts and feelings.

Next, according to the project schedule, you move on to designing the product (like our cryptocurrency platform), and everything else follows. During this stage, the PM manages time and resources, sets out tasks and supervises their completion, and holds discussions with the client.

As a result, the client gets a design that perfectly fits their business, is in line with the latest trends, and has the desired visual style.

Dotcal — Web Design for Booking Service


The PM’s job comprises a range of challenging and even creative tasks. It’s a unique position that can serve as an entry point for both design and management, plus it gives you a comprehensive experience of organizing project work. To grow and improve your efficiency further, you must learn to introduce new practices and tools when the time is right, always staying proactive.

Your reward will be the dozens of digital products designed by your team that generate value for businesses and their customers on a daily basis.