The “Yes and…” Strategy

Some years ago, an educational publisher came to Glass House Graphics wanting 970 pages drawn, lettered, and colored in only 13 weeks. That meant three different titles, four books for each title, 80 pages plus covers and character designs for each. Nearly 75 pages a week.

I accepted the job. My manager in Manila started to put art teams together but ultimately said NO, it is impossible. I maintained that it was possible.

But when I flew over to the office, the schedule was already in shambles and the art teams were disjointed; nobody even seemed to understand how much was expected of them per day or per week.

So I rebooted it and helped select the teams. I said, “Yes, it is possible, and here’s how we do it.” Each book had a layout artist; a main figures penciller, a background artist, an inker, a letterer, and two toners or colorists. Each title had one person — either the main figures penciller or the inker, deemed the Master Artist, who would draw/ink all the faces to maintain consistency of the project. Three teams total.

Most important, I took out a big, open desk pad-type calendar and wrote a DAILY schedule of what layouts were due each day; pencils; inks; letters; colors; proofing. There was no question and no more excuses, because a calendar never lies.

If a problem arose and someone on the team was frustrated, I would say to the team, “So, we solve this by doing what…?” and we’d discuss options, good and bad. One of the oddest, seemingly dumbest, options turned out to be the best option, once we talked it out.

We went from “NO, it is impossible,” to beating that 13-week schedule by three days. 🙂

We apply that day-to-day scheduling of teams for big, rush kids’ projects for Simon & Schuster and other clients to this day. And we’re meeting — or beating — the schedules. Because it’s a business and YES, we’re in it for the long term.


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