You’re passionate about building teams and helping people realize their full potential. However, the waters of design management can be pretty choppy. Here are ways to approach these challenges!
Hiring the right people is one of the most important things to get right. Here are some best practices for doing this effectively.
Upon this mountain of objective information and focused approach, you can conquer the world! If you've brought your company along this far, and the above is complete and agreed upon... then the hard battle is already won. Designing on the sc... more
Before I design anything in the traditional sense, I always first spend time framing the problem we're solving. Design happens in a Google Doc (or Dropbox Paper if that's your fancy) before it happens on a screen. Designers have the skills n... more
Designing for designers is a common mistake. Make sure your design is actually making an impact.
The new designer gains a dependable point of contact, building confidence and competence more quickly. Additionally, the more tenured designer has the opportunity to develop mentorship skills.
Design research, customer interviews, process outlines — all this should be collected in Google Docs, Dropbox Paper, or something similarly accessible. If your team is very small, a lot of this information may not be documented consistently.... more
Explain each step of your process, detailing both the what and the why. Describe which parts are set in stone and which are flexible, and ideally have your new teammate shadow an existing designer as they go through the process on a real... more
Each designer on your team brings skills to the table. By understanding your weakest points of the design process, you will have a better understanding of your team’s weaknesses. Hiring for the areas you are weakest is often a good strategy ... more
Understanding what you want your team to be accomplishing is the first step in determining what roles you will need to hire for.
Under each design practice falls a set of processes. For instance, UX design requires understanding the problem space, wire framing, and designing.
Part of your role is to help people do their best work. Well supported designers lead to better teams and products.
Not only are the symptoms similar in burnout, but you may also be experiencing legitimate imbalance in your mental health and should try to figure out if the source of your burnout is bigger than just your job.
Remind yourself why you went down the path of XYZ in the first place. Look at your old drawings from high school (Yes, your DeviantArt account is still out there on the internet, I promise), revisit a record you haven't heard in 10 years and... more
First-and-foremost, you'll want to set a clear agenda or purpose for the meeting.
The agenda can be high-level (e.g. "Catch up on everything that happened over the last week in our lives.") or more focused (e.g. "Discuss a decision I need t... more
Don't bring your laptop, put your phone on do not disturb, and try to listen actively.
Email, group posts, chats in Stride or Slack, these are all good ways to stay in-sync with your peers about ongoing work. What you may not have the ability to do through these mediums is sync on more personal or pressing matters; things you ... more
Now that you have a better understanding of how your co-workers perceive you and how you want them to, you'll have a better sense of where to focus your efforts. You may even find that certain gaps in perception end up being similar to your ... more
This exercise is even more helpful when it's done with your manager, as they have a unique lens on how you may be perceived. If not a manager, ask trusted co-workers. You're trying to seek honesty here, so lean in to both the good and bad.
The goal here is to define things that positively impact your company, team, product, and self.
When we see someone experiencing hardship we’re often eager to offer solutions. This can be well-meant but unsolicited advice isn’t always welcome. It can even come across as pushy, patronizing, or presumptuous. I myself have resented the “... more
If you feel your colleague wants to share but doesn’t know how to begin, you can say things like “Want to tell me about it? It’s OK if you don’t. I’m happy to just be here.” Or "Take as much time as you need.” If they express appreciation fo... more
If there’s something concrete you can do, such as pick up the slack on a project (transparency and communication are super important here, obviously), do so.
As a product scales so will the team. In this instance, transitioning from IC to manager might be needed to help the company continue to grow.
Some of the strongest IC’s who have developed in-depth knowledge of the company they work at or the practice they work within often become the strongest influencers on others. In these cases, transitioning from IC to manager is very natural ... more
As teams grow, conflict and disagreement become inevitable. Treat them as opportunities for growth that can lead to stronger teams and work relationships.
By the time you are delivering bad news to someone, the topic shouldn't be completely fresh. If it is, start by apologizing for that, and make sure you do better next time. But then go ahead and deliver the news clearly and directly.
Not everyone deals with change or bad news the same. Following-up after your initial conversation allows you to see how they're dealing with the situation. Key in on changes in behavior from their normal traits and see if they need some time... more
Great managers deliver this kind of news early and often. When done well it helps grow the other person. Bad managers let this kind of news linger, they take no action, and they surprise the other person when this situation reaches "DEFCON 1... more
Learn about the internal standards you have for yourself and how that changes your behavior.
Defining your own roles from your perspective can help shed light on why a team member may be behaving in a certain way. This may be a good time to agree on the key characteristics of your respective roles.
This is your opportunity to connect with someone who has something to teach you or has the ability to support your learning. Commend each other on your drive to improve. Also good to be aware of too many/unrealistic learning goals. It is not... more
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Design is more powerful when it’s principles, processes, and vocabulary are not kept to just the designers.
Put out work that you're proud of, that's thought through, that's rooted in a clear problem that the business agrees is a problem, that's build-able, that's considerate of the user, and that included insights from stakeholders (aka not you d... more
Non-designers need to understand how you work, this understanding builds a lot of up-front trust and buy in. Take a slide deck, draw a step by step process on it that's easy to understand and socialize it to people in the business. Teach non... more
Don't be afraid to showcase works-in-progress, wireframes, and even napkin sketches. Just make sure you make it clear whether you're looking for feedback yet, or just showing your work.
Make sure there's a consistent time and place to share your work — maybe it's a weekly design review open to everyone, or maybe it's a tool like Wake that lets anyone peek into a stream of work that designers are uploading.
Designers may feel uncomfortable with transparency because there's no precedent and lots of unknowns. Find a safe opportunity to demonstrate the value of transparency by volunteering to open up your own work, process, plan, or experiences.
Culture and process require dedicated time, intentionality, and empathy. They’re also things you shouldn’t be shaping alone.
Strong designers with a track record understand the nuances, the ins-and-outs of bringing great products to market with or without a strong design system. They understand the role communication plays in getting everyone aligned and the teamw... more
A visual language has three parts. The vocabulary is all the objects of your design like buttons, drop downs, icons, typography, etc. Syntax are the rules that define the structure, order, and assembly of those objects. And semantics are the... more
Often teams avoid investing the time to create the tools that the team needs because they don’t know how to help people outside of design understand the impact of completing these projects. However, investing time in design systems and tools... more
Design Days are where you allow the process step owners to lead and go deep in their respective owners. At Jordan/Nike, I called this "The 5 areas of Distinction". Each of these areas were intended to create a distinct product offering vs. a... more
By constantly inviting your audience or consumer into your process you are encouraging visual communication over verbal communication. Who doesn't like show and tell?
A great tool for this is Strength Finders 2.0
Beyond the debrief, consider scheduling more frequent check-ins throughout the duration of the project. This creates a moment for the team to make changes along the way, improving the chances of success. Furthermore, the debrief can shift fr... more
A debrief should be framed as an opportunity for learning. If the goal of the session is focused on finding areas for improvement, it shifts the conversation from finding problems and faults to identifying opportunities and successes. This d... more
One of the most important things to do in the beginning of the meeting is to clearly state that this post-mortem isn’t about accusing each other, it’s about learning and growing as a team. In other words, let’s not get personal. It’s a good ... more
Some examples: Each week, call out coworkers who are doing great work; have a set time to discuss "wins for the week"; have a themed GIF competition each day; give kudos to achievements; have occasional workshops via video chat in which a te... more
Meeting your coworkers in-person can create a foundation to support your remote culture. Schedule company off-site meetups, or even just informal gatherings, on a predictable schedule. Make sure everyone knows when they'll next be seeing eac... more
Create space for non-work-related, "watercooler" communication. At my company, we have a video chat every Friday where anyone who's available stops in for 15-30 minutes to talk about anything except work. This helps build an understanding be... more
When you're walking by and see something on their screen, don't be shy to say "That's super cool. What's that for?" It get's the conversation going.
Especially when you're starting to look at the work of other people, you kind of have to stroke their ego a bit. But this is a good rule always. We tend to look at what can be better but forget what's already working. Start with what's worki... more
Right at that moment where you're pumped on the thing you're working on, share it. Pull people in and show them. This starts to get excitement going on the team and it eventually becomes contagious. And don't worry, if you end up not using y... more
You can probably personally articulate the need for change, but do the other stakeholders in your organization agree with you?
A common mistake is to push for change without first agreeing on the root problems and vision. Down the road, it... more
If your team can’t agree about the goal it may cause progress to stall, or people to balk at the prospect of losing something that they have become comfortable with.
Identify blind spots and pitfalls by diving deeper and get more specific b... more
You may have a process you are familiar with, or learned from an industry leader, but there is rarely a situation where one-size fits all.
Embrace the wisdom of your colleagues and allow the team to collectively shape the process to somethi... more
Currently in-market we have a variety of tools available at our fingertips, but they don't all play nicely together, even during an export process. You can pull vector elements into Sketch from Illustrator, but your Sketch symbols can't be e... more
Some design tools aren't cross-platform compatible. (Looking at you, Sketch!)
Beyond the scope of your own design team or company, keep in mind that most of the world still uses Windows. I had a series of international clients last year who... more
Can you afford to buy licenses or subscriptions for your entire design team? What about the developers? On the other hand, if you put together an ideal list of tools your team wants to use, are you wasting money on duplicative feature sets? ... more