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Realizing a Design Studio

Nurturing a high impact team and cultivating a great design culture.


In 2018, I was tasked with building a design team from the ground up. The number of designers was less. We did not have the right expertise to rethink a product afresh. We first got the business stakeholders' buy-in to invest in a design budget distinct from product management.


We hired skilled people gradually across interaction design, visual design and user research. While individual designers are good at what they do, a team needs to come together to have a shared experience of learning from each other and collaborating everyday.


1. A Learning environment

It is good to have learning sessions every week wherein one of the designers is tasked with sharing his/her point of view on a topic of interest. This helps other team members gain a more nuanced view and understanding of the subtleties involved in each other's process.


2. Freedom to experiment

Encourage team members to experiment and shed their inhibitions. Quite often people think they are not good at something. They say they cannot draw. But prodding them to try it out can help them gain confidence and more importantly they feel happy being part of the process.


3. Participatory & Challenging

Provide opportunities for team members to participate and adopt new design methods. They need to be challenged so they come out of their comfort zones and acquire new skills. It is also important to involve people from engineering and product management as well.


4. Rewarding

Small gifts and letters of appreciation can go a long way to boost individual morale. It motivates others as well to go beyond work to pick up their new initiatives. We used gift vouchers and a certificate to recognise the team's contributions. Many a time an individual is thrilled at the opportunity to undertake informal creative tasks. It appeals to their intrinsic motivations and happiness.


5. Work is play

While it is important to be aligned with the OKRs every quarter, the workplace needs to be fun. Spring surprises by celebrating birthdays and ensuring people come together for every social occasion within the team. Create opportunities for the team to be informal. Fun ought to be a daily activity. A quick round of ice cream to aid brainstorming. Friday lunch was a weekly ritual for the team to wind up the week in good spirits.


Culture

Culture takes years to cultivate. But design starts to manifest itself across the organisation in every little task they undertake. Teams develop a shared understanding of the language, style and benchmark for design. They collaborate effortlessly across teams on multiple products to deliver a uniform and consistent experience.


See more of the lively moments on the team's Instagram page


Impact

The CEO entrusted the the design team to start contributing more to the organisational initiatives. They were engaged in creating communication for HR hiring, driving employees to participate in innovations initiatives, renaming of meeting rooms to align with the brand, advising on the new office layout, etc.




A dedicated design studio was created for the design team to have open discussions and to exhibit their craft.


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