How we leverage the intelligence of multiple designers for better results

3ap — as agile as possible
6 min readFeb 3, 2023


Turning your vision into a version is no straightforward task. One of the challenges is perhaps choosing the right designer to translate ideas into reality. But what criteria do you select the designer on? After all, you haven’t even seen a design of your idea yet. And whatever you have envisioned only exists in your head. So how do you find a designer who can deliver best what you want? To solve this, we came up with a unique, collaborative design process.

The dilemma with shortlisting a single designer

Ideally, one would like to look at multiple final designs of their idea and choose the one that best fits their vision. And that’s exactly the dilemma — you often choose the designer without knowing what the result will look like.

When you start a design from square one, reviewing the past work of a particular designer can help decide. Because — even if not everyone would agree — most designers have their own personal style that can come through in this case.

However, if you already have a framework of design guidelines, a corporate design manual for instance, the personal style of a designer is (or should be) less relevant: A skilled designer is always able to adapt it to the taste of the customer or create something in line with a style guide.

Being on the receiving end of this dilemma

We recently experienced this challenge ourselves in an internal project with an external agency.

It is not that we are unsatisfied with the outcome. But would another designer have chosen other approaches that we would have liked even better? It’s like shopping: we don’t buy the first pair of shoes that we see, even if we like them. We first want to look at what else is available to see if what we like is also what we like best.

After this experience, it became clear to us that our customers probably feel the same way working with us.

We needed to find a way out

Putting yourself in your client’s shoes every now and then helps you to see what their pains are. We wouldn’t be ourselves if we didn’t come up with creative solutions to tackle this challenge.

In recent times, we have been able to increase our workforce in UX and UI design. Our design team now consists of five to six designers. And each one has its own unique style at the bottom line. This made us think: How can our clients benefit from this design diversity the most?

Taadaaaa: The 3apdesign challenge was born

The 3ap design challenge aims to generate the ultimate value for the customer in a short amount of time. Within only five days, the design team tackles a business challenge and goes through different phases leading to a variety of potential solutions.

Our motto: work together alone. We benefit from our collective brainpower in group exercises and are able to build on each other’s ideas when we work together. At the same time, we leave enough time for everyone to explore ideas individually.

We found that setup to be extremely beneficial and fruitful not only for the final deliverables but also to strengthen our team culture and knowledge.

How does the design challenge work?

Day 1: Briefing, Discover & Research, Empathize

The main focus on the first day is to get an overview of the whole project. First, the client explains the vision and project plan to a group of designers. We then get familiar with the target groups (personas) and deal with their challenges, needs, and pain points.

Together, we look at the market and analyze what competitors in the industry have already developed. With an interactive exercise, we ask questions to find out what the competitors are doing well and what we can do better. At this stage, it is important to not only engage with the end user, but also know, understands, and challenge our client’s business goals. We, therefore, look at the value proposition and check with which functional scope we can achieve their goal and vision.

Day 2 & 3: User Flows & Information Architecture

On the second and third days, we focus on user flows and information architecture.

User flows refer to the “user experience”, for example, the set of steps a user has to go through in order to perform a certain task on a platform.

For example, we look at how a user registers for the application. We also look at what data is needed to do this, how the information is structured, and how to navigate back and forth between individual screens.

User flow diagrams are particularly suitable for visually representing the user flow. By analyzing them, we can more easily identify and improve potential weaknesses.

User flows also help with:

  • developing a common understanding for the entire project team,
  • identifying missing steps before the first implementation,
  • easily re-engineering processes,
  • and collecting feedback during product development.

Analyzing and improving user flow diagrams is a form of proactive customer service. We identify problems before users even encounter them, thus increasing customer satisfaction.

Day 4 & 5: UI Design & Prototyping

Over the last two days, the focus is on the visual design of the application. The goal is for all five designers to develop their own clickable prototype with core functionality. Each designer is encouraged to explore different visualization options and design directions within the given style guides. This adds value for our client by presenting a diversity of ideas and solutions.

Let’s be honest, did the experiment work?

We say: Definitely yes.

When we first ran our Design Challenge with a real case from one of our clients, it brought out different approaches. In light of those, we were able to have a discussion with our client on a completely different level and offer them a clear added value.

What did the customer say?

Our first case came from ÖKK Versicherungen. Philipp Arnold, Project Manager of Products and Services at ÖKK, said:

The design challenge was a true testament to the power of collaboration and diverse thinking. By bringing together individuals from different backgrounds and perspectives, we were able to develop a product that combined the best elements of several approaches, resulting in a user-centered and impactful result. The variety of ideas and the possibility to mix and match them made this a very impressive experience.

Is the higher price tag worth it?

Obviously, this approach is more expensive compared to the traditional solution, where you let one designer do the job. But especially in larger projects, this higher price is more than justified. We are convinced that through this collaborative and iterative approach in the conceptual phase, a better end result is achieved.

Learnings and Fine-tuning

Even though the Design Challenge was a complete success, we also took away some learnings from it.

Three designers are a reasonable number

During our first challenge, we had five designers in use. From the result, we noticed that some approaches were similar and that we would probably have come to a similar result with only three designers.

Aim for a good mix of junior/senior designers

Seniors are used to working in sprints and delivering something under time pressure. They have the necessary courage to take risks and make assumptions where necessary — after all, in the early stages of a project, you often don’t know everything yet. Juniors still have to learn this skill set (for which the Design Challenge can be the perfect training ground).

For a Design Challenge, we, therefore, recommend a good mix: for example, two seniors who can safely lead the project and a junior who can be carried along by the seniors.

Solid moderation is crucial

The session should be professionally moderated so that the designers are enabled and well-guided. Specialists with good knowledge of the product creation process and method experience should be used for this job.