We Belong Together

5 ways Junior and Senior Designers can work effectively

Hello wonderful Junior and Senior design teams, odds are you guys are fairly new to working together. Maybe the Junior designer is new to the company or the Senior designer just got a promotion, whatever the circumstances are you are now buddies and will keep working together, so let’s make sure thats awesome!

If you’re like me sometimes it’s hard to adjust to working closely with new people you have to learn and adapt to certain tools they use, their communication style and what kind of jokes they like. Here are some tips that have really helped me work closely with lots of different Senior designers over several jobs.


If you are not familiar with the concept it was created at Cooper. It’s a method of working in design teams of where one person is the synthesizer and one person is the generator. Generators walk up to the blank piece of paper and generate lots and lots of concepts while the synthesizer helps to provide insight and push back against the ideas.

At my current job we often follow a model very close to this when Senior and Junior design work together. It’s quite fun and is an awesome way for Junior designers to gain insight into the Senior designers thoughts process and opinions. The other awesome part of this process is that the two of you now have lots and lots of face time. You spend lots of time talking and naturally getting to know each other better. I can not recommend this highly enough, thanks Cooper!


Get it?

Pairing can be hard especially if you are not used to it, in order to address some of these problems are struggles you might find while pairing, try reflections!

The reflections concept is simple, just grab some postit’s and write things that are positive with “I like” and things that need work with “I wish”. Do this for about five minutes then discuss the Likes and Wishes see what you can improve on, after the discussion create “We Will” statments. For example if you have a “ I wish we could pair more” post it then discuss why it isn’t happening what you can do and then write “We will make sure we spend a quarter of our time pairing”

This also gets the Senior designer and Junior designer to talk more and build lots of trust. If you haven’t gotten the point already talking and collaborating more is pretty much the key. Carbon Five created Stitickies.io to help with our reflections. It is awesome you should use it.

Senior Designers —Empowering Junior designers

I know its scary

I know it’s scary Senior designers, handing over part of your design to some 22 year old (like me) but PLEASE do so! That’s one of the best ways for us Junior designers to learn whether it’s user research or prototyping let us try to lead the process and fail if we need to.

I have found that when a Junior designer leads something such as prototyping, it’s best to let them get to a good stopping point (meaning whenever they feel like they have come to some sort of conclusion that needs feedback to progress) then sort of “polish it up” in a pairing session . That way the Senior designer can make the sure the work is up to snuff and teach the Junior designer along the way. I have found that doing these types of activities rapidly through timeboxing is very effective to keep projects on track.

Junior Designers — Speaking up

This is hard (even for me) but buck up dudes, if you feel like you need more work or are not learning you have to tell your Senior designer. This can be hard because you want to make sure you are providing as much value to the project and team as humanly possible and sometimes that means shutting up and doing whatever your Senior designer says but it also means that sometimes you have to say “OK! I will work on exporting those assets for developers but after can I please work on prototyping next? I would like to be more involved in that process.”

I bet you 10 whole dollars your Senior designer will find a way to include you because they want you to succeed and provide value as well. Also now that you have built a bunch of trust and a good working banter this should be no problem ( right? maybe? hopefully). If you are still nervous doing this, another good time to do this is reflections.

Beer & Gossip

Or wine or if you don’t drink, maybe La Croix Sparkling Water? Anything where the two of you can sit down and decompress a little bit you could maybe talk about Star Wars or kids or boy bands! Really anything to help break down those walls again so you two can have the best working relationship possible. I suggest 1 beer/coffee/beverage a week but hey it’s 5 O’clock somewhere right.

Now senior and junior design teams go make me proud!

Make mama proud!
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