As a design manager, I’m always looking for ways to motivate my team, as well as — ideally — get them delivering consistently high level work. The challenge is to avoid burnout, which can rear its head in a slew of increasingly uglier ways. Some designers push hard for success at first, but feel underappreciated in the long run and grow bored. Others lose steam, get sick, neglect their needs and fall behind on responsibilities. It’s a domino effect.
My view is: generally all designers want to make good work and add to the success of their team (in many years, I’ve rarely seen otherwise). The manager’s job is to make this as easy as possible for them. More often than not, the manager’s success in this is determined by their approach to time management and inspiration. Do they consider critically how their team refuels? Do they structure their designers’ time in a way that’s productive not just in the short term — but the long run? …
I’m always excited to see my designers present their work for review. As a design manager, my most immediate opportunity to guide and support them is in the critique that follows. Whether the designer’s presenting to just myself or a larger team, it’s a big learning opportunity for all parties involved — one I take seriously.
But too many times, designers’ presentations have played out like so:
Designer: Here’s the work I did, it’s really not that good.
Me: Way to sell it.
Designer: Yeah, I’ve done better.
I get it, they’re hedging their bets. They might think downplaying the work will make me want to praise it, as a show of support — or maybe they just lack the security to really discuss it. When I started out, I’d describe my own projects similarly. But trial and error taught me just how integral it is to talk with confidence about your work. …
Having interviewed dozens of candidates and reviewed hundreds of portfolios for about 14 years, I’ve gathered a sense of what to look for in hiring design talent. …