In today’s dynamic digital environment, the role of a design leader has transformed in more ways than one. We’ve transcended the boundaries of mere aesthetics, now acting as the linchpin connecting design with business objectives.
Let’s journey together through this evolution, starting from the heart of it all — our design teams.
Nurturing Creativity: The Heartbeat of Design Team Management
Creativity, undoubtedly, is the lifeblood of design. It differentiates between designs that are simply good and those that are genuinely exceptional. As leaders, our primary role is to cultivate an ambiance where this creativity can thrive.
Building Creative Confidence
In the early days of building my first team, I observed young designers presenting innovative solutions. These ideas often seemed groundbreaking on paper but faltered in practice. A direct “NO” would have been a disservice.
Instead, I introduced them to the realities of time, technical constraints, and other limitations, and posed the vital question
“Given these challenges, should we proceed with this design?”
This approach paved the way for budding designers to make informed decisions, bolstering their creative confidence.
Consistency: It’s Not Just a Buzzword
In our interconnected world, brands extend across numerous platforms — from websites and mobile apps to various social media channels. Ensuring design consistency across these touchpoints is indispensable for brand trust and recognition.
Creating our design system wasn’t a one-shot success. Anyone claiming otherwise is embellishing. It took multiple attempts to get it right, and even then, the journey continued. Designers, both old and new, sometimes deviated from the established norms.
We adopted a proactive stance, regularly revisiting and refining our design systems. After all, managing a design system is a marathon, not a sprint.
Never Stop Learning
Complacency is an easy trap to fall into. Securing a stable job and a comfortable salary can sometimes lull us into stagnation.
As a staunch advocate for a growth mindset, I endeavored to ensure our team reflected this ethos. Regular review sessions and setting ambitious professional targets kept us on our toes.
Time for Passion
As creators, Every designer has that one idea, simmering at the back of their mind. I made sure we had the space to let those ideas out.
Once a week we use to get on a call to discuss our ideas and collect feedback. Often we use to spend our free time pursuing our passion.
This simple trick used to keep the spirit alive.
A harmonious team environment is just the beginning. Now, let’s talk business.
Collaboration with other Disciplines
We all have our own ways of doing things and convincing someone to do things another way is one of the most difficult sales pitches.
Bridging the gap between design and other departments is akin to negotiating a delicate dance. While we, as designers, view challenges through our users’ lens, other disciplines might prioritize factors like timelines, tech limitations, or business costs.
To foster understanding, we adopted several strategies:
- Hosting design thinking workshops.
- Displaying user personas prominently in office spaces.
- Circulating insights from user research through weekly newsletters.
- Showcasing real user feedback during design pitches.
These initiatives gradually but persistently shifted our company towards a more user-centric mindset.
Don’t take “NO” as an answer
Effective communication is the secret ingredient in design leadership. It’s not uncommon for immediate reactions from other departments, especially PMs and business teams, to be negative. Accepting a “NO” without digging deeper can be detrimental.
When we approached our developers with our design system, the feedback was initially less than enthusiastic. Burdened with their existing responsibilities, adding a design system seemed like an added headache.
But with persistence and open dialogue, we discovered a solution: aligning our design system with an existing open-source one.
By empathizing and listening actively, we found a common ground that benefitted all.
Idea presentation tips
- Data Matters: Supplement your pitches with quantifiable data.
- Be Open: Seek feedback. Make others feel part of the ideation process.
- Stay Adaptable: Playbooks offer guidelines, but they often need tailoring. Flexibility can sometimes be the key to success in real-world scenarios.