After 6 years working as a designer, I’m finally part of a design team

Leandro Novaes
Feb 4, 2016 · 4 min read

For quite a long time, I was the only designer. I started my career working for small companies with a limited budget and/or low demand to hire new people. The exact same situation a few designers I know have passed.

At first, that sounded like a good opportunity to have freedom of creativity, to partially decide what and how to do my job, without any other designers to disagree. I though I wouldn’t have any problems working by myself.

I was wrong.

Such a lonely day, and it’s mine

My routine was very straightforward. I had a design problem to solve, I work on a solution, I present this solution, feedbacks arrive, I start the cycle again until the solution is validated.

You may think “no difference between the methodology performed by me and a small team of designers, right?”. The thing is that with no other designers to argue, to set a parameter, or just to push me to achieve the best results, I felt like I was losing a very important part of the work experience.

Then I started a new job in a publisher once and I was amazed when I discovered there were a few others designers working there. But all the designers worked directly with the publisher’s publications and I was joining the web team (both teams had almost no connection at that time). I met very nice people, but I was the only designer once again. Dammit.

A few years ago I joined a start-up. I was the only designer one more time, but on the other hand, that was a nice opportunity to build something from the scratch. That was a period of learning new things with very talented and experienced people, I was among artists, developers, and business persons. I felt like a one-person department, exploring ideas and new subjects. At the same time graphic designer, game designer, UX designer and sometimes even a front-end developer, I had to work hard to get by.

It was a great time but after a while, I started to feel lazy and perhaps stagnant. I was missing someone to discuss the quality of the work I was doing, give fresh new ideas, and to discuss the design nuances of our work.

I always had the autonomy to create everything, to put my mark on every single piece created. However, I was unhappy with it.

Looking for help

After a couple years of hard work I started to get more and more busy dealing with multiple projects at the same time and we knew that we would have new projects coming very soon. I needed help.

But what kind of designers we wanted? Without a parameter, I thought we needed people with similar skills as I so I wrote a job description as if writing my own resume. We got over a hundred applications in 2 just days and we started to select people.

I thought the ideal person for the job would be someone like me, but when we started doing the interviews I realised designers aren’t equal. They have their own skills, qualities, and difficulties. And that is exactly what makes a design team unique. With that in mind, we found two talented young designers to join the company and compose our very first design team. And I’ve been assigned to lead that team.

What I have learned so far

I have to say it took me a few days (or weeks) to get used to simple things, like sharing projects, dividing tasks, getting to know the people I work with and managing them. But it’s was a very enriching experience.

I’ve been working with them for a few months so I already have discovered tons of stuff. Here’s what I found out:

  • The quality of the work we do was greatly improved;
  • They studied and have practice with things I don’t;
  • They are very motivated and enthusiastic like I am;
  • We have different strengths and knowledge, which is good;
  • We can work smarter by dividing tasks according to our expertises;
  • We can share thoughts and discuss ideas, we learn with each other;
  • And maybe the most important: we enjoy working as a team!

Thanks for reading! Have you ever had a related experience working alone or within a team? Tell me in the comments bellow or just say “Hello!” on Twitter.

Leandro Novaes

Written by

Product Design Lead @ QuintoAndar. Reading and writing stories about the journey of being a designer.

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