What I’ve learned while leading my Design team

When I started leading the Design team at Bond Touch, I wasn’t sure where to start. So I choose to listen. I’ve scheduled quick individual conversations with everyone who had, or eventually would, interact directly with the design team. My goal was to understand how people have been working and communicating and which habits were persistent within the teams’ dynamics.

For those who don’t know, Bond Touch is an emotional wearable venture by Impossible. We were just a few when I joined, and Design played a secondary role in daily work life. On the one hand, Product and Development had scarce documentation regarding the decisions that were made previous, and the mobile app Design didn’t have a Designer full time allocated to Product. On the other hand, Marketing and Social Media have been autonomous in creating their visual and creative content with a freelance Visual Designer. As a result, uniformity and coherency were lacking across the Experience’s life cycle.

Considering this, I’ve set several goals to achieve: first, the Design team needed a voice and a structured workflow that was both intuitive and effective; second, the Brand and Product need to be more aligned regarding values, mission and vision, but most important, visually coherent (check here our rebranding love story); and last, from the business perspective, my role was to ensure that both, Digital Product Design and Visual Design achieved their quarterly OKRs.

As the first designer manager at Bond Touch, I felt the pressure to have immediate solutions to all the adjustments we were going through, such as shifting to work remotely due to the pandemic and growing the team. Simultaneously, the rush to deliver substantial results on increasing mobile app retention or develop creative initiatives to engage our audience into buying our product and following our social media channels. All of these elevated the stress and affected the team’s morale. And to me, mental health would be the key concern to keep the team uplifted and ongoing.

After three years, we’ve achieved so much. From Digital Product Design, we’ve restyled and restructured the app experience, increasing retention and adding new features, which allowed us to collect data and substantial user research. On Communication and Visual Design, we’ve redefined and redesigned the brand logotype, established a brand book, launched a successful blog for the community, and designed a new e-commerce website. Lastly, prep the launching of two new wearables (check the release dates on the website).

During this time, leading my Design team taught me six value lessons.

Be accessible and listen actively.

Be ready to listen. Try not to come up with immediate solutions or suggestions. I’ve always told my team, “I’m here. Talk to me. Sometimes when we talk about the problem out loud, it reduces its size and most likely finds a way. I’ve always found time to speak to any team member about anything.

Don’t rush individual growth.

Internally, we had to revisit our career plans every six months; these aren’t about metrics but a way to set personal and skilful goals. So naturally, every plan needed to be clear and meaningful to each designer, guaranteeing balance between staying in the comfort zone and trying new things.

Gain trust through support

If they don’t accomplish the established goals, try to understand why before jumping to conclusions or being too quick to judge. Observe if something has been off, any change in the behaviour or a decrease in work quality. If your team trusts you, they will come forward to talk. Otherwise, build it step-by-step by encouraging informal, supportive conversations. Trust starts with me to them, which had become even more critical during the pandemic when work was exclusively online.

Embrace individuality

As we all know, each person is different, from dealing with problems or others to coping with their insecurities. While leading a team is essential to understand what each person values, their discomfort and what are great talents. Embrace their individuality and act accordingly. Remember to be sensitive, and ask first if people feel comfortable doing something that you know is out of their comfort zone. If so, support them and face it instead of avoiding it. In a couple of days, I will post a story about how I create a constructive self-assessment framework for each designer in my team and help start the conversation.

Keep inspiration a priority.

For me has always been important that people feel motivated while working because (and this is common knowledge) when someone lacks inspiration increases frustration and decreases work quality.

Each creative block demands different solutions without compromising the BAU. Sometimes I would suggest leaving the work early or pausing for a couple of hours. Other times I challenged starting the following day by viewing or searching for moving topics they have been interested in and sharing them via Slack or our weekly sync.

Recently, I started the “Design Visibility” project, which has the dual intent of self-empowerment the designers by encouraging them to post their work but also boosting Bond Touch’s design voice within the company and externally. For total commitment, we added this side-project to the weekly planning.

Break routine

Due to the pandemic, the teams had to readapt to work together. In the beginning, the number of video calls increased substantially, and a swirl of anxiety and malaise seeped into many teams. However, after the first year, most started to feel the impact of isolation, and demotivation started to settle. As a response, the company organised weekly get-togethers online. And within our team, during our weekly calls, we started playing virtual games. And I must say, it helped reduce the brain overload at the end of the week and improve the team’s affinity.

Today, we are a united team. We trust and help each other. Designers feel safe giving constructive opinions during Design Review meetings or presenting their work to an audience. Far from perfect, there is always room for improvement, and I’m sure we will face more challenges ahead, reminding me of the proverb, “if you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together”.



Head of Design @ Bond Touch.

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