Key learnings from building a design team

In this post I’d like to share a few things I’ve learned over the past few years managing the design team at Base.

Harrison Wheeler
Apr 3, 2017 · 3 min read

Establish a core team

These are the folks that exemplify not only respect for you but have the drive to go above and beyond their daily tasks. They help establish the culture and play a key role in the mentorship of newer employees when you scale.

Build design principles to help structure conversations

At Base we established six design principles that help drive a lot of our decisions on both our product and communication team. This is really what creates buy in and accountability between comrades. Additionally, these principals guide better constructive feedback. Conversations turn from “I think that…” to “does this fall inline with the principles we’ve established?”.

Seek generalists

UI and UX are two frames of mind, hire for both. It can seem a bit confusing when trying to differentiate between the two.

UX designers are crucial in the beginning stages of a design process and working with product managers and users to understand goals, identify assumptions and constraints.

UI designers on the other hand generally have a high level understanding of UX methodologies but really excel when it comes to visual design. These roles are critical in the later stages of the design process.

Having a generalist on your team early allows you to have someone who isn’t afraid to take ownership of the whole process from prototyping to high fidelity specs and can assist on projects that aren’t directly product related like icons, illustrations, print, etc.

Get feedback early and often

Your organization will inevitably change and you must be able to make adjustments to maintain fluidity. Always seek feedback and reflect on work with your team through retrospectives, and 1-on-1’s. This can help address any process, or programming that may or may not resonate before it’s too late.

Select your tools wisely

It’s crucial to develop constraints around the delivery process. There is a bevy of design tools that are being introduced almost every day. Designers usually can work in any tool that they would like but it’s important that we are able to collaborate on these tools on handoffs and its an added plus if they can work with other apps in our suite. Tools with little or no adoption can result in dollars and time wasted.

Gain perspective before building process

Draw perspective by speaking with your team and other departments you work with. Once you have a perspective, keep processes simple and commit to it. Allowing strategy to be inclusive lets your team know that you listen to them and you have a higher chance of making things work in the long run.

What are some things you’ve learned from managing a design team?

Looking to join our growing team at Base? Check out our job openings for Product and Communication designer.

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