Fostering a Collaborative Design Culture at Handsome

Collaboration is one of our core values at Handsome. Everybody on our design team is talented in whatever silo they own; it’s why we hired them. We also know that the emphasis we place on our teams in talking it out, sketching together, and helping each other in their respective areas makes for great team building, more well-rounded designers, and overall better products.

Our belief in the value of collaboration goes hand in hand with our value in the growth and development of everyone on our team. We all want to grow as designers and to facilitate the right environment for one another to do just that; we truly believe that an open and welcome sense of collaboration enhances our culture and our products. Over the years, we’ve consistently reflected on how we’ve intentionally fostered this conversation into our design process. Here’s a look into our structure and the experience which has helped Handsome grow into a culture of collaboration.

Hiring the right people

We hire like-minded people who strive to constantly grow and learn not only as designers but as people. We’ve learned, through trial and error, how to begin to suss out the right people by honing our interview process. Structured to understand how well a potential candidate may accept feedback, we start to gain a sense of how inquisitive or open a candidate is about their own work.Instead of concentrating on the final deliverable, we put a strong emphasis on understanding the process that went into creating the work.

We’ve iteratively built our interview process to understand these attributes about each candidate on a macro level. Our “outside of the box” process also showcases the creativity and thoughtfulness valued at Handsome. If a candidate isn’t curious or responsive during an interview, they probably are not a great fit.

Structuring the design organization

Intense collaboration on our teams was born out of intention. We structured our design organization in a way that outlines core competencies for every discipline and highlights where the disciplines merge. Creating this understanding allows us to push collaboration when we know there is a discipline overlap.

Steering the ship in the right direction

Our Product Managers and Design Directors are the strategic captains of our projects and constantly have a bird’s eye view of where we are heading. This helps them facilitate discipline crossover. Pulling each other into our respective disciplines helps build a collective knowledge base around our users and problem space and gets us all nodding our heads around how we’re moving forward.

Our products benefit from our team’s varied perspectives generating a range of different ideas. We made sure to be intelligent and efficient around which activities and deliverables gain added value through collaboration. Not every activity needs to be done together as it is not always the most efficient approach. Part of our success is attributed to the ability to know when we need to put our heads together and when we are better off heads down in our own silo.

We don’t care if you can’t draw a straight line. Sketch and ideate as a team. Our sketching sessions help us get our ideas out, rapidly ideate, build on each other’s solutions, and make everyone feel ownership over what we’re building.

Read the scenarios out loud, set a timer, and sketch together. Then, pin your work on the wall and talk about it.

Group critiques help our designers grow, gain perspective, and challenge each other on a consistent basis; ensuring sure we put our best foot forward. We also have a blast getting excited about each other’s ideas and seeing how a product starts to take shape.

Everybody participates in user testing.

In user testing studies, we always tell the participant that it’s ok to be blunt; telling us what they really think is the most helpful to us. Our process at Handsome is structured around iteration on user testing feedback and we make sure every team member values and seeks it out on a regular basis.

Though the UX Designer generally facilitates user testing studies, it’s commonplace to invite the Product Designer and Product Manager to sessions when appropriate. Experiencing user testing first hand contributes to the growing knowledge base around the product that we’ve built as a team and helps facilitate group decisions going forward. It also mitigates team members making decisions and then handing off the implementation with little context. Hearing someone stumble through your designs is humbling, but it’s also exciting to realize how you can make your work better…which is the best part. We discuss user testing feedback as a team and make better decisions going forward.

Collaborating with clients

Because we operate like an extension of our client’s company, we often invite our clients to join us in our design process. As an operating team that lives and breathes the client’s’ product, we’re fully immersed in their problem space, target market and business goals while also offering an outsider’s experienced perspective.

Reviewing use cases & scenarios with our client Ben Johanson of bthere.

Our ease of ability in working with each other extends to our clients. Through collaborative working sessions we’re able to facilitate an open dialog. Though not designers themselves, stakeholders often have a vision for their product, and through facilitation and collaboration, they’re able to get their ideas out and feel heard.

A great way to work

Creating an intentional culture of collaboration at Handsome continuously empowers us to grow as designers. We are able to quickly and easily move forward as a team, challenge ourselves, and make better products. The environment it fosters upholds important values such as creating a spirit of openness, enabling one another to share ideas, deliver or receive feedback, and establishing a positive workplace for us to truly enjoy the work that we do.

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