Muxu.Muxu Methodology from A to Z

The inspiration for this article came from a recent discussion with our friend Hugo Fauquenoi, where we realised that teams don’t share enough about how they organise themselves and their production cycles. Establishing a methodology for working processes can be a tricky subject and there is clearly no one-size-fits-all approach. Despite bumps along the way, we feel it’s something that we’ve managed to streamline successfully: our projects go smoothly, and all parties — clients and our team — seem happy. In this article, we aim to explore our methodology, for anyone involved in design processes who might be looking to learn from the experiences of others. That said, our insights are by no means prescriptive, and we’re always keen to hear feedback!

The first step in a successful production cycle is working with the right people. We’ve spoken about the Muxu.Muxu team in previous articles, but the same is also true of clients. Our clients generally come to us by recommendation, which is a good way of ensuring that they share the same values as people with whom we have previously collaborated. We’ll start off with a long phone call or meeting, where the aim is to understand who the client is, what they do and why, their experiences with other agencies, their design needs and the value we could bring to their project. We’ll also talk about our fees and our working processes: everything should be transparent at this early stage, to avoid potential disappointment later down the line. This works both ways: before signing any contract or estimate, we’ll check that all members of the Muxu.Muxu team are enthusiastic. If we get the feeling that the client or their project is not a good fit, we won’t pursue it.

David & Audrey in the middle of a kick-off

We’ll then go to the client’s premises for the project kick-off. This is a chance to meet the teams, that is to say, those people who will feel first-hand the impact of any branding or identity work we’ll do. This is also a chance for us to see the client’s working environment. How they work with their employees can speak volumes about the values a client will bring to the collaboration.

There are no rules as to what a client may consult us for — some seek full design-project management, others want us to work with their internal developers and designers. The way we communicate can thus vary. In the first scenario, we maintain permanent dialogue with the client. In the second, we temporarily become part of their internal team. Flexibility is key: it’s good to have global, guiding methodology, but there needs to be room for manoeuvre to account for the specificities of each project and the client’s needs.

Either way, we’ll generally spend 1–2 hours on-site to discuss the scope of the project and the objectives. At this phase, we’ll listen more than we’ll talk. Importantly, from this point on, all communication is followed up with a short, written summary detailing what has been said, any feedback, and the next steps and objectives.

Shortly following kick-off, we embark on a sprint phase lasting 2 to 3 weeks. As soon as possible within this sprint, we try to organise a short meeting to try and share some initial mock-ups. We prefer to send over lots of ideas early on: it’s better to make any mistakes earlier in the production cycle, rather than later. The more ideas we send over, the more feedback we can gather.

Valentin working on the new Sqreen identity

From then on, we’ll narrow down our ideas, and be in daily contact with the client, letting them know when we make progress but also when we are behind schedule. It’s worth investing time and energy in finding the right clients and establishing a relationship with them. Later down the line, they’ll be more inclined to remember that you’re humans and not machines!

We’ll share iterations and get feedback constantly. Some clients prefer a screenshot via Slack, others a pdf via email or an InVision screen; some will reply instantly, others will take 24 hours. Again, flexibility is key, guided by an overarching methodology. One cornerstone of our methodology is that all these interactions continue to be followed up with a short, written summary. We can show that we have taken on board any feedback, have acknowledged anything that is outstanding, and know what the next objectives are.

Once we’ve finally whittled down our ideas to the final output, we’ll deliver the project. Some teams have access to Sketch and can autonomously explore all the design elements. For others, we’ll produce an annotated pdf or InVision screen. We’re aware though, that it’s not over until the fat lady sings: a design project is not finished until it’s being used in production. We provide 1 to 2 months of follow up support. The client is aware from the outset that we charge for this follow-up support. It’s important that we charge a fee, because it means that the client can be frank with us if something doesn’t meet their expectations, or if the developer who is integrating the design encounters a difficulty. We consider it part of the ongoing funnel process towards a final output that corresponds fully to the client’s expectations.

Recently, we’ve started sending a follow-up survey out to our clients. We realised that we were often getting positive, general feedback, but that we neededs more specific feedback in order to be able to improve our processes further. We ask about communication, client expectations, their visibility over the schedule, project delivery etc. If we mention transparency often, it has to work in both directions, so we seek constructive criticism in order to keep fine-tuning our methodology.

The team working hard

The Muxu.Muxu methodology is constantly evolving, even within the scope of a project. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to produce the ideal design every time. It’s thus important to spend time listening to client, and to adapt accordingly. Seeking to work with people who share your values makes it easier to align expectations on both sides. We’ve found that if we invest time and energy in establishing a human relationship with our clients early on in the process, the dialogue later down the line is all the more fruitful. We’re constantly working to improve our working processes, by keeping a written trace of our interactions and asking for feedback at the end of a collaboration. Doing so allows us to streamline our processes and fine-tune our global, overarching methodology — one that is characterised by flexibility and adaptability.

Written by Emily Fiennes for Muxu.Muxu.