We paired two designers together. Here’s what happened…

By Tim Ho

First, a Brief Intro

Here at TribalScale, we build products for our lovely clients through an Agile Development practice known as Extreme Programming (XP). One of the defining aspects of XP is pair programming, where two engineers work together on two keyboards, two mice, two monitors, but only one computer. This way, engineers can help each other solve problems and while one person is coding, the other is constantly reviewing the code for mistakes.

Similar to pair programming, collaboration is something we believe in and actively practice in TribalScale’s design team. This is done via group whiteboarding sessions, sprints, design demos, and impromptu feedback, but until recently, we haven’t tried to pair with each other like our engineers.

A New Challenge Approaches

Our team was working on a project to design and create a prototype of a new mobile product, but showcasing the interactions of this app wouldn’t be something that could be done through conventional rapid prototyping tools. As a result, we decided to use After Effects to create a demo of how the product could work. This wasn’t going to be easy, since the project required complex assets, and would need to showcase detailed animated interactions under a tight timeline. We would have needed a few Tribe members working on separate parts of the video, but only some of us were well versed with the software. At that point, our team decided to try something new: pair designing.

Setting up for Pair Design

To start, we set up a “pairing station” similar to how our engineers work; my pair partner and I sat at a desk with two keyboards and two mice running off one computer. However, design work is quite different from engineering, and we decided to just use one monitor, keyboard, and mouse instead. Since the goal of our pairing exercise was to learn from each other through practice, I took control of the computer and began animating different scenes while my pair observed and offered design input on timing, animation, and visual tweaks. After some time, my partner and I swapped roles. After a few more times you could clearly see the effects of pairing; my partner could craft elaborate animations on his own.

By the end of the day, the both of us were able to individually create scenes for the prototype. Since we worked side-by-side, both of our animations shared a cohesive style and file structure. Spoilers on how the project ended: everything was done effectively and everyone was happy!

Why Pair Designers? Here’s what I think after doing it…

Our first design pairing exercise at TribalScale was a fun success. I can see why pairing is practiced and preached in our process. Pairing lets you not only elevate each other, but it helps build stronger connections with your fellow teammates. You can see the effects of pairing here at TribalScale, as it brings people closer together and creates the friendly tight-knit culture that’s apparent the moment you step into our office.

Pair design can be helpful in many cases, such as pairing a designer who’s strong in UX thinking with someone who’s strong with visual and UI design. It can also help ramp up co-ops and onboard new employees. Not every design project will require it, but when the situation arises I’d definitely recommend fellow designers to give it a shot. As for me, I know I’d do it again.

Tim Ho is a UI + UX Designer at TribalScale with international design experience crafting digital solutions for a variety of Fortune 500 and private sector clients. At TribalScale Tim designs for mobile, voice, and other emerging platforms, ensuring that products are aesthetically elegant, delightful, and easy to use.

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