Hey guys, My design team is expanding and would love to know how other design teams are structured, everyone's role, and pros & cons of the structure. Thanks!
Hi Matthew! I work at Optimizely, and really love the way our design team is structured. We have four roles: product designer (responsible for the product and everything after you log in), communication designer (responsible for the marketing site, collateral, everything before you log in), user researcher, and UI engineer. Despite all sitting on the design team, we work in cross-functional groups divided by the different parts of our product. For example, I'm the designer on a team responsible for (among other things) Optimizely's visual editor, so I spend most of my time working with UI and front-end or full-stack engineers. The design team meets for crits and weekly team meetings to keep cohesive.
And, in case you're curious, you can read more about why we hire UI engineers on the design team here: https://medium.com/design-optimizely/why-we-hire-ui-engineers-on-optimizely-s-design-team-b2a789553b79
Thanks Silvia, I love how everyone in your team has a very clear role. Is there someone who oversees everyone's work or is it more of a collaborative work?
We have one art director (me) who's in charge of all general design directions and makes big picture decisions. I then have one 'crazy ideas' prototyper whose only job is to come up with the craziest and coolest stuff he can think of (ignoring UX and best practices). And then I have a "normal" designer who thinks more in practical terms for usability and such - basically she brings down the prototype to planet earth.
We all design in code, although the prototyper naturally uses a lot of animation software to create demos.
We function very much like a high end car design team where the initial sketches and prototypes look really cool but would never end up like that on the road after safety inspections and practical considerations.
Thanks for you reply Ix Techau. Do you mind elaborate on how the design process looks like? Do you first create a concept and pass it to a prototyper?
Kind of. Let's say we're doing an fashion eCommerce site. First step for me is to have the prototyper come up with the most mind-blowing UI concept for a product page, featuring all the items in the spec (colours, price, sizes, etc). In the meantime we start structuring the site and initiating the project, setting the colour schemes, creating and sorting our assets (logos, etc).
We then take a look at the UI concept. Usually the prototyper comes up with two directions. If it's cool we start looking at it from a UX and technical perspective. What would work in a real life scenario, what wouldn't.
Throughout the process the prototyper continues coming up with sectional concepts (nav bar, checkout, and so on), and we keep scaling it down. At the start of a project he's doing stuff that would never work on a website, but as we near the end of the design phase we're all pretty much down to earth, even the cool concepts are realistic at this stage.
At JotForm, we work in small cross functional teams. Each team has a designer. The teams are around 4 people and has engineers, a designer and a CSS developer. But some of our designers are also good at CSS, so in those cases, they are one and the same.
So, there is no separate "design team". A designer is part of a team such as Growth, Form Builder, Platform, Data or Widgets. But, all designers like to get together every week and discuss their work and how to be consistent with each other.
If you find cross functional teams interesting I have provided details on a Medium post: https://medium.com/jotform-form-builder/cross-functional-teams-10be612f40ea
wow, this is great!! Thanks for the pointers Aytekin Tank!
Hey @Aytekin, was it like that from the beginning -- to have a dedicated designer for each team? If not, could you please extend more on how was that integration process done?
Hi Matthew, At Onespacemedia we're mainly a digital company but we also assist our clients when they need cross-disciplinary design. We're a company of 12 and the design team of three tackles everything from digital to branding, exhibition work and print so all team members have to have a fundamental knowledge of all design mediums. We like to bring in and nurture internships (and that's how we've developed and grown the team so far). We are always looking to bring in more senior designers as well as people looking to gain experience so we get a stronger team that can nurture development of the less developed. http://www.onespacemedia.com/
Thanks James, I think nurturing internships as part of growth plan is an interesting idea. How do you see your team scale? Do you see any possible issue when you have 12 designers?
We've always operated with a design lead on a project (could be me, could be another designer) that takes the reigns and leads the project from the start. This person is considered the design strategist, who eventually shares this will the team and is opened up to constructive critiques and an interactions phase. I like it most with 2 designers on a project so one can check the other.
It's less about title and more about "how can we do this the best possible" on our team, so the top-down directive is less of a thing. Of course, there are times when we need to make decisions once and for all, but the openness of any designer being able to lead a project is important for growth and for better understanding the project ecosystem.
In a nutshell: a small team for a project, led by the best fit, with everyone open to hearing about the best way forward visually.
Thanks Chris, I do think collaboration among teams is ideal than directions coming from one person. Although when there are multiple teams working on different products within a company, keeping all the products cohesive and aligned could be quite challenging.
Yeah, absolutely, and there needs to be a single vision from the lead strategist or strategists to ensure that one project gets entirely away from the others. Completely agree. As a team gets quite large, this needs to be considered closely.
Hi Mathew! We, at VentureDive, have different design roles but mostly we are focus on UX design in general. It ranges from Visual Design, UI Design, UX Design and Product Design.
We assign a designer to a project but we have another designer who overlook them or collaborate with them to get the desired results. Mostly the roles are just to define the diversity of the skills but a designer is responsible for all the above roles.
We closely work with Developers and the Clients so we can marry the solutions that will be feasible. We have daily or weekly feedbacks from clients and everyone collaborate.
Pros: - Better results and meet deadlines, - Agile design and development, - Less back and forth in design iterations
Cons: - Individual complying mostly all design roles
Thanks Shaoib! Got lot of great insights from the thread. I'll share with the team next week during our discussion :)