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Head of Design

Natalia Bienias

Head of Design

30.5.2022
-
5
reading min.

Building an internal project team. Explore the benefits and challenges

Design is increasingly an integral phase of the production process. This means a growing demand for well-structured cooperation between teams involved in creating digital products and designers. There are several solutions - outsourcing tasks to a design agency, outsourcing employees, as well as creating your own design team. Let's focus on the last one.

Stage 1: Building, i.e. who do you actually need?

When looking for a programmer, you specify what languages he or she should use (PHP, Java, Python). Similarly, in the case of a designer, it is important to determine the competences he or she should have.

To start, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Why do I need designers?
  • What are their tasks in the project?
  • What skills are key to this?

UI Designer, UX Designer, Information Architect, Interaction Designer, UX Researcher, UI/UX Designer - these are just some of the specialisations you will encounter. How do they differ from each other and what scope of responsibilities can you expect from each of them? The differences are conventional and it is hard to talk about standardization.

What kind of specialists do you need in your team? This largely depends on the needs and capabilities of the company. Hiring a full-time UX researcher (researcher) is pointless if you cannot provide him with user research tasks (there are no budgets for them, and the product development process does not assume additional time for testing and research). In this case you can look for a designer (UX Designer, Product Designer) with experience in conducting research. If necessary, he or she will prepare simple tests and gradually "infect" the team with them.

If you are building a digital product, the core design team to consider is:

  • team leader (UX designer),
  • interface designer (UI designer),
  • researcher.

Don't lock yourself into narrow specialisation names, focus on finding competences. Process planning, information architecture, solution mock-up, UI design or research and test preparation do not have to be limited to specific positions.

At Mobee Dick, we use our knowledge and experience to support organisations in building design teams. We believe that the most beneficial (and effective) collaboration is the one that takes place side by side, which is why we feed our clients' desktop teams with our own resources. However, this is not classic outsourcing, but a much more flexible approach which enables us to quickly respond to the current needs of an organisation, especially at the first stage of building an internal team. Łukasz Krebok, leader and creator of the design team at Diebold Nixdorf, summed it up very aptly:

I don't treat our cooperation as a "pay the invoice and demand" outsource. It's about continuity. Supplying the team with designers from outside works very well, because this additional rotation is a breath of fresh air for our ideas, a possibility of validation.

Łukasz Krebok, design team leader, Diebold Nixdorf

Designers, like any team in an organisation, will collaborate with other departments and be subject to a variety of rules and constraints. The participation of designers in the creation and development of a digital product may require an update, or even a complete change in the model of cooperation between teams. The order of tasks and working time may change, the order developed over the years may be disrupted (e.g. in the process of programmers' work).

We start building an internal project team in the client's organisation by analysing current processes and defining missing competences, which enables us to develop a new model of work on product creation and development.

Introducing a new team to an organisation can generate conflict and frustration. You need to communicate properly from the start:

  • What is the role of the newly formed team in the product development process?
  • What will be the benefits of working with the team?

If specialists from other areas understand what design work is about and why it is worth incurring the initial costs of changes, there is a good chance of effective cooperation and positioning the design process as a fully-fledged stage in, for example, software development.

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Stage 2: Retention, or how do we use the potential we have gained?

Aarron Walter is Vice President of Design Education at InVision and author of Design for Emotion. Previously, as UX team leader at MailChimp, he divided the characters of the designers working there into two types: hunters and farmers.

According to Walter, hunters are excited by exploration - the opportunity to discover the new. They dislike constraints that can quickly drain their creative energy. So they are best suited to new product development and rebranding. Farmers, on the other hand, will find it hard to impose limits on themselves - they enjoy repeated iterations and improving existing products. They will therefore do better in meticulously reviewing existing solutions, comparing and auditing.

This separation of roles allowed Walter to match tasks to the designer's personality, giving them the opportunity to develop in an area that actually interests them and in which they feel comfortable.

However, matching challenges to personality should not go hand in hand with routine. Raising the bar and being able to prove yourself in new situations allows you to spread your wings and discover your potential in areas other than your everyday tasks.

Every employee, regardless of their tasks, expects respect - the feeling that the work we put so much energy into is needed and not in vain. Trust in usability design, something soft and often hard to measure, comes gradually. Especially in an environment dominated by technology, with established processes that have been in place for years. But since you have devoted resources to hiring specialists, give them space to act - freedom to choose the means to achieve their goal. If you engage a team responsible for optimising solutions, designing content structure and researching with users, but only allow them to make minor, visual improvements to the interface, you may encounter quick discouragement and a sense of burnout.

Of course, as designers we are willing to compromise, we are aware of priorities and technological limitations. However, creating solutions that will always be relegated to "future product versions" and never make it to production is a simple recipe for getting rid of employees who need a sense of agency.

Project teams need autonomy, especially in a dynamic, agile environment, to fit more effectively into short deadlines and limited resources.

The willingness to compromise, the set of rules and guidelines for collaboration and the awareness of the role played by the design team in the organisation is also referred to as Design Culture.

Stage 3: Developing, or how not to stand still

Building a Design Culture is quite a challenge that involves knowledge and experience, but it relies on relationships and interactions between people. Creating a diverse team is difficult - conflicts and misunderstandings await you. However, this diversity and wealth of experience allows you to look at problems and challenges from different perspectives.

"f you want diversity of thought, you have to bring in people around you who have diverse experiences.

Victoria L. Brescoll, associate professor of organizational behavior, Yale University

Different experiences are also of value to team members - at Mobee Dick we encourage knowledge sharing and internal training. Leading and participating in workshops is not limited to the design team, all interested company employees take part. For the designer, it's an opportunity to prove themselves in the (often new) role of mentor, and for the team it's a way to acquire and develop further skills.

Building a company library, trainings, conferences, space to share inspiration and news from the world of design and new technologies - these are the simplest and available solutions that support the creative development of an organisation.

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Building an internal design team from scratch is a difficult and time-consuming task, but it is an investment that in the long run brings measurable business results. By expanding your team with competent, committed designers and creating an environment that is open to change you will gain the opportunity to optimise the costs of outsourcing design work misunderstandings and communication mistakes, and you will enrich your team with new competences, which will certainly have an impact on the dynamics of your business development.

CONTACT US

Questions? Get in touch with us.

Questions? Get in touch with us!

Let's talkLet's talk