9 Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Creative Team
Cross functional teams are great! They are a group of people with different professional backgrounds and perspectives coming together to work on a product. Every individual’s expertise is an asset and is fundamental to the project’s success. But lacking experience in your colleague's field can make it feel like you are both on different pages. Finding common ground and aligning to the same vision is the route to success, so how can you communicate with designers effectively?
1. It's ok if you don't like it, it still might be good design
If there is something that you see that you don’t like, it is important to figure out why. Maybe it’s the colour or maybe the execution may not match your vision for the product. Take a step back and try to think about what parts you don’t think are working.
But remember, you are probably not your user. Your designs need to appeal to the person who you’re trying to sell your product to. Not a fan of baby pink? That’s ok. But if the person using your app is an 8 year old My Little Pony fan, they might be. The design needs to be right for your concept, so keep that in mind. Your taste and what would be best for the product might be two different things.
2. Give positive and constructive feedback
“This is bad” is not really helpful and doesn’t give the designer enough guidance to improve. When we react too quickly, it can be a demoralizing experience for our team members. Devaluing the work of others is not a recipe for success. Design is iterative which means that making changes is part of the design process.
We can communicate with designers more effectively by using constructive feedback. Constructive feedback are useful comments meant to help improve the work.
Here are some examples of constructive feedback:
“It looks like there is a lot of information on the page. Let's try to choose the most important elements for this section and think of where the rest of the information could go.”
“Seems like you had a lot of fun with this design exploration! Our final product needs to be really clean and accessible, so let’s focus on making everything easy to read.”
“This is an interesting choice but I think we need to make sure our work stays consistent with some of the work we’ve already made. Let’s see if we can tweak some of the spacing so we can create some cohesion.”
In these examples we can:
- Identify the areas of improvement
- Discuss why those improvements needs to be made
Taking a step back and looking at what the overall concept is and what we want the design to communicate is the best way to align the product to our vision.
3. Don't forget to talk about the positives
The old adage of “don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater” comes to mind when we think about how to provide effective feedback. If we spend all our time talking about what needs to be improved, it could be difficult to identify the parts of the design that should remain the same. Let your team members know what elements are working well. Positive feedback helps people know what they should keep and also helps people feel valued. Positive reinforcement is a strong motivator and a helpful communication strategy.
4. Find the sweet spot for checking in
Regular check-ins are important because they help keep everyone aligned as you progress through the project. But there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Checking in too frequently could be interpreted as micromanaging. Ask your team how they want to communicate progress with you.
Agile processes can be great for helping align the team while maintaining a positive work environment. Here are a few common practices:
Daily stand ups. These daily 15 minute check-ins usually occur at the start of the day and are meant to keep the team up to date on high level progress. Standups can also help showcase any issues that might be blocking your team.
Scheduled feedback sessions. Feedback is critical to the design of any web or mobile product. As a designer, I am consistently seeking feedback from my users, team, and stakeholders throughout the project. Collecting feedback as you move through a sprint is crucial, but it is also just as important to schedule dedicated sessions to delve into the granular details of the design.
End of sprint demos. These sessions are a great way of displaying all the work the team has completed in the sprint. End of sprint demos are an excellent tool to help the entire team see all of the moving parts, what has been completed so far, and what’s next on the chopping block.
There are many ways to help you keep your team aligned. Standups, feedback sessions, end of sprint demos are some of the more common techniques implemented in industry today. Find low pressure methods of communicating your needs to get your message heard by doing what fits into your team’s workflow.
5. Good design takes time
Making things simple and easy to use takes time and effort. Creating simple, beautiful and accessible designs means balancing the needs of the user with business goals, technical restraints, and aesthetics. Trying to connect all of these facets can take a lot of trial and error. Design is an iterative process and requires exploration to come up with the best solution.
Allotting adequate time for design ensures that your developers have enough to work with so they don’t need to design (because we all know what that looks like). Ask your design team for their time estimates. Adequate time allows for the goals of the project to be fully realized.
6. Include your designers in big picture planning
The strongest collaborations happen between business, technical, and design stakeholders. Each grouping holds specialized skills and knowledge sets to create a successful product. Between the three factions they can look at what is profitable, what is possible, and what will attract and keep users engaged. Including design in the forefront of the process ensures that you don’t sacrifice the user’s needs. Creating beautiful and functional work is an intentional process and requires insight from the very beginning.
As mentioned earlier, good design takes time. By including design at the beginning of the process, you can scope in design into your timeline estimates. Creating realistic goals is possible when you know all of the factors involved in your scope.
7. Show them examples of other products you like
Showing similar digital products and websites to your designer can be a helpful tool to communicate what you like and what you don’t. Pinpoint which elements you think works well and would be effective for your product. It could be certain user interface (UI) elements or even a useful flow that has a positive user experience (UX). You can also ask your design team to show you examples of products that they are going to draw inspiration from. Remember, it’s not about copying the work from another company, but narrowing down your vision.
8. Trust your designers
It’s easy to get caught up in all of the excitement of the design process. The visual part of a product is compelling and can stir up a lot of emotions. While being part of the process is important, allowing your designers to do the actual design thinking and work and to come up with solutions without micromanaging them is key. The designer, especially if they are a UX designer, is usually the strongest advocate for your users; the people who will be using and buying your product. Listening to the designer’s recommendations can help prevent pitfalls.
9. Find the best way to communicate
Everyone has different preferences for how they like to communicate. Decide what platform or method to use with your team and how best to send and receive information. With so much of our work being conducted online these days, using Slack or Teams is a great way to manage day-to-day communication. However things like deadlines and documents can get lost in the endless scroll of a conversation. Using task-tracking software like Jira or Trello will give you a pulse on the project's progress, which will support your decision making when managing and mitigating risks.
Similarly, video calls on Zoom or Teams can be a great way to get in depth feedback on a project. But for quick feedback, sometimes a meeting isn’t necessary. Take advantage of the commenting tools on Figma or Invision for small tweaks and changes.
Remember, you and your designers are all on the same team working towards the same goals. Finding the best way to communicate will help produce good work, help your colleagues feel valued, and manage expectations. Taking some of the ques can really help establish respect for your teammates and create a stronger team that will put in the effort to produce quality designs.
Natasha Gouveia is a product designer and UX researcher. Natasha comes from a background in art and design; she has completed her BA degree from OCAD and UX/UI design diploma from Brainstation in Toronto, Canada. When she's not busy renovating her house, Natasha spends her time painting and creating art.