It can be a challenge to manage and lead a creative team.
With JIN design’s rapid growth (we doubled our team within a year!), we began focusing a lot on building and nurturing an effective design team.
As we approach our third anniversary in 4 months’ time, here are some tips we learned along the way:
1) Set up a Design System
Standardise the design process by setting up a Design System. From file naming conventions to working closely with different stakeholders such as the Client, Visual Team or Developers, a standardised process is important to ensure smooth delivery.
Establish some procedures and guidelines, even if/when the team is small. This means you won’t have to overhaul the process when your team eventually grows.
Develop a clear on-boarding process for any new team members. This helps to familiarise them with the established process before they go on to work on projects independently.
2) Don’t make it too easy for the team
Do not be overprotective of your designers, whether or not they are new to the team. Do not do too much hand-holding. We believe that we learn best by doing, not watching.
However, make sure you keep a watch over them and provide guidance when they really need it – get them to swim, not sink.
Giving homework or assignments can help them improve their skills, and widen their knowledge outside of work parameters.
3) Be a “Coach”, not a “Boss”
Bossing them around or giving specific instructions is not a good way to manage your team of creatives. Do not hinder their creative thinking. Let them explore.
Quite frequently, your designers will face mental blocks. Act as their coach and give suggestions to help them through challenges. Be patient in guiding them back on track. Make sure they feel comfortable asking questions when they have any.
Coaching, instead of instructing, can motivate them and improve their work performance.
4) Have regular reviews
Set regular reviews to make sure the whole team is updated on the statuses of all the different projects. In addition, it is advisable to review and polish designs as a team before presenting work to clients.
Effective design reviews are critical to any team’s success. At JIN Design, we are responsible for each other’s work. Gathering our team together to review and improve on the design is thus important to us.
At times, we may find it tempting to exclude this process of reviewing our designs, especially when struggling to meet tight deadlines. Do not allow your team to do so. It can develop into a bad habit to skip any review sessions for future projects.
Feedback should be a designer’s best friend. Don’t make it a choice. This is the only way we can improve and carry our designs forward.
streamlining and improving your work process brings your team closer and adds value to your team culture. Be sure to allow space for individual ideas and constructive feedback. Always welcome a fresh pair of eyes – you never know, the next idea might just be your team’s big breakthrough.