- Founder and CEO of Awasu Design
- User experience professional with more than ten years of experience in design, management, and organizational strategy
- Co-founded Bolt | Peters, a user experience research firm acquired by Facebook and serves on the Board of Advisors
- Clients include: Hallmark, Time Warner, Restoration Hardware, PeopleSoft, Blue Shield, KQED, EMC/Documentum, and Wells Fargo
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Organizational Excellence for User Experience Design Teams
- How should I build a design team? Where do I start?
What are the key roles of a design team? Which ones should I start with? How do I get my organization to understand how to best work with designers? The answers that are right for you will depend on your industry, size of company, budget and culture. The problem is how to get a team off the ground and how to define the roles of the team's members.
- How can I structure my design team to be the most effective as it grows?
Design teams come in all shapes and sizes. What's the right ratio of roles? How many senior versus junior staff should I have? What processes will work best for my team? How might our processes change as we grow?
Many factors influence what's right for you: the culture of your organization, maturity of your design team, complexity of your product, number of business units. Fortunately, there are a handful of typical tried-and-true models that can help you structure an effective and growing team.
- How do I use both in-house design teams and outside design resources?
Lots of design teams use outside resources, and it can be tricky to make it go well. When does it make sense to bring in an outside agency instead of a new hire or a contractor? How well will a vendor work with your designers? How will they work with your business partners? How do you assess cultural fit when assessing a vendor? What's the best way to set up a preferred vendor list? How do you communicate, transfer files, and protect the integrity of the design process with a vendor outside your firewall?
A more insidious challenge is how to balance the perception of quality for your own team. What if a vendor does better design work then your internal designers? How do you select a vendor and structure the working relationships in a way that your designers are elevated and empowered by the engagement?
- How can my design team work well with other departments?
From startups to billion-dollar companies, designers are bound to work with people in other parts of the organization such as marketing, engineering, product, among others. In some cases, the design team might be part of one of those departments.
Designers need a variety of skills outside just "design" as they navigate the waters of projects, meetings and development processes. They need diplomacy skills, the ability to speak to business goals, and how to run an effective meeting, among other abilities.
At the organizational level and the product-development life cycle level, it's crucial to have known processes, clear responsibilities, and deliberate expectations between groups so design moves forward smoothly and productively.
- How can our design team have more influence?
In many organizations, design has been viewed as something happening further downstream in the product-development life cycle; marketing, product or engineering groups typically were called in to figure out the product and then it would receive some design attention to make it look more appealing to the users.
Fortunately, that's starting to change. More organizations are starting to realize that design is an integral part of product direction, concepting and strategy. It's not just about picking colors and making icons.
The challenge is to help others in your organization recognize the true value of design. An executive champion must be secured, someone who will focus on highly visible products with clear return-on-investment opportunities and who will improve the individual effectiveness of each designer.
- How can I improve my team's effectiveness both individually and as a collaborative group?
There are so many skills needed for successful design that typically aren't taught in school. How should designers advocate for a design and speak to business goals? What's the best way to organize and kickoff a meeting? How can we make every meeting – from kickoff meetings to review meetings – more productive and run in a way that moves the product forward while involving everyone?
To what degree should designers be involved in scoping projects? How can the design team use their design skills to tell the story of the engagement ahead of time so everyone knows what to expect throughout the project? What kind of leadership skills do designers need, both externally with business partners and internally with others in the design team?