The Do’s and Don’ts of effectively managing a design team



Managing a design team isn’t everyone’s forte. It is a challenging task. But, proper management has its merits. It can create the right workplace atmosphere where the designers are motivated, and their productivity is boosted.

Also, design isn’t a frill, and studies have shown that agencies investing in good design have gained 32% more revenue. So, making sure that the design team is set up and managed well might be the first step to reaching new heights.

Recipe for a good design team

A great design team consists of people who find ways to express their opinions and thoughts and believe in open discussions. The team comprises a group of creative designers (UI designers and UX designers) and UX researchers who play specific roles using different methods and tools to achieve a common goal. The goal might be mobile app design and development, building a website, or other design projects.

Types of design team structures

 1. Centralized

In the centralized design team structure, the team works from a central location with one decision-maker. However, large design teams have more than one design manager managing individual designers. These design managers report to the Director or Vice President of UX.

Centralized teams work as an agency as they work on various projects within the company. The Director of UX or design managers manage the workload. The perks of a centralized team are –

  • Hassle-free collaboration and easy sharing of feedback within the team.
  • Decreased internal conflict due to defined roles within the team.
  • A unified design experience as the team shares the same design resources and vision.
  • Designers get plenty of opportunities to learn.

 2. Flexible

In this structure, designers belong to cross-functional teams, and they report to a team leader. There’s also a centralized design leader. This team structure is a hybrid of embedded and centralized design team structures.

Since these design teams can be moved around to meet changing design needs of the organization, they are termed as flexible.

In this structure, the day-to-day activities of the designers are supervised and directed by the team leader. Also, all the designers collaborate via design reviews. The advantages of a flexible design team structure are –

  • Enhanced flexibility to meet changing design needs
  • As a result of the double oversight, there’s increased focus on the design process
  • Better collaboration between design, as well as other product teams

3. Embedded (cross-functional)

In this structure, designers are embedded in various cross-functional teams within a UI UX design agency. For example, designers work together with product engineers, developers, and marketers to develop specific products, lines of business, or features.

This team structure has the following advantages –

  • Cross-departmental collaboration and trust are improved.
  • The speed of product development is accelerated.
  • Designers are allowed to become experts on specific project types.

Managing a design team – the do’s

1. Give your team the best tools

To do their jobs successfully, your design team must have access to the right tools. Some of those tools include –

A. Sketch – This tool is great for creating prototypes, designs, and collaborating on projects and ideas with other team members. Sketch can make designs shine.

B. Abstract – Abstract can be integrated with Adobe and Sketch. The tool allows designers to organize and store files. Collaborating with other members of the team is also possible.

C. Adobe Creative Cloud – From building eBooks to photo editing, Adobe Creative Cloud offers a suite of features that helps designers do their job well and quickly.

D. Figma – Figma is a collaborative interface design tool that allows design teams to build better products as a team. From prototypes, design, and feedback, everything is in one place.

2. Listen and identify with your team

Listening to the pain points and needs of your team is crucial to keep them motivated. Also, team leaders or managers need to identify with the team to make sure deadlines are met and nobody succumbs to the constant pressure.

3. Understand their passion and what drives them

Encouragement and motivation drive productivity and ensures progress. When you understand what your subordinates are striving for, you can offer them beneficial opportunities in the form of rewards. When designers have a clear vision and enough inspiration, they’ll be eager to follow your leadership.

4. Keep training them to hone their skills

To help designers grow and stay updated with the latest trends, it is crucial to provide training. You can use varied styles like individual training, group training, or self-education.

5. Handle creative blocks with a lot of care

Creative blocks are real, but what’s blocking their creativity isn’t always understandable. Sometimes they might not know the reason, and other times, they might not want to share it. So you need to be patient and also find ways to keep your design team interested. Sometimes, it might help them to focus on something else rather than the project at hand. Then, once they’re back on track and find their motivation, they’ll be unstoppable.

6. Give them creative freedom with a pinch of restraint

Designers are constantly on the lookout for innovative sources of inspiration to get fresh ideas. You might interfere any time, but the ideal way is to give them the freedom to take new approaches to complete tasks. However, offer them guidance so that their inspiration and creativity are boosted.

Managing a design team – the don’ts

1. Don’t panic or overreact

Your design team may encounter obstacles and challenges to complete a task. They may even go through tough times, but overacting won’t help. Instead, it might demotivate your employees. You must stay calm and help your team move forward.

2. Don’t make it too easy or simple for them

Don’t try to make things too simple for your team. Obstacles create an atmosphere of challenge and will help them to discover new strengths and skills. Ensure that they’re allowed to grow and learn while on the job.

3. Don’t be unresponsive or unsupportive when they need you

You might be unable to meet everyone’s needs, but try to be responsive and always support your team. Make your team feel safe and listen to their problems. If they need your help in solving any problem, make sure that you offer them advice and help them out. Whether they wish to discuss work-related or personal issues, be patient with them and let them talk. Your user experience design team can function at its best when they don’t have things weighing them down.

Good management of your design teams means that you need to have excellent leadership skills, along with problem-solving skills. In addition, you should be a good listener and be responsive to the needs of your team. Even though it might be a difficult task managing a team, it will be rewarding to see how far your subordinates have come with your support.

Giving mutual support, working together, and finding the right balance of the workload will make designers perform their best.

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