As the Design leader at Monday, I manage a fantastic team of exceptional designers. Together, we help leaders and companies design human-centered experiences that meet their business goals.
After more than a decade of working, supporting, and mentoring my design teams, I’ve discovered that designers are always trying to evolve their craft. If you work in the design industry, you know that almost all design teams build awesome designs that attract other designers’ attention — and occasionally new clients.
On the other hand, the best design teams are the ones who look beyond pretty fireworks and bring more to the table. These are the teams that look past visual expertise and focus on building great relationships (which is crucial for them).
Throughout the design process, they empathize and partner with clients on both the business and human levels. In reality, they know that people are the center of all positive experiences and never forget that it starts in their daily relationships.
They understand how partnerships work and how to maintain trust. They are never afraid to talk about possible flaws in their solutions or even ask questions when in doubt to make them even better.
So let’s break into pieces what makes a great design team great.
⚡ Spoiler alert: all of these 5 things can be learned by all design teams.
1. Understanding their business (what they are putting on the line) 🧠
First, you need to acknowledge that clients are the ones who are investing (and taking the most risks) into building a product with you. It is often the case when they only have one shot at capturing the right investors/clients to keep their product alive, so don’t let your ego running around: they’re not risking their business’ future based on assumptions.
In order to be a great designer, you need to ask questions and understand why.
Here are some of the questions I recommend starting with:
- What are your business objectives?
- How will you perceive success in this project?
- What is your go-to-market strategy?
- How many stakeholders will we have involved in the decision-making?
- What are the strengths of your competitors? And what do they do wrong?
- How much time will your team spend on this project?
Great design teams use these questions to determine how they can assist people in shifting their mindset from firework designs to satisfying their users’ and businesses’ needs. Sometimes it can even help you better understand how the project will impact internal problems — such as team operations.
2. (How to give proper) feedback and (ask for) updates 👥
Clients are not your day-to-day co-workers who understand the overstep of the process and the project. They’re your partners, and as such, they have their own agendas, methods of work, and goals to achieve. Having this mindset present, great design teams introduce their stakeholders to their work. This way, they can be closer to the design process and feel in sync with the ongoing project.
In other words, great design teams keep their clients wired through regular updates and continuous communication. By doing so, they’re contributing to a better co-creation atmosphere while also creating trust.
Here are some steps you can follow:
- Maintaining regular status updates
- Suggest shorter deliverables updates: it helps for better feedback and keeping projects on track.
- Present your findings in easy and “digestible” ways.
- Explain your solutions in a “non-designer” language (clients don’t always understand what you say).
- Demonstrate how your solution relates to the clients business goals
Great design teams know that every project will level up in quality by keeping regular feedback, updates and by building respect and trust with the client’s team.
Friendly side-note: Clients may not be design experts, but they are, indeed, experts in their business areas. So don’t forget — by keeping them close, you’ll be able to create better solutions.
3. What will determine success? 🧭
Great design teams crave metrics because they know how important it is to build products that can impact both their users’ lives and their client’s businesses. So, and in that light, it’s essential to ask your clients how they plan to define success and how they expect your product to impact their business goals after launch.
But why do great design teams crave success metrics? Well, to answer this question bluntly, it’s because they know that having metrics for success will help them focus on what really matters. By having it, they avoid spending time and money on flashy elements — or, as I call it, on fireworks (things that seem nice but, in the end, have no real value).
Here are some questions you can ask your clients if they aren’t sure how to measure success:
- What is the outcome you hope to achieve?
- What % of new users do you expect to come after this design or redesign?
- How do you intend to measure your users’ satisfaction?
- How much business revenue would you expect coming after this project?
- How many user retentions would you consider as successful?
- How do the decision-makers estimate the project’s success?
4. Focus on the goal, not the plan 👁️
The best design teams know that sometimes the initial strategy needs a little tweaking to better fit the final objective(s). In other words, they embrace change and even suggest it. Getting attached to (your) strategies will only make you build average solutions and, in the end, present something that the market doesn’t want.
Friendly side-note: If your insights show the plan you and your client agreed on isn’t the best option, present a new strategy. There’s no problem in doing so! In fact, it’s better to change the course of things than to force something that will not bring value to anyone. Remember — you’re here to help your clients, not make them spend their money and time.
5. Keep dev teams in the loop ♾️
As in all digital products, great design teams bear in mind development efforts and costs, (Since we don’t live in a Neverland world). Development teams need to be considered when designing your projects, as your work will impact theirs. In the end, this will translate into a more friendly handoff while keeping the client’s costs reduced to an acceptable value.
An effective end-to-end experience requires a close look at all project stages, and the development should be one of those stages. In the end, everyone is engaged, healthy, and happy by participating.
Yes, you can 💪
It’s totally in your grasp to build an awesome team, being an existent one or a new one. The secret to success is to follow our humble advice: empathy, co-creation, trust, and constant communication.
Ask questions, understand the why, let go when needed, and keep your teams in sync. Building trust is an everyday process, as is building better relationships. These tips are a great way to level up your team from good to great. 🚀
We really do want to hear from you! Get in touch
Monday is a Business Design Consultancy based in sunny Lisbon. We co-create with ambitious leaders to build better businesses. We use strategy & design to transform businesses from within.
This core philosophy stands at the center of everything we create.
Clients include: Mercedes, EDP, Red Bull, Banco de Portugal, Microsoft, Sumol+Compal, Fujitsu, Galp, among others.