Westech (14 West) is the internal tech company for a larger marketing organization. They provide tools and digital products for a group of marketing companies.
The company was fairly new to having a design department and I joined a small design team at an overseas sister company. The environment was complex and complicated. Some teams and leadership members were very stuck in their ways while others were open to change.
There was a long history of acting before thinking and not involving clients in projects creating an environment of mistrust and frustration between the company and our clients.
Our goal was to push the company forward on its design maturity path and weave design into the process from the very start.
We split our design evangelism into two main areas:
- Our own design growth activities that we could then share with the company (or directly involve them)
- Knowledge sharing and workshops to engage other teams
Design growth activities
We started by focusing on our own team growth and identifying what we could do as a team then share with or involve the larger company to increase their design knowledge and excitement.
Our goal with these set activities was to balance consistent team growth with fun. Each activity included individual learning that was shared with the full team allowing each team member to learn 4X more than they would solo.
Monthly design talks
Each month we take turns talking about a design topic. These chats often spark deeper discussions and inspiration. Topics ranged from Electric Vehicle UX, creativity boosting tips, Figma workflow tips, and more.
Quarterly bumper learning
We each took a course or read a book quarterly and presented what we learned to the team.
Quarterly design jams
For a creative boosting spark of fun our Design Jam topics were voted on as a team. We created a task and gave ourselves two hours to run with it and present it to the team. Some topics were pro-bono work for a non-profit of our choice, wearable app ideas for our clients, VR app design, and more.
Making our team more efficient and consistent was important to us. We also had to be creative since the team was distributed across a five hour difference time zone. Experimentation with new ideas was key to us and we continually evolved and tweaked our process. Here are a few examples.
We set up 3 main avenues for crits. For smaller asynchronous feedback we used Loom videos dropped in Slack. Work could also be brought to our by weekly “Silent Critique” and ad-hoc full critiques could be scheduled when needed. This structure helped us share and get feedback on our work frequently, consistently, and efficiently.
We solidified and tightened a lot of our work as well which helped keep us working smoothly and onboard new members easily. Some tightening examples include:
- Figma thumbnails
- Jira task consistency
- Workshop templates
Product design process documentation
Defining, documenting, and sharing our Product Design Process was essential for onboarding and collaboration with product teams. Once we had this defined and placed in our Confluence space we shared it with Product Teams and stakeholders.
We explored a few different research repositories to house our research templates and results. Starting in Dropbox we eventually shifted everything to our Design Space in our Company confluence to provide better transparency and searching. This is one of our more recent changes are we are moving all past research to it's new home. We were weighing the choice between Confluence and Dovetail. The decision was made to start small with Confluence and see if we needed something more enhanced like Dovetail.
The team saw boosts in creativity, excitement, and knowledge in a short time. By sharing our learnings, experiences, and work we were able to increase our growth by 4x compared to smaller or solo teams.
Through our continual growth and improvement team processes we decided on what made sense to share with the full company. Everything we did was transparent and available but we focused on sharing high level thinking, articles, and knowledge as a starting point so we wouldn't overwhelm people.
Our four main methods of sharing knowledge were our design newsletter, talks, workshops, and our Confluence space.
Our main avenue was the design team newsletter. Each team member took a turn writing and sending it to the full company. This gave us a platform to share updates on our products including user research, feedback, and prototypes. We also shared recordings of our design talks, learning sessions, product perception surveys, and design-related articles.
Micro conference / lightening talks
We held a mini remote conference consisting of short 5-minute talks highlighting a design thinking idea. For example my two talks on Journey Mapping and Inclusive Design.
Involvement in workshops
Direct involvement and cross-team collaboration were important to us too. We included team members across the full company in workshops we were running. Journey mapping workshops, product or project-specific workshops, ideation workshops, experience-based roadmaps, and more.
Design team Confluence
We planned and build our design team Confluence space to be a source of information and learning for the company. It explained our thinking, our process, help user-centric tools, and provided ways for them to get more involved if they wanted to.
Our newsletter engagement averages 64% and frequent responses to our newsletter feedback survey have been positive. When asked how useful employees find our newsletter we’ve averaged 8.3 out of 10.Most importantly members of the design team are being pulled into projects earlier allowing design a stronger voice at the table. We’ve also been teaching other product teams our process and they’ve been asking for more help along the way. One Product Owner printed out our process diagram and hung it on his home office wall.
Most importantly members of the design team are being pulled into projects earlier allowing design a stronger voice at the table. We’ve also been teaching other product teams our process and they’ve been asking for more help along the way. One product owner printed out our process diagram and hung it on his home office wall.
What we learned
We learned this wasn't a one-time project that we can solve and walk away. It is a continual process that just like any project requires continual testing, feedback, research, and iterations.
Our research repository went through multiple iterations. Our micro conference / lightening talks were exciting but required a lot of work on our end for little reward and engagement so we paused that activity. Participation in workshops and the newsletter had the most positive feedback and engagement so that because our focus.