Adobe 99U have just posted a profile piece on Katie Dill, the Vice President of Design at Lyft. Katie has built a sizeable team of more than 100 designers at Lyft. In the 99U article, they cover what she regards as eight important parts of scaling a design team.
Scaling a design team can deliver important benefits and results for a business. There is a lot of useful information that I’d like to discuss and address based on my experience of growing brand, design, and creative services teams to support the enterprise. My creative services function at KPMG consisted of 100 creative staff in the UK and India, and while at Goldman Sachs, where I started my career in design, I was part of a group of more than 250 creatives based in London.
I will post my article on each of the eight points over the coming days. I hope you stick around for all eight as there is a lot of valuable information to benefit from. So, let’s get started with the first of Katie’s topics scaling your team, that of engagement between your creative services team and the business.
1. Get designers involved from the ground up.
“Lyft’s design team used to operate as a centralized design agency, coming up with solutions when approached by product teams. Today, the team is integrated in every step of the product development process, which Dill says has led to more creative, customer-driven results. “It’s a great example of how design is a part of the product development process at all stages, and how design is partnering with product management, engineering, and data science to determine the right thing to do for our consumers and our drivers,” she says.”
Katie is right that design should be part of the product development process at all stages. Often organisations who are just starting out with a new focus or investment in a design and creative services function start by providing solutions to the business based solely as a response to individual requests received.
This can be the most labour intensive stage of building a creative services function – both for the business and your team. To support this, and to minimise the cost in all terms, it’s critical that your creative teams are enabled to do their job well by being knowledgeable about their craft, equipped with the rights tools, and know the brand.
As a team lead or manager you need to enable your team in these areas, assign the right team members for each task, trust your team, and conduct lessons learned processes after each project. This will help share the experience and knowledge gained amongst your group. It will also support you in not having to go back to the same team members again and again.
Often situations like this are also coupled with a new brand or an existing brand that has never been well supported or had much attention paid to it by the business. This may mean that you are extremely limited with your resources. In my experience, this complexity is best managed by being clear about a staged introduction of the brand, and the elements that are vital to be delivered correctly from day one. For example, this may be agreeing that the new logo, colour palette and typography are applied in all customer-facing media first. It may also mean identifying elements of your communications approach to prioritising. In my experience, there have been times where events and digital were prioritised over print and product. It’s all about how you can deliver the best result with the resources available.
You can then work to quickly follow this up with templates and desktop tools and resources for users. This will enable you to be consistent across the business with the focused approach and the components that you provide. It can also help to reduce any ‘buyers remorse’ for the company concerning the extent of work required to deliver design and the brand well.
Each of the scenarios above can cause friction and frustration when trying to scale your creative services team, both for the team of creatives as well as the internal customer who have not previously had any constraints applied to them concerning brand or design.
By engaging the creative services team with the business at the early stages of projects you benefit from developing relationships with operational teams and your team members. This allows the ability to demonstrate the benefit that the creative services team can bring to the business, the product, sales, marketing, and other related operational and customer-facing teams.
Another meaningful way that getting creative team members involved early is the increased exposure of the creative team to the business and what it is that the company does.
This should inform the perspective of your team as to what problems the business and your product or service is actually solving for customers – because it’s not always what you’re told it is!
This information and knowledge enable designers to shape their work in ways that have a more natural and automatic fit for the business, customers, and the market.
Early engagement also improves productivity for both your team and the business. Your operational teams don’t waste time going down paths that brand and compliance need to pull them back from, and time and effort are not spent on work product that needs to be discarded. Also, nobody’s ego gets damaged or put out of place. Early engagement with design and brand supports productive working relationships.
Engage your design, brand, and creative teams early on. We want to produce a positive, professional, and impactful result for you and the business. Furthermore, use platforms and automation to leverage your work. I have deployed more than a dozen platforms and automation tools in my career in creative services. Each of these added systemic leverage and scale to the business to increase quality and reduce costs.
I’ll address the next element of building a great team, developing a good mix, in the following article.
I’m currently based in both London and Berlin and on the lookout for new opportunities. Please get in touch using the Contact page if you’d like to discuss more.