You’ve got the volume and the budget – it’s time to make the most of it.
While many in Chicago only experienced a cold and dreary week, those at HOW Design Live were full of energy and excitement. The sprawling conference center was alive with ideas and inspiration, positivity and confidence. Attendees were encouraged to feel empowered, to slow down, and to be free to explore their inner creativity whenever possible. Jocelyn K. Glei warned of the perils of being too efficient, and that designers should give time to the analog moments that spark creativity. Lisa Congdon spread the message that everyone can be creative, regardless of age or the expectations of those around them. People walked in excited groups after each session, bursting at the seams with new thoughts and self-assurance.
Yet the overall tone of the conference has shifted from earlier years. Instead of focusing directly on designers, the conference focused on the entire team. The power of “Team” was apparent everywhere! It’s time to take a step back and really understand what qualities a creative team needs to scale and be truly successful.
1. The Relaxed Designer
There is no denying that the world we live in demands great design, regardless of medium. Designers have to adapt quickly to the consistently increasing channel volume, producing more than ever before, while still producing flawless execution. Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love and many other fantastic works, asked of everyone the question that personally changed her life: “What are you willing to give up to live the life that you’re pretending that you want?” Harsh yet true, she went on to offer advice that designers can take on all of this and more, to live the life they actually want, as long as they follow three principles to stay relaxed: Priorities to stay focused, Boundaries to keep things sacred, and Mysticism to embrace the moments of inspiration whenever they happen. “The most relaxed person in the room is the one that holds the most power,” she went on to explain, as her comfortable joking and genuine story drew the audience in further. Sacrifice and magic are the cornerstones of what it takes to be a great designer, and the silent nods of hundreds rang that point true.
2. The Champion of “No”
Many designers hate the word “no.” Their goal is to meet the demand and rise above the chaos, whether they are in-house and want to please their stakeholders, or at an agency where saying “no” loses the business. So how do teams push back on work effectively and strategically? Say hello to your champion of saying “no.” This person, maybe a project manager or traffic coordinator, is your key to keep out unnecessary distractions and level-set expectations with those outside your team. Your champion knows that time is important, even when your stakeholders are demanding the world (and maybe the moon on the side).
To scale quickly, your team needs this person desperately. Whether it be to manage schedules and capacity, or to track down approval and request information, your champion is critical to keeping your designers designing. Brian Rice, Head of Brand Design at Georgia Pacific Consumer Business, made it clear: “Designers don’t like to say no, so it’s imperative to have someone that will.”
3. The Brand Ambassador
So now you’ve got a team of designers and someone to coordinate requests and timelines! Design work is flowing at a rapid pace, but you begin to notice some inconsistencies in the work. Why is this designer using an outdated logo? Does the copy on this one-pager follow our voice guidelines? It’s time to find that person to center your reality and provide the single source of truth. It’s time for a Brand Ambassador.
“Design is the body language of your marketing. Don’t slouch.” – Mark King
These words, presented by Garrett Jestice of Lucidpress, couldn’t be truer. In the modern organization, your brand needs definition, direction, and direct management. If your marketers are the face and designers are the voice, your brand manager is truly the body language of your organization. If your brand is sloppy and unkempt, your design becomes disjointed and unpredictable. You need that attention to detail and professional outlook that provides the building blocks to successful design. You need to find the person that will provide your company the healthy posture it deserves.
4. The Strategic Creative Leader
So now your team is building out, and your work is simply fantastic! You may even have a lead designer to help provide direction on new projects. But each project is a short-term endeavor, a simple means to an end. A long-term plan needs a vision, and a vision needs a leader. And leadership is not forgotten in today’s world. CMOs, CSOs, CEOs – these are all common roles that have rooted themselves in the foundation of a successful organization. But what about the creative team’s leader? How do designers become less of a “services” team and more of a strategic partner to the business? The final piece to truly scale your team is beginning to emerge in the industry: The Strategic Creative Leader.
Whatever the title – Chief Creative Officer, Chief Design Officer, Chief This-Is-How-People-See-Us Officer – your team is at a loss without one. Whether you know it or not, this person will be your biggest fan and strongest advocate, your long-time mentor and closest ally. As creative teams shape and grow, so too should an opening be made available at the executive table to provide the team’s voice and strategy. Timm Chiusano, VP of Production & Creative Services, said it best: “When you reach a higher level of understanding between creative and marketing, the entire organization can harmonize like a symphony. It sparks greater creativity; if you have a deeper understanding of the purpose, you are in a better position to find a creative solution to achieve it.” Your team needs a leader that will listen and fight and cheer as you grow to greater and greater heights.
Now the questions fall to you. What stage is your team’s growth? What gaps are you missing to reach the next level of success? Building a team isn’t an overnight pursuit. Find your opportunities to bring in the right people, and watch as your team becomes truly great.
About the author: Josh Trauberman is the Product Manager for inMotion ignite. As a Certified Scrum Product Owner and Lean Six Sigma Green Belt, he pulls from his extensive background in sales, support, and product development to create solutions that marketing and creative teams love.