I’ve worked for too long as a design-team-of-1, but the past few workplaces I’ve been lucky enough to be part of a team, and learning so much because of it. But one thing has started to bug me : that some feel that the designers should sit on their own in their own room.
I would like to share why I feel the designers should sit with the developers of the project. If a designer is working predominantly on 1 project, they should sit with the people who are building this product.
I’ve lost count at the number of times a developer has had a small question about the design – and admittedly it’s because i’ve left something out. Being in the room and being accessible is a great way to encourage people to come over when there’s an issue, and we can resolve it quickly.
Awareness of the Issues
If you’re working on a product that has a lot of data (such as an ecommerce site) the data can restrict the design. Back-end developers will know how that data is structured. For example, I recently asked if it was possible to separate optional fields and mandatory fields with different div classes so I could hide the optional ones. My question was quickly answered by a back-end developer, so at least I knew my design would hold water.
The other benefit of increased awareness of developer pain points is the sometimes inconsequential design features that are high cost to the dev team. If it’s something that isn’t going to have an impact on the user experience, maybe it’s something that could be reconsidered.
Trust and Respect
I sometimes feel like designers feel their job is more important than the developers. We congratulate ourselves on Behance and Dribbble with concepts that are not currently realistic. But it’s a symbiotic relationship. A good developer is going to want to make the most incredible apps and websites, and be proud of the results. A good designer knows the value of a good developer, and treats them with the respect they deserve.
Developers Can Have The Answers
I know some developers who are very interested in the UX and UI side of projects, and when I’m struggling with a problem they can have very helpful suggestions. I’ve seen developer suggest nice animated features that the designers otherwise wouldn’t have known about. Having their input can be incredibly valuable. Which brings us neatly on to …
Giving developers input in the design decisions gives them a sense of control of the direction of the project. Often developers are the last link in the decision making chain. Giving them a voice will improve engagement with the project, making them feel included in deciding what they are going to be building, instead of leaving them in the dark wondering what’s coming next.
I feel that some designers feel they should be on their own, lofting over peasants like on the top floor in a JG Ballard novel. If you want respect, make your contribution count by involving the whole team. Be part of a united effort, understanding and learning from each other.
I also find a constant supply of chocolate can also help build relationships =)
But what’s the point of having a design team if you’re not going to be part of the design team? Maybe I’ve been a Design-Team-of-1 too long? But what if I need my team to help me solve problems?Then I would say have a daily standup or a weekly workshop session with the designers, let them know what you’re working on and what is blocking you. If they have insights, schedule time to work through the problem and get their perspective.
So who is right?
Instead of wondering who is right and who isn’t, the question you need to ask is : what is the goal you are trying to achieve?
Instead of wondering who is right and who isn’t, the question you need to ask is : what is the goal you are trying to achieve? Is the goal of the designer to build a design department with a well thought out ethos, delivering a design vision for your company, and create interesting concepts?…
… or …
… is the goal of the designer to a create products that are actual, holistically encouraging design thinking across the product releases and fostering a user-centric understanding across content, business and engineering.
I’m sure you’ll make the right choice.