Leading a creative team is no easy task. A great creative team is working effectively and efficiently, but feels free to express their ideas. As a leader of the creative team, you’re going to be responsible for the overall quality of the work that your team is producing. So all in all, it can feel a bit overwhelming!
At Design Cloud, we’re on a mission to build the world’s biggest team of talented, UK-based designers. So as you can imagine, that takes quite a bit of management! We spoke to two of our fantastic design team leaders, Jack Bailey and Dan Stone, to gather some recommendations they’d give to any budding creative leaders. It might also be really handy for those that are working closely with creatives.
When it comes to design work, feedback is a really important part of making sure that the workflow remains efficient. As a leader, it’s important to make sure that you minimise friction with your team by making your feedback specific and clear.
Our design team leaders do this by making the best use of tools like Loom, recording feedback in real-time and talking through the improvements needed in a video format the designer can refer back to as many times as they need.
Dan Stone said ‘Another thing, I always tell myself, if i’m ever stuck on a ticket a designer needs help/feedback on, I ask myself 'what would I do?'’
Have you ever felt stuck on a task and not been sure what to do about it? It’s not a great feeling, and if your team is in this position the chances are that they’ll turn to Google, take a bit of a guess or worse still, completely miss a deadline because they simply didn’t know how to proceed with a design.
As a leader, you can avoid this by making your team feel comfortable to ask for help. Should you always wait for a member of your team to approach you? At Design Cloud, our design team leaders will make a point of reaching out to the team to ask whether anybody needs any help or support. That proactiveness can help you avoid any unnecessary design bottlenecks that occur simply because a team member feels a bit uncomfy asking for help on a task.
Another recommendation from our in-house design leaders was to take the time to really get to know the individuals in the team and make sure that they are doing ok. One question to ask is ‘How are they personally as well as professionally?’
Speaking on this subject, Jack said ‘It’s not always about whether the design is great, but is the designer ok? It’s important to make sure that the person is ok. You shouldn’t be just bothered about how they’re doing in work, but how they’re doing outside of work. People in your team should see that you're genuinely bothered about them.’
Whilst it’s appreciated you might not always get a truthful answer from your team about how they are doing personally, it’s good to keep those lines of communication open. The designer needs to be in a good headspace, and showing a real genuine interest in your team is so valuable.
Another tip Jack spoke about was on the importance of organising your own day. ‘You need to be able to have your own day planned out, so you can keep an overview of how the working day is going on. ‘ As a leader, knowing when you’re going to get time to address issues in the team or further progress on your own to-do list is important. When you’ve got a carefully planned out day, the design workflow can go much smoother.
Dan added ‘ I think organisation is a big factor in our role. Finding an efficient way that works for you to keep track of what designers are working on.’
Further to this, you can help your team by regularly checking in to find out ‘how they want to work, and what they want to work through each day.’ When you understand how work is being tackled each day, you can highlight areas that might potentially cause delays or where team members may need some additional support.
On this point, our design team leader Jack said ‘when you recognise a strength, build up the designer on that. When you see a weakness, let them know and give them the support they need. ‘ He spoke further about how it’s important to encourage your team on what they’re great at, but just as important to let them know if there’s an area you can see they need to improve in.
By keeping an eye on the design work being produced by each individual on the team, you can get to know your team’s strengths and weaknesses and organise the workload accordingly.
Give your team the time and space to share ideas. Why is this so important for creative teams? Well, trends move forward and creativity usually follows inspiration. When your team feels comfortable to share ideas, no matter how wacky or out there they might be, great things can happen.
It also means that they’ll feel more comfortable pushing the boundaries with the design work they’re doing for clients, which in turn leads to happier customers.
How can you give your team the space and resources they need to be empowered to share ideas? One way is by recognising that team members need time to be creative. Make sure that your team is never too busy or too close to capacity to be able to communicate with one another. Secondly, make sure that you have open channels of communication. Rather than having regular one-on-one calls with each individual, build in group calls to the day to encourage that extra space to share ideas. At Design Cloud our whole team comes from across the UK and so we work remotely, this works by our design team having a full team call each morning and evening as well as a slack channel that’s regularly being used to communicate throughout the day too.