Building and fostering a design culture

4 min read
Margaret Kelsey
  •  Oct 23, 2015
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Designers design more than products. They also contribute to the design of their company’s culture—inspiring and educating their colleagues on the importance of design and great user experiences.

Zach Perkins, Director of User Experience and Design at TaskRabbit, joined us for a webinar to talk about specific ways to foster design deeply in your company cultureTwitter Logo, measure success, and continue to keep people excited.

Watch the full recording below, or read on for our short recap on Zach’s tips.

What is a design-focused culture?

In a design-focused culture, design is a part of everyone’s job. The culture promotes the kind of creativity and innovation required to succeed.

So where do you begin? Start by asking yourself these questions:

  1. Is there a design culture already in place (even a small one)?
  2. If the design culture is minimal, what fundamentals are lacking?
  3. What elements from other teams have inspired you—reading blog posts, listening to podcasts, etc—that you’d want to incorporate?

“Your role as a designer is to be a design advocate for the organization all the time.”

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However, non-designers on your team can be helpful in the process too. Currently, a ton of product managers are retired designers. Your engineer may have been a designer in a previous life. The role of design advocate is an easy one for designers, but it’s not only for designers.

For example, Zach said that they have an awesome design team at TaskRabbit, but there’s a lot of projects going on. Creating a rad user experience requires engineers and PMs to step in and foster the culture, too.

Step 1: create the inspiration

At TaskRabbit, Zach said that everyone sits close to each other, and they’re able to have casual conversations where people feel free to chime in. These conversations—with no real agenda since they aren’t formal meetings—are a perfect place to start seeding how you’re going to solve the problems from a design perspective.

Get your coworkers thinking that design really does matter.Twitter Logo Plant the seeds for the design advocates who can voice those opinions throughout the company.

Step 2: build the foundation

It’s important to keep building the excitement. At TaskRabbit, they let every individual in the company use a Google form to submit design ideas, UX enhancements, or any other product request.

From this form, they use Zapier to translate it into a card in Trello in an “idea bucket” column. By reducing friction, the ideas can flow freely and whenever inspiration strikes. It doesn’t have to be a formal, in-person meeting. And that makes this process idea especially helpful for remote teams.

Also, share the inspiration you find. When you’re having your morning cup of coffee, jamming on Dribbble and reading blogs, share cool tidbits that inspire you with your peers. Build up the traction and momentum to get people behind those ideas.

Step 3: get the leadership involved

It’s critical that you keep your leadership educated and informed. But, how can you get your management team involved, since they probably don’t have time to fill out Google forms?

At TaskRabbit, they have several high-level metrics around moving a specific number, like repeat usage, etc. These numbers don’t only contribute to the overall success, they also inspire a wider audience: the people running the company.

So, use those metrics to get people involved with design. Speak up when your see metrics change as a result of a design change.Twitter Logo Offer to help move those numbers using best practices for user experience.

Ultimately, you as a designer have to create this. Dig for the meaty nuggets in those metrics, and then share them with the organization. So many designers and design teams create ideas, hold onto them themselves, and jam on them on their own. Instead, go out and explore those ideas with some of your peers.

Ray tweeted a perfect synopsis:

Collaborate in real time on a digital whiteboard