How To Be A Design-Team Leader

{ 🎉 } —  #DesignLeaders Series 

In this edition of the #DesignLeaders series, we dig into the design workflow of Jason Coudriet. He manages a talented team of designers and content strategists, primarily focused on reimagining a part of investor experience at T. Rowe Price.

We talked with Jason about his experience being a leader, and shaping the creative process within his team.

Being a Creative Leader

Jason served as leader at several levels – from an individual performer to VP. During his career, he distilled his creative leadership to three principles:

Inspire

As a leader, it’s essential to inspire your team, constantly. Approaches like sharing new tools, exciting solutions to problems, or even making a design system can have a significant impact on your team’s workflow.

Inspiration can also come from encouraging your team to share what inspires them. Dedicated team meetings to share inspiration, is a best practice for Jason. As an example, you can push forward with a physical board/wall for the purpose.

Direct

A leader has to find a balance in their day-to-day work. When the team is young and full of emerging designers, it’s necessary to take the role of a coach when managing people and their work. This is unlike when working with more experienced designers, where a leader can also afford to be an individual performer in their team.

Managing people also means giving your team autonomy and leeway to explore.

It’s where your team can work on their own, unleash their creativity, and not feel stressed about making mistakes with someone looking over their shoulder.

Building a culture which encourages this kind of experimentation is an essential part of being a design team leader, Jason believes.

Support

A leader should be able to provide thier team with the support they need to be efficient and successful. The best way, for Jason, is via open and transparent dialog about current design challenges.

This also means the team, as well as the leader, needs to be open to feedback and suggestions. Every member should be able (and encouraged to) share their opinions to help push the project forward.

The Creative Process at T. Rowe Price

T. Rowe Price is a vast enterprise, but according to Jason, it’s a building a world-class, user-centered design culture. Before development even starts, Jason’s team conducts extensive  design research to understand the user’s needs, clarify the business challenge, and help set the direction.

Based on this research, the design team creates personas and journey maps that help to uncover tangible pain-points.

The design process isn’t just based on users’ input, though. Non-designers working on the project are also an integral part of the process, which helps Jason’s team keep differing perspectives in mind.

Client-facing stakeholders get involved as well in providing insights and present at every level of the solution’s development. They even create lo-fi wireframes and sketches themselves, that can be used in the design process. This approach gives clients a sense of ownership over the solution and helps them understand the value of user-centered design.

Inspiration in Becoming a Leader

When Jason was just getting started as a design leader, he found a lot of inspiration in the work of the world’s best designers. If you aim to become a design leader as well, he believes you should familiarize yourself with their work. Some of the many who influenced Jason were:

  • Jason Fried and his book Getting Real full of short essays about the customer-centric design and product development approach;
  • Tim Brown, CEO @ IDEO and author of The Ten Faces of Innovation – a book on using Design Thinking as a way to explore new ideas;
  • Jake Knapp, author of the legendary Design Sprint that promotes the idea of designers becoming facilitators of design;
  • Jeff Bezos, whose company, Amazon, is genuinely obsessed with serving its customers.

Finding Your Approach to Leadership

Following the principles outlined above might be a great start in your design leadership journey., but young leaders should keep in mind there’s no solution that fits all out there.

It’s a lot of work to figure out which attitude works best for a particular team and project.

Jason – thank you for your time and sharing your experience with us! Many young leaders use your learning to boost their career.

Follow Jason: Twitter, LinkedIn.

Daniel Marcinkowski Avatar

Daniel Marcinkowski / Content & Community Manager @ Phase

Spending some time on doing cool things! ✌️ Podcaster, UI/UX Designer, blogger, tech and coffee geek. From Warsaw, living in Berlin.

dmarcinkowski.pl