2 min read

1-to-10: growing a design team in a product-driven company

Franco Papeschi

Being an innie is hard work. Being one where you’re expected to lead a team is even harder. Franco Papeschi discussed the particular issues of growing a team in a product company from 1 to 10. In his case, the company was the online language learning tool EF Education First.

While doing interesting things like cute videos was useful in getting visibility in the company, a big winner, similar to Jane Austin’s story with the Telegraph, was getting people aware of what it was that they did. Testing drop in sessions let people understand the importance of usability testing, and feeding through results let people see the importance of what they were doing through stuff actually being done.

Some of the tips that I particularly liked were:

  • A culture of ‘photos or it didn’t happen’  – in a situation where time is key, doing presentations and then taking photos of what was delivered allows for quick dissemination and documenting rather than wasting time on meetings and notes.
  • Similarly, I loved the idea of ‘radiating boards’ and ‘everything printed and on the walls’ – the team make a commitment to all work and inspiration being up on walls so that the wider team see them as they walk around the offices though. “we are going to run out of space soon though, so any extra walls are gratefully accepted”.
  • I was reminded of the saying “if you love someone let them free” when it came to considering maturing a UX team. Papeshi realised after a while that he was becoming a bottle neck since he wanted to remain involved in everything and project leaders likewise assumed he needed to give things the go-ahead. He started to ease this out by creating more of a tiered structure where product leaders could manage day-to-day work but still report back to him. This tension of moving away from the coalface to being management was something he acknowledged as being aware of (in comparision, in past years Jonathan Ive refused to move into management since he wanted to be a designer, but since the death of Steve Jobs has made more of a leap).

Papeshi’s slides are available online.