A design team is a group of designers or creatives with different roles. They are responsible for making a client’s branding and marketing campaign dream a reality. The design team includes various roles with responsibilities such as graphic designers, web designers, web developers, illustrators, etc. Collaboration and communication are vital elements in building a solid design, so get to know the design team types and tips on building a strong one.

Types of Design Team Structures

illustration of 4 types of design teams

The first step in establishing a stable design team is to maintain a particular structure for your organization. Knowing the various types of design team structures will enable you to determine what’s suitable for you. Moreover, choosing the aptest design team structure depends on multiple factors such as:

  • Size of your organization
  • Different skills of your people
  • Type of design projects
  • Scope of your design team
  • Design demand

Centralized Design Team Structure

A centralized design team structure means all the minor and major decision-making falls under the responsibility of one person or a few selected people. Most of these critical decision-makers are working under one roof or in one office location. 

If an organization comprises a large team, there are selected design managers who supervise the designers. Additionally, these design managers answer to the creative director. The closest comparison to a centralized design team structure is an agency, where designers work on several projects and respond to the creative director. 

Pros: 

  • Easy collaboration because design managers supervise all designers
  • Good communication and feedback exchange 
  • A good opportunity for designers because of many design projects 
  • One clearly defined vision and goal for each project
  • Roles are clearly defined
  • Minimal internal conflicts due to designated roles and responsibilities

Cons:

  • Longer decision-making process due to a hierarchical structure
  • Some designers might not get recognition due to isolation
  • Slow design process for large teams

Ideal For:

The centralized design team structure is ideal for medium-sized companies. Because a selected few make the decisions, it’s easy for design managers to define and communicate the common goals. 

Embedded Design Team Structure

The embedded design team structure, also known as the “decentralized design team” structure, involves people working with other teams and people from different departments. For instance, one team consists of a designer, product engineer, marketers, and more. These people also answer to the team leader. 

Since this structure involves working with cross-functional teams, it’ll be easy for people and teams to collaborate. Overall, this increases the morale of each team and bolsters the achievement of the overall project goal. 

Pros:

  • Increases trust across all departments in an organization
  • Keeps everyone in the loop since one team is composed of various designations
  • Fast design process
  • Improved collaboration

Cons:

  • Might lose priority for designers due to bigger engineering or marketing teams
  • Designers’ opinions might be disregarded due to other teams’ opinions as well
  • Waste of time and effort due to repetitive tasks in some distributed teams
  • Conflicts may arise due to different perspectives, principles, and opinions from different designations

Ideal For:

Smaller organizations can take advantage of an embedded or cross-functional design team structure. This is due to designers being distributed in various teams who work alongside other departments. 

Flexible Design Team Structure

The flexible design team structure is a combination of both centralized and embedded design team structure. One team also comprises people across all departments, just like the cross-functional type. 

Moreover, designers answer to the team leader and the topmost design leader facilitating all teams in the organization. The only difference is that the flexible structure is more adaptable to changing organizational needs and project needs. For example, if a team is assigned to a bigger project and lacks designers, a couple of designers will be assigned to fill in the roles. 

Pros:

  • Versatile to the needs of the organization, clients, and projects
  • Provides options for more roles due to its flexible structure
  • Gives more opportunities for people in the organization to work on different projects
  • Increased focus on the goals due to various leaders overseeing the project

Cons:

  • Different opinions from different leaders
  • Confusion within the team on whose decisions must be implemented 

Ideal For:

This design team structure is suitable for large organizations due to its flexibility. Most designers and other skilled creatives work in-house and are on call whenever they’re needed. Since different leaders supervise the design team, there is increased collaboration in working toward a common goal. 

Contractual Design Team Structure

In a contractual structure, organizations hire third-party designers to fill in the gaps. These designers join an organization’s design team on a contractual basis. This is appropriate for organizations that might not have enough budget to hire in-house designers. 

Pros:

  • Cost-efficient as you only hire designers when projects arise
  • Gains other perspectives from third-party designers that are unique from your organizations
  • Provides more varied skills from contractual designers

Cons:

  • Third-party designers might be unreliable for bigger projects
  • Finding the right external designers might take time

Ideal For:

The contractual design team structure is suitable for startups with no budget to hire in-house designers. This also benefits startups with volatile projects, even sometimes with no projects in the beginning. 

How to Build a Strong Design Team

Once you determine the type of design team structure for your organization, it’s time to nurture your team. Building a robust team of designers makes for better results, increased productivity, improved collaboration, and clear communication. Here’s how.

1. Think of all the skillsets you need

illustration of design team

Build a team with varied skillsets. Different designers who specialize in various things could mean you’ll have increased positive results on varied projects. Think about what types of skills and specialization designers should have, such as: 

  • Graphic designers
  • Experiential designer
  • UX (User Experience) designer
  • UI (User Interface) designer
  • Information designer
  • Web designer
  • IxD (Interaction) designer
  • Game designer

If you can, also seek some designers with general skills to ensure they have know-how on varied projects. 

2. Look for suitable designer traits

illustration of design team

A design team must have suitable traits that will help in the fruition of projects. That said, look for these traits in your designers:

  • Communication
  • Curiosity
  • Passion
  • Openness
  • Problem-solving
  • Receptiveness
  • Patience
  • Reliability
  • Evolution

3. Define your branding and identity

illustration of design team

Define your brand identity clearly. If everyone in your organization is on the same page about the brand identity, they work toward a common goal. Moreover, their work processes and methods also align with your brand vision, mission, and principles.

Shape your brand in a way that everyone comprehends. To define your brand well, create a brand narrative, which is the story behind your brand. Next is to define your brand attributes and gather all your brand visuals. This entails all your branding assets such as logos, icons, messaging, colors, typography, and more.

Ensure that you instill these brand traits during the onboarding process. That way, you provide clarity and consistency on the finished product and methods for completion. 

4. Identify roles and responsibilities

illustration of design team

Once everyone is clear on the brand vision, identify roles and responsibilities. Identifying these right off the bat ensures that each person is clear on their goals and objectives. Knowing what they should do also makes them accountable for mistakes along the way. 

5. Encourage design thinking

illustration of design team

Creatives need to think in a different way to gather solutions for users that face particular problems. In a design team, it’s crucial to encourage design thinking to let creatives use their knowledge and research-based solutions to solve user pain points. 

Design thinking refers to an iterative process in which creatives in different fields think of user problems, take on various assumptions, or redefine solutions. All these aim to provide alternative solutions that ordinary perspectives or thinking couldn’t establish. 

Design thinking prioritizes the users’ problems to think of solution-based alternatives that solve these problems. In design thinking, empathy, assumptions, brainstorming, prototyping, and sketching are common stages. 

6. Provide the best tools

illustration of design team

Designers, engineers, creative directors, product managers, or marketers do their jobs better when provided with the best tools. Invest in the most state-of-the-art equipment and up-to-date tools to bring out the best in your design team. 

Some examples are:

  • ProofHub
  • Adobe Photoshop
  • Adobe Illustrator
  • Filestage
  • PicsArt
  • Desygner
  • DesignBold
  • Fotor
  • Logaster
  • Sketch 3
  • Marvel
  • Pixelmator
  • Github

7. Get and give feedback

illustration of design team

Feedback is necessary to hone designers’ skills. Provide feedback early on in the project. Moreover, communication works as a two-way street. That said, gather feedback from your design team and see which areas you also need to work on. High-performers are always seeking to improve their skills, and feedback is one way to evaluate their performance. So ensure that you schedule a regular evaluation program. Plus, with regular feedback, you’re encouraging your team to grow and develop to become better designers.

Why Penji is the Best Design Team Partner

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