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5 top tricks and tips: building an in-house design team

So, you’ve been asked to lead an in-house design team. But how? Well, Iain Aitchison has a back pocket full of useful tips and insider knowledge to get you, and your team, in shape. Read on for five of his key pointers, taken from his masterclass on how to Develop Your In-house Creative Design Team.

From honing your design craft over years of experience to managing a team of designers to do great work, how do you now increase the influence of your work and establish design as a core function within your business? Fear not, for the path you now tread, many others have walked before. Here are five top tips and some of the questions we address in this course.

1. Define the purpose of the design team for your organisation

Why does your team exist? What job is it there to do? Many in-house teams start out with a couple of lone designers brought in to boost capacity and get great work done quickly. But as your team grows its worth reframing its raison d’être to the organisation. Are you now there to ensure consistent brand execution across touchpoints? Get the most out of external agencies? Or, a scaled up full service in-house shop?

2. Articulate the roles your team plays across the organisation and the value these add

Where does and could the design team get involved across the organisation’s activities? What’s your specific proposition? Do your design managers help write and manage better creative briefs? Do your creatives inspire new innovations for marketing or R&D teams to roll out? Are your researchers the voice of the customer in all business planning?

3. Map out the knowledge, skills and experience you team needs to fulfil its potential

What sort of people do you need to run your team at top gear? When would the introduction of design management roles help your team work more efficiently? What should the balance between generalist and specialist creative roles be? Have you got the right people to ‘sell’ your work and value of design as a whole within the organisation?

4. Work out how your team should be structured to best fit the needs of the organisation

What shape of team do you need to work most effectively? There are a few archetypal models of design organisation to choose from. Should you be a centralised hub in a single creative studio location, or should you distribute your team to be closer to internal clients within other departments? And if so, how do you develop a shared design culture? What about agencies, what’s their role vs your teams?

5. Build lasting relationships with design champions within the organisation

Most importantly, who are your biggest fans within the organisation, and how can you become a ‘trusted advisor’ to a wider sphere of influencers within your business? How do you decide which work to take on, and who to say yes and no to? How do you distinguish between learning and development projects and those where delivery is mission critical to your internal reputation.

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