How To Fix Your Design Team’s Communication Issues

Illustration by Mila Spasova via Dribbble

With the expansion of the digital revolution, the demand for great designers has significantly increased. The versatility of the industry itself has become somewhat intolerable towards average designers, pushing forward a new form of design professionals who can do it all popularly called the unicorn.

However, besides immense talent, a solid knowledge base, and a great digital vision, what has become more important for most designers is being able to effectively communicate with their teammates.

Hand in hand with the digital revolution came the development of the hybrid work model, enabling many designers to work from home just like other employees. This has put a strain on communication among them: each designer has their own way of thinking and doing things.

What is more, clearly communicating their visions, ideas, and design concepts can sometimes be difficult when they’re not physically together. This could potentially be a problem but with the right approach, tools, and advice, most design teams could easily overcome obstacles that come their way.

Understanding your design team

Before you start fixing the damaged communication in your design team, you should first be aware of all the people in it and learn more about how everyone functions and does their work.

This is particularly important in a mixed working model when some designers choose to work from home and others decide to come to the office. When your team is geographically scattered, it could be tough to work on design projects and maintain effective interaction.

A good communicator can recognize communication barriers and come up with effective ways to overcome them. If your team consists of designers of various levels of knowledge and experience, you should always be mindful of everyone’s input.

Also, try to make a good mentor to junior designers, as they need it the most. Once you’ve taken all the little things into account and realized what aspects of your team’s interaction you should work on, you can start improving the cooperation in your design team.

Effective strategies for optimizing your design team’s work

Successful communication is based on several equally relevant aspects. These include:

  • Getting the message across
  • Building strong relationships
  • Boosting productivity
  • Promoting team spirit and
  • Ensuring error-free results.

This might just sound easy but it can sometimes be hampered by many factors. Although there’s no universal formula that works for each team, common obstacles to communication can be tackled and controlled with a few simple tips and tricks.

Illustration by Gergana via Dribbble

Let’s look at ways to improve the interaction among the members of your design team:

#1. Establish clear goals

Your design team will do a great job, but only if their goals have been clearly specified. The same goes for deadlines as well.

Setting clear objectives and time frames before starting a certain project will allow your team members to organize their time accordingly. They will feel more confident about what and how they should do, leaving little room for mistakes.

Clarity is paramount for efficient communication, so don’t be afraid to explicitly state everything at the very start. Ensure that everyone is on the same page when it comes to goals, deadlines, and project expectations in general.

Miss this step and you could come across complications further down the road and risk not completing the project the way you’ve envisioned it.

#2. Know each team member

Making a distinction between your design team members and their unique skill sets can help you complete tasks later on. If you know everyone’s forte, you’ll know how to distribute the assignments and who to go to with specific issues and responsibilities.

What is more, try to avoid assumptions about who could do what and approach the matter objectively. Being skilled enough can sometimes be less important, as someone else’s profile could be a more suitable fit for the task in question.

You can make things easier for yourself and directly ask each team member what they want to be in charge of early on. Everyone should be comfortable and happy with doing their part, so being straightforward can save you and your team precious time.

You could also make use of some project management tools to ease the whole process and make sure everyone’s on the right track.

#3. Delegate responsibilities

Specifying roles and responsibilities at the very beginning of any project can help avoid confusion and undesirable delays. Delegating will ensure that everyone knows exactly what to do, avoiding role overlapping, missed deadlines, and unfinished projects.

Great designs and professional designers can be overlooked if there’s no proper task designation. You should be mindful of everyone’s strengths and weaknesses to avoid gaps, but also make everyone feel comfortable enough to share their suggestions and advice. This could help your team come up with better, more innovative solutions and do it much easier and quicker.

#4. Choose a person to lead the design team

Managing a team of designers can be challenging. It is also rewarding, as everyone comes with a different level of expertise, diverse ideas, and original propositions.

It’s great to have more than one perspective, yet, having too many can lead to confusion and even minor conflicts among team members. This is why you should pick one person to lead the team and be in charge of making final decisions and keeping things under control.

When picking someone to lead the team, think of someone who will work for the benefit of the whole team. The person should:

  • Be familiar with how the design process may go on
  • Keep in mind all its aspects
  • Be able to navigate the team members into reaching favorable decisions
  • Ensure project completion without breaking deadlines.

Assigning someone to be in charge of the team will put the pressure off other designers, allow them to focus on their individual tasks, and create a positive work environment.

#5. Pick the proper communication tools

Workplace issues occur because of ineffective communication, particularly in hybrid working conditions. Choosing the appropriate tools and apps for everyday communication can benefit your design team.

Facilitating everyday interaction can increase productivity and ensure better collaboration among designers, even when they’re not physically close.

Besides the professional design tools, they will also need a functional set of collaboration apps and tools that would provide features like instant messaging, video calls, and quick exchange of relevant information and documents.

Although some decisions and conversations require talking in person, the digital revolution has significantly facilitated this aspect of communication with various secure email services.

Even though many opt for remote work, various tools and apps have significantly improved decision-making, allowing more freedom and ensuring continuous availability.

#6. Organize regular check-ins and updates

Ensuring continuous exchange of information and regular updates is essential for moving things forward. When working on complex design projects, getting stuck at some point is normal from time to time but doesn’t have to be a big deal.

This is when regular check-ins could help, allowing all designers to gain insight into other team members’ progress and share their thoughts and ideas.

Discussing issues as they come will create an unburdened atmosphere, encourage designers to suggest their own views, and even come up with solutions. Sharing is important as it can inspire others to see things in a different light and put forward new perspectives, ultimately leading to finishing projects quicker and with better outcomes.

#7. Make sure everyone is on the same page

To be able to estimate how and when the project will be completed, you should always keep track of what everyone is doing and how much progress they’ve made since the project started.

Considering that certain parts of the project depend on the work of other team members, the entire team must always be in sync. This will foster a great workflow in your design team and minimize the possibility of doing certain things twice.

In a team of several designers, everyone will be working at their own pace — some will be completing their assignments quicker than others, but maintaining balance will be essential for successfully ending the project.

This is where collaboration tools and apps can step in, providing a secure space for the exchange of information. You could always send a message or jump in on a video call and get quick updates on the latest developments.

#8. Set some time for discussions

Working with designers can sometimes include a lot of changes, corrections, and improvements, particularly if everyone has a certain vision of how the whole project should look.

To ensure that everyone has a say and no one’s feelings get hurt, designate a time during the day for discussing current work and coming up with fresh designs. Don’t aim for perfection with new ideas, as sometimes even an average solution could do the trick.

Design can be tricky to discuss, as every little detail can be broken down into smaller details, leading to long meetings with no end in sight.

Coming up with an agenda before diving into discussions will keep everyone on track, allowing you to go through every point from the list. If someone still has a lot more to say, take notes of that, and you’ll have enough material for the next discussion.

#9. Provide feedback

In a world where everything is happening at the click of a mouse, the importance and benefits of feedback can’t be highlighted enough. Besides being outstandingly skilled at what they do, great designers are also able to thoughtfully communicate with other designers.

Giving and receiving constructive criticism can boost communication, strengthen relationships, and improve the quality of your design team’s work.

Although not everyone is gifted with great communication skills, this is something that can be taught and practiced. Feedback shouldn’t be understood as a threat aimed at pointing out someone’s weakness but rather as a practical tool for empowering each team member.

Cultivating a nurturing atmosphere among designers can be achieved with regular feedback and by acknowledging everyone’s contribution.

Wrap up

A designer’s work is no walk in the park as it depends on much more than being talented and skilled to do the job. What differs great designers from average ones is their knack for communicating effectively with others.

They are aware of how important it is to share ideas, provide feedback, and take assignments seriously but they also sometimes need a little structure and guidance to complete the project.

Most designers have a lot on their plate. A big part of what they do goes directly to the end-user, so ensuring they’re always well-informed and happy with their work environment would see to better outcomes and project success.

By introducing the tips and tricks mentioned here, you’ll give your design team a fresh perspective on close team collaboration, allow them to work for the benefit of the whole team, and ensure the project is a success.

About the Author!

Marija Kojic is a researcher and writer specialized in team communication and collaboration. She works at Pumble where she enjoys helping people discover meaningful and effective ways to communicate and collaborate smarter.

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