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How product designers can better collaborate with brand designers

Cross-team design critiques


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Dave Ghent

3 years ago | 2 min read

Have you spent hours talking about improving cross-collaboration between your product and brand team? Me too. Here are a few things that we learned while experimenting with collaboration on the Strava design team.

Cross-team design critiques.

Having a recurring design critique is obvious for most design teams. But one mistake I’ve seen often is teams trying to lump all their critiques into one big meeting. Having product designers, brand designers, copywriters, and stakeholders in the same room really changes the dynamic.

If your design team is large enough I recommend 3 critiques — one cross-functional critique, usually every other week. This is where brand and product can get together and share concepts, and give critique from the perspectives they share in common.

Then have a function-specific critique. This is where each team can laser focus on say, interaction design if it’s a product design critique. This one should probably happen weekly.

And lastly have a meeting with your stakeholders. I like to call these design “reviews” because you’re still looking for feedback — but from a different type of audience.

Design pairing.

I find pairing to be particularly valuable for a variety of things. In this case, it’s great for getting a trained eye with a different perspective on some of your work. As a product designer, I prefer to choose a piece of work that requires a low amount of context. Be clear about the type of feedback you need, and set up an hour of time to jam with your fellow brand designer.

An example of a shared file with iterations branching toward the right

Then choose tools that encourage collaboration — Figma is great for this. You’ll want as little friction as possible when passing control back and forth. Try iterating on a concept as far as you can — then switch.

The great part here is that you’re sharing some product work as it’s developing and opening yourself up to feedback from a colleague. So sharing context again in the future will get a little bit easier. If you’re really interested in design pairing a friend and past colleague wrote a great article on the topic.

Monthly Sharing.

Lastly, the easiest thing you can do is share what each team is up to. I’ve worked at companies where a daily design standup offers some help here — but I find that to be a bit too high touch. Especially if you’re doing reviews and critiques already. Another option is an async feedback thread where you can get cross-team feedback — but it might be difficult to build rapport with your colleagues.

A casual monthly sharing of work is a nice balance of most approaches. Bring the whole design team together to get some face time, and share the accomplishments from the past month. Keep it light and fun, and as informal as possible. Preparing individual slide decks is probably overkill.

It might encourage more storytelling and preparation than needed. A shared deck where each designer has the option to put in 1–3 slides is a great start, and then let it evolve from there.

Usually, this helps promote interesting conversations about tools, process approaches, and other general design questions. And over time it’ll promote more opportunities for cross-team design pairing.

Originally published here.

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