Points North
on Mar 01, 2013 in Business

AWDG – Designing Design Teams (Atlanta, GA)


On Thursday evening, February 28th, I had the pleasure of attending an event organized by the Atlanta Web Design Group (@awdg), featuring Martin Reinglein, the Design Manager at Twitter (Follow Martin – @Smarty). The topic of the presentation was Designing Design Teams.

I thought this would be a useful presentation to attend because I work with and create design teams for various projects with Points North, and establish other well rounded teams for some of the volunteer and good-cause work that I do. But the majority of my reasoning for bringing people together have been instinct and an understanding of the skills needed to run a successful project. So if there are some actual theories or formulas or evidence of what works and what doesn’t, I want to know about it.

Martin’s presentation was extremely well put together and gave a lot of insight into putting together a dynamic creative team that produces results. His presentation gave a lot of supporting evidence for allowing your team members time to be creative and explore their talents, building a work environment that makes people excited to come to the office, and not attempting to max out your creatives (as in, scheduling more than 70% of their time for projects, which could lead to burn out).

Here are some of my takeaways from the presentation:

Really strong companies have really strong cultures.

I took this to mean establishing brand loyalty from within your company. As business owners we work diligently at keeping current clients and customers coming back, as well as keeping them excited about doing business with us. But what do we do internally to keep those who work with us excited about the business? Have we created a unique environment where its fun to work  (this can be physical or virtual, although with virtual teams its can be a little more difficult — but not impossible).

We should work to retain great talent and allow great talent to thrive.

If a really great employee quits their job, in all cases but especially if its unexpected, we should be looking within to see what in the environment contributed to this situation. Are there preventable measures, and things that we could be doing differently to rekindle excitement about work, about projects, and the people that we work with?

We should remove boredom from the boardroom. Treat your space as a member of the team.

Your office is an extension of your business and the personality of your company. Creative professionals in particular, are probably more influenced than others, by their workspace and immediate surroundings. Have you created a space that uses color, feng shui, and other elements (textures, art prints, etc) to help create a cohesive work environment. Have you investigated what it takes to build your company culture from the inside out?

Design managers should be more focused on their people than their portfolio.

Success in this scenario is empowering great talent to do great work. As a creative manager or team leader, what can you do to empower your team to produce amazing work? How can you invest in them, so that they are in turn invested in your company? Some suggestions included allowing them work time to explore special projects and other initiatives, creating communal spaces where employees feel comfortable talking and sharing ideas, and allowing work time for them to explore special interests. Additionally, I’d also recommend paying attention, to behaviors, to work flows, and to the energy in your space.

Martin Ringlein is a veteran creative director and passionate entrepreneur; holding extensive experience building and managing creative teams within start-ups, in-house and agency cultures. Martin co-founded nclud, a Washington, D.C. based design agency; and, following an acquisition by Twitter, Martin is currently the Design Manager @Twitter, where he is  primarily focused on “designing the design team”. Martin is also co-  founder of Canvas Co-working, Washington, D.C.’s largest co-working  community. Martin studies business management at Yale School of  Management and Columbia Business School.

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