Why a design team needs a Design Hub? | by Kike Peña | Dec, 2021

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I did some research to understand if my idea already had a solution. I found out that many big companies already have a design page to highlight their work, principles, teams, lectures, and more; This is good because now I know that I’m not alone with my concern. But is this scale appropriate for us? I would say not right now due to our needs and capacity.

Maybe the uniqueness of this idea is to implement it at a group level instead of a company. Imagine the endless possibilities of having every design group with an identity or at least a vision? It wouldn’t be great to exchange opinions, experiences, and more? Then, innovation would flow more freely between groups, in my opinion.

We decided to take baby steps on this initiative. First, we agreed on getting over the common barrier of innovative ideas: initially, everything sounds perfect, but given time, the intention tends to disappear due to the urgency of the factory mindset.

Second, no matter what, we can not miss the weekly check to bring new ideas of the Hub structure and topics (challenges, opportunities, experiences, other ideas). This point is essential because it keeps alive the flame of innovation and the healthy growth of the project.

Third, we need to publish something no matter what. Again, we choose to use a Google site (easy to use). Every Friday, we post some accomplished tasks to the whole group during the week. The rationale behind this is to keep traction, communications, and rhythm for the initiative regardless of the update’s size.

An example of the design hub update posts

This step may be the most challenging; maybe not all team members want to be part of something like this, which is OK. However, it is essential to say this idea is not mandatory to ensure success. I know tons of groups of designers that don’t need to have a hub to achieve big things.

One day, we decided to step forward and schedule a meeting with all the team members to spread the word; The funny thing here is that other teammates were very interested in the project. They began to understand the relevance of having a place like this, and they also shared the same concern that we had; “It’s strange creating experiences and products for others, and not having ours.”

Once you have captured the proper attention, we need to delegate tasks and goals; for example, we identified a significant issue: the lack of onboarding process, at least one well structured. Now, this is the responsibility of some designers, and the success of this information will rely on them. We did the same thing with the design process, the user’s documentation, etc. So now we are all building a home under a common goal.

An inner vision is not something that comes just like that. We need to consider other factors on the table to build this part, such as the company vision, complexity of projects, and our strengths and needs as a team. Once we understand all these variables, we can start to build a way of working and a unique approach to tackle everything. An example of this is how we do it today in my team; we decided to “behave” like the new kids on the town. Our vision is to be explorers; it bases its way of working on “mapping and discovering,” as the great Tom Kelley explains when he refers to the innovation habits: Thinking like travelers.

This posture results from observing the dimensions and complexity of daily projects. To assume that we can cover all information at once is nearly impossible; therefore, creating maps allow us to recognize all the significant parts of the problem to tackle in small pieces of action.

Maps (or, as we decided to call them: impact maps) are now the fundamental piece of understanding and interaction we use to track experiences, services, questions, validations, and even plannings with stakeholders.

Results from this team vision so far seemed to be good for us. We know that we’re starting something new for all of us, but it’s also been solid proof of the birth of great ideas that maybe it wouldn’t be possible without having something that identifies us as a group.

Positive responses and comments from other design groups tell us that the idea has vast potential in the future, which encourages us to keep betting on this idea even more.

Other benefits in our experience have come internally and externally. We now seek something in common, all pulling together to achieve something in the inner side.

Externally, our position to challenges and solutions is evident, and stakeholders acknowledge that, which reinforces the notion of the unit.

Here are some small achievements:

(In a documentation level)

  • A better understanding of the team structure (roles, profiles, and org chart.) This part is vital when new team members join the group
  • Onboarding process (all related to those earlies days in the team and a global understanding of the main projects and stakeholders)
  • Design tools (frameworks, artifacts, software, apps, repositories, access, etc.)
  • Users ecosystem
  • Service blueprint
  • Design process (our vision of a way of working)
  • Design cases (all delivered experience projects ready to be consulted by anyone in the company)

(In a group level)

  • A team vision (is the first thing to read, it enounces what we seek as a team and what value we’re building)
  • Short descriptions of team members to show likes, thoughts, and career projections.
  • Knowledge resources (a free space to suggest lectures, videos, or anything that inspire creativity)
  • Design talks (some of the most representative discussions about management, methodologies, career path, etc.)
  • Goals and achievements of the month (just like a supermarket, we reward great performances and the impact on the community)

As I mentioned at the beginning of this lecture, one of the silent illnesses that affect teams is only focusing on delivering; this is sometimes inevitable, but I think that depends on us to create an extra look and find the hidden value of our job. Sometimes we’re so proud saying we were part of some big company, but the reality is that we didn’t do anything special besides the things we were supposed to do. When you can see beyond duty, you are making massive changes and innovating, and it is even more remarkable to start doing it with the people you work with every day.

Some interfaces and sections of the Design Hub

A design hub is not the ultimate key to success, but it can help you achieve it. At least you can have a special place to revisit and see how wonderful it was to remark all achievements of the people around you.

In my opinion, a design hub is just another stepping stone to build a strong team culture, just like Adam Bryant explains in his NYTimes article: “How to Build a Successful Team.”

He says that “Building a successful team is about more than finding a group of people with the right mix of professional skills,” and I agree with that statement. One of the six main drivers he pointed out in the article is that we need to create a map to answer the primary group’s question, “Where are we going, and how are we going to get there?” Part of this answer can be in our Design Hub; I sincerely hope to solve part of that interrogate and keep building a solid team.





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