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Leading the design team - 6 months in!

Starting a new job can be daunting.

Add in the fact it was during a global pandemic.

Plus, being fully remote.

And to top it all off… I was coming in as the head of the department, responsible for leading and developing a team of very talented digital designers and owning the creative output for the agency.

Daunting, but hugely exciting at the same time.

It’s been made much easier due to several reasons, which I believe make Parallax stand out compared to previous roles and experiences I’ve had of joining a company.

The best gear

It makes such a difference. From a mega-expensive office chair to some noise-cancelling headphones, never have I been greeted with so much new gear to unwrap! When you have the tools to do the job right, it makes working life so much more enjoyable.

Responsiveness

Nothing’s perfect; it never is. Being able to be heard and listened to is key. Already I’ve seen first-hand how feedback and ideas are welcomed; there’s always a better way to do things. From bi-weekly 1:1s to project retros, there’s ample opportunity to make a difference. It is easy for a company to say we’ll do this and that, but it’s been refreshing to see ideas welcomed and action taken to continually change for the better.

Internal progression

I’ve never worked in a company where the necessary skills/experience required is transparent and accessible within a framework, enabling you to continually grow within the business. I think it benefits both line managers and staff alike; it’s clear what’s required and allows both parties to be on the same page when talking about what’s needed to step up to that next level.

Now I’m sat comfortably on my HermanMiller Sayl Chair; I should probably start writing about something design related.

When interviewing for the role, I was quite keen on getting across my thoughts about better ways to integrate and partner with clients, to add value through strategy and design. From working in-house, I could see how valuable forming a partner relationship could be with an external agency, rather than being seen as a one-off project provider. Let me explain what I mean by this.

Design within the digital space has grown exponentially since I started as a junior designer many moons ago. UX existed, it always has, but wasn’t really appreciated or valued. Nor did we have the insight platforms or the instant ability to make data-driven decisions that we do now.

A nice looking website is only half of the job. Our newly defined and ever-evolving discovery phase is primed to uncover what matters most, so we give ourselves every chance of making a positive impact on KPIs. For a digital agency to be used to fulfil a project, then not continue to be utilised on an ongoing basis I believe is a bad way of approaching the situation. You build up a really good base understanding of the business and its users, then release a product into the unknown and that’s it. The opportunity to continually develop and refine the experience over time is lost.

Understanding a website isn’t ever finished is the mindset to take, there’s always something else to integrate, streamline or test. CRO (conversion rate optimisation) is a way of making sure the online experience is the best it can be and design sits at the heart of that. It marries content, brand perception and functionality into a usable experience. Without testing another way you can’t truly say this is the ‘optimal’ solution. That’s what makes me get out of bed and strive to create designs and shape experiences to be the best they can be.

I’m really excited about the future and how my team are going to work with clients. Here’s to the next six months, hopefully consisting of a balance more in favour of face-to-face meetings and workshops rather than via Zoom and Teams.

Andy Ingham.