Superrb X ilovedust

What can others learn from the successes and failures of how your team was assembled and how it operates?: 

The success of the ilovedust X Superrb team could be attributed to a number of factors. We still have lots to learn and are always looking for new ways to improve. When creating a project team, we try to bring together individuals from different design disciplines, some salty dogs and some young guns, each with their own ideas and perspectives. Like any strong relationship we don’t always agree with one another. Fortunately we’ve worked together on enough projects to know when to stand our ground and when to give way. We try to avoid having too many individuals from the same area within a team as this can lead to too much conflict and debate which results in nothing actually getting done! This way the final say goes to the most experienced individual and avoids ‘death by committee’ decision making. Meetings at ilovedust HQ are always best as we can break out for a game of ping pong or have a roll on the office mini ramp to disperse any pent up aggression! Both teams have known each other for a long time and get on well socially and at work. Despite members having very different personalities, we both share a similar culture, which gives clients a more seamless experience when going between the two of us. Teams include senior staff from both agencies who work in partnership to gently steer the design process using their experience and knowledge, while being careful not to stifle creativity of the other members. Some people shout louder than others, so it takes a little maturity to see through that and focus on the goal. We know our staff really well which helps us place them in teams where they can play to their strengths. Experience, skills, style and personality are all key factors that are considered carefully, as well as who will work the best with each particular client. Sometimes the down side of having a team full of designers is that it’s easy to over analyse what may turn out to be a trivial point. We are all passionate about what we do and sometimes ideas and personalities clash. We have been working together long enough to not take things too personally and as they saying goes ‘you can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs’.

What evidence supports your belief that your team is exceptionally effective?: 

It’s hard to answer this one without sounding like a tool. 

We are working on more cool projects for some big names, but at the same time we still regularly work with the same clients we started with many years ago. We don’t advertise, so I guess that shows we must be doing something right!

 

What aspects of how your team is organized and/or how it operates have most influenced its success?: 

It’s hard to say exactly, as much of what makes our partnership work is innate in the culture and personality of the team. Ten attributes which definitely help are:

  • A strong awareness of trends and natural eye for design. 
  • A solid grounding in design theory.
  • An ability to adapt design processes to suit different projects and clients. 
  • A diverse range of experiences.
  • An expert knowledge of digital technology and user behavior.
  • An efficient and honest communication.
  • A commercial perspective (not just about making it look pretty)
  • A level of self awareness and maturity.
  • A meticulous attention to detail.
  • Heaps of passion, hard graft, sense of fun and adventure.

All these come together to make a strong and well rounded creative team. Some more specific things we have found to be helpful are:

We deliberately avoid overly formalising the briefing phase and let ideas develop organically, gently steering conversations to ensure we cover the key areas without stifling creativity. 

Everyone’s pretty handy with a sharpie, so discussions are very visual and we’re able to quickly explore ideas conceptually without waggling a mouse.

Communication is key and not rushing things during the initial handover/kick off meeting pays dividends down the line, as everyone has a much clearer idea of what’s going on.  

When developing ideas, working in the browser speeds up prototyping and avoids having to go back to designs each time you’re discussing changes or amends. Some people are very visual and you can show them wireframes until the cows come home but they are still going to have no idea about how that translates into an interactive webpage. 

Pushing for content early has helped speed up the design process and led to less amends and changes down the line. 

Setting up the appropriate reporting tools enables clients to understand their website’s performance and ensures changes and updates are based on actual facts rather than wasteful subjective opinions. 

 

How does your team adapt to respond to changing requirements, projects, and clients?: 

Try as you might to create the ultimate specification, ideas evolve and requirements shift between project approval and launch. To minimise the impact this has on timescales and budgets, we do the following: 

Explore ideas thoroughly and tug at any loose threads in case things start unravelling. We often use the expression ‘just to play devils advocate...’ because it means people don’t take it so personally when you start challenging their ideas.

Pushing to get the core website live quickly as a beta (client/project permitting), rather then waiting until we’ve built the full fat version allows us to test the market and make any tweaks early on, without wasting time, money and effort. 

Sometimes clients can get their heads in a spin about a new trend or piece of tech which means they start trying to steer the project in a different direction on a whim. In this instance we try to be firm and revert to the initial project objectives to remind them why we decided to take this approach. 

Inevitably we do run into the odd situation where we got something wrong and significant changes are required. All we can do in this situation is be honest with the client and explain the situation. We have been amazed at how understanding and helpful they have been at working with us to find a solution.

 

How do you ensure your team remains successful even as members leave the team and new ones join?: 

Holding on to quality talent isn’t easy, so we try our best to make work a fun and creative place to be, as well as support staff in their own learning and development as far as possible. It’s still early days for us, but so far people have chosen to stick around. The directors of both Superrb and ilovedust are involved in most projects to some extent so stay in regular contact with clients. This means when staff come and go, there is always someone senior, who genuinely cares about the client and their business. While we can train skills, we can’t train personality and passion. Finding the right staff is really hard as we are very picky and have pretty high expectations. While we don’t have a formal training system in place, we actively help those who are keen to hone and improve their skills, both inside and outside office hours

How does your team manage its interactions with stakeholders and, where applicable, with other teams involved in the design and execution of products or services?: 

We don’t follow any specific guidelines for communication with stakeholders, but as mentioned before we hire for cultural fit so dialogue is usually pretty consistent across all levels of staff. 

On the whole contact with clients during projects is between directors and project managers, who have the most experience being client facing. Communication is kept clear and concise to avoid misinterpretation and to keep the ball rolling. 

During multi agency collaborations, we like face to face meetings where possible, but also make use of video conferencing as a good alternative for discussing ideas and debating solutions.