Finding the time for internal projects and how it built our design team

Ana Sakač

Digital Designer

One of the main problems in today’s busy and distracting life that constantly shows up is “I have ideas, but I don’t have the time”.

If we think about that “problem” from a design perspective and place it in agency surrounding we can formulate that phrase as “I don’t have enough time to make an awesome project” or “I don’t have the time to work on personal projects and experiment”. So how to fix that and incorporate your ideas into projects you are working on? We’ll show you how we do it in our design team.

Time is not the enemy

In most projects, contrary to standard beliefs, time is not the main problem. It’s the lack of communication and understanding between teammates and/or clients which can lead to a lack of motivation and ideas.

Some of our most successful projects are the ones in which we managed to retain an excellent level of communication with the client and within our team. We try to establish that by talking about the problems as soon as they appear and not sweeping them under the carpet. Shit happens, take responsibility, ask for help, fix it and move on. If you have an amazing idea but you need more time for the implementation, just say it, we’ll try to figure out something.

“Don’t over analyze the situation, ain’t nobody got time for that. Focus on upgrading your communication skills and talk about your problems.”

Discuss your ideas

Communication skills are one of the things we pay a lot of attention to. They are crucial if you want to present your idea in the best way possible and are sometimes the main reason somebody wants to work with us. You can be the best designer in the world, but that doesn’t have a lot of value if you don’t know how to present your work and communicate with clients and team members. With that in mind, we created a team environment in which people are encouraged to talk proactively about ideas and find ways how to make them happen.

Internal team meetings

To be constantly aware of what’s going on in our team we decided to create weekly design meetings. Every friday at 8:30 am we discuss our ideas, problems, current projects and ways to improve the quality of our work. But sometimes, since we have a lot of sleepyheads in our team, we start a bit later. We try to be as flexible as we can by having in mind that you can’t plan every second of your daily schedule. Besides that, we also have some “emergency” meetings if we have a problem that needs to be solved asap.

Discussing some new ideasDiscussing some new ideas

Meetings with other departments

By trying to break out the classic all-Mondays-are-a-disaster, we created our own Motivational Monday. This is a relaxed version of the design meeting where we stay after work in our lounge and talk about hot and fresh things that are happening currently in the company or in the design and tech world. Our Motivational Mondays are often open to other employees so everyone who is interested can participate. It’s always helpful to hear a different perspective from other teams and see the subject from their point of view.

Self-initiated projects

During one of our weekly meetings somebody mentioned the May 1st reboot. It’s a global event of collectively relaunching websites at the same time. While we were talking about that – an idea came to mind. Let’s team up with our frontend developers and join the relaunch. None of us really had the time for another project. But did we try to do it anyway? Of course we did.

As soon as the meeting ended, we went to our developers with the idea and they were all interested. The next move was to create a team that would consist of one designer and one frontend developer. Every designer needed to design two personal portfolio pages – one for himself and one for the frontend developer, and frontend developers needed to bring the designs to life. We wrote the names of our fronted developers on a piece of paper and threw them in an old hat that was hanging in our office. Designers then drew the names from the hat and formed a team with the lucky frontend developer whose name they pulled out of the hat. Pretty old school, I know, but that was the only use we could think of for that ugly hat.

Here is some of the work we did in collaboration with our lovely front-end developers:

Igor Bumba Website — Interaction by Mario ŠestakIgor Bumba Website — Interaction by Mario Šestak (https://dribbble.com/shots/3703901-Igor-Bumba-Website-Interaction)

May 1st Reboot — Karlo Videk by Mario Šestak (https://dribbble.com/shots/3473215-May-1st-Reboot-Karlo-Videk)

Personal Portfolio Animation by Mario ŠimićPersonal Portfolio Animation by Mario Šimić (https://dribbble.com/shots/3475405-Personal-Portfolio-Animation)

Mario Novoselec Portfolio Layout by Ana SakačMario Novoselec Portfolio Layout by Ana Sakač (https://dribbble.com/shots/3476034-Personal-Portfolio-Layout)

You can never be overeducated

To be able to create a killer project you need to be constantly aware of new technologies and possibilities that can be incorporated into your workflow. But you can’t do it if you think about it only from a design perspective. That’s why we, as a company and as a team, have a strong focus on education in general.

Although we already had design educations every Thursday we decided to team up (again) with our frontend developers and establish design-frontend educations where we go through new tools that can help us improve our communication or enable us to do awesome things better and in less time. This is also a good opportunity to talk about the complexity of implementing certain design elements into our projects. Some things that look simple from the design perspective can be really complicated in development and those are the things that need to be talked about or tested in personal projects and experiments outside daily work. It’s always exciting when you figure out that you can actually use some of the crazy ideas from your personal project on a real one you are working on in an agency.

Frontend - design educationFrontend – design education

The mindset and surrounding

Not all projects in the May 1st reboot managed to come to life but that doesn’t even matter. The most valuable thing we learned was that we need to constantly try to incorporate personal projects into our schedule. Most people are so used to saying “I don’t have the time” they don’t even think twice about it. But, do you really think that others have?

“Surround yourself with passionate teammates that are pushing the boundaries of the way you work and think.”

The mindset and approach to things, especially to problems, is also extremely important to us. When applying to any of the positions in the Digital Design team your design skills are not the only ones that will be tested. Your passion, problem solving skills, ability to learn, receive and give feedback also play a crucial role. It’s in the company values to match the candidates with the culture and mindset of the team they are applying for.

Education in our company loungeEducation in our company lounge

Finally, find a team that is as passionate and motivated as you, or even more. Those are the people that will push the boundaries of the way you work and think, and those are the people that will change “I don’t have the time” to “Let’s try it!”. It’s all about the mindset and approach to things. In the worst case scenario, you won’t fail, you’ll just learn something new.

If you would like to see more of what we do, you can check out our agency Dribbble profile and our personal profiles where we often share our ideas and experimental work.

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