by Liv Madsen
It’s hopefully no secret that we’re very happy with the work we do. So happy, in fact, that we don’t think it would be fair to keep it all to ourselves.
Although we have a great team eager to venture forth and do their best work, on digital projects we often encourage our clients to build up an in-house team of both designers and developers to help us out. Or, if such a team is already there, to free some of them up to work directly with us on the project.
This might seem a little counter intuitive, since design and development are kind of our business, but for us it makes a lot of sense. We’ve come to learn that we get the best results when the project focus is not just delivering a digital product, but rather inspiring and enabling a team to build and maintain one.
We are partners, not suppliers
At the most basic level, it’s in our manifesto: “we are partners, not suppliers”, we say. It’s partly because we believe our clients’ success leads to our success. But it’s also because we find it invaluable to have the type of strong ambassadors for our work that we get by working closely together and building personal relationships throughout a project.
Having been integrated with our team and part of all the small discussions as the project progresses — from typeface selection to server setup — our clients are left with a stronger understanding of the reasoning and processes behind the work. It creates a sense of ownership and is a great way to empower in-house teams to “keep up the good work” after the initial re-thinking phase is done.
Drive-by-websites are so last year
Another important outcome of co-creation is that it helps us avoid the classic “drive-by-website”, where 14 design files and a “finished” website with coded templates (c’mon, it’s a website, it’s not supposed to be finished — the best websites never are) are dumped in a client’s inbox. These are the type of deliverables that make the client dependent on us for any and all changes, big or small, which we have to scramble to find the time for while our team have already moved on to the next deadline on the next re-launch. It’s an oldie, but definitely not a goldie.
Let’s face it: while we can certainly help with daily operations, this is simply not our core strength. In some organizations, in-house teams are a far superior setup for the day-to-day requests that invariably happen alongside, and after, a large digital project.
Involving these in-house teams in the creation of, for example, a website lets us play the long game, helping our clients to get processes and approaches, like design thinking, massaged into their daily life — because these are tools that help the product evolve and remain strong years down the line.
Focus on the long term
This M.O. allows us to focus on long term goals by rooting the project within the client’s organization. And even though it sometimes means that we will step out of daily operations, we’re of course always happy to jump back in the next time a fresh take on a concept is needed — like we did recently with The Economist. After a long working history together, our latest project was to create a new design language for their collected digital offerings. Here, we had a strong enabling role: they had a full design and development team, and we added the overarching vision and, more concretely, a design language — plus coaching on development best practices and pattern libraries.
For other clients we have carried out courses in Sass, ES6, unit testing and React. We’ve offered process training and coaching of development teams alongside support with concrete components in code. All aimed at enabling teams to carry out implementation on their own, following sustainable design principles.
Making and growing together
A different but no less interesting approach was taken with another of our (well-loved) projects: the FontShop website. Here we worked with a fully integrated team–half FontShop/half Edenspiekermann–doing all the daily work here in our office in Berlin. This gave us a great foundation for establishing not just a new visual direction and technical setup, but also an agile working process.
I don’t think I can phrase it better than Ivo, FontShop’s Marketing Director and acting Product Owner:
It was really the case that we learned from each other. And it worked both ways. The team is really half and half, them and us. We do it together. It’s so much quicker, and we all learn.
(From the original German interview here.)
We’re working on more projects in this fashion and look forward to sharing some of the great cases when the teams are ready.
We’re also preparing some of our courses as stand-alone offers, so hit us up if you think your team could benefit from a session with us.