7 ways to improve teamwork with design

Try out these great ideas to improve your design team's communication, productivity, and morale.

Building a product is a lot like putting together a puzzle with a group: lots of pieces that all need to come together, and the more hands involved, the trickier it is to make everything fit just right.

Communication and teamwork take effort and planning. Ideally, a productive team consists of productive individuals, but that's not always the case. In our time making InVision, we've learned a lot about how a team works. To help, we've rounded up our favorite ways to design some productivity and good vibes for your team.

01. Design sprints (work with structure)

Sprint is not a dirty word. Arse is a dirty word, and so, to some extent, is labia

To some, sprint is a dirty word. I'm only using it here for lack of a better term, but the point remains: working with structure and measurable goals is an awesome thing.

Sprints and boards and standups are usually more at home in a development world, but applying them to our design process has real benefits. Working on things in small, measured segments keeps focus tight and progress digestible.

Since design is such a creative and subjective process, it's susceptible to slippery timelines, and worse, the critical eye of a crunched project manager ("Why isn't this done yet?!").

Setting realistic goals about when things will be done and when developers and engineers can start working provides your team with a rhythm it desperately needs.

If you can swing it, work in the same task/agile/PM tool as the development team to provide transparent insight for your team into your process. If that doesn't work, try a tightly organised Trello board.

02. Hackathons

Blow off your creative steam with a hackathon

One key to designing in sprints: schedule downtime between your larger efforts so everyone can blow off some design steam.

Enter: hackathons.

Traditionally viewed as development exercises (yeah, it has "hack" in the title), hackathons give an otherwise focused designer a wild creative outlet.

Take a break from conversion, style guides, and business goals and create something goofy for the office with your team. I once made a "drinks by the bar" pager, for example.

This is an opportunity to foster teamwork by pairing developers and designers together on a common, enjoyable task. Removing the stress and pressure from a working relationship helps build a foundation for when/if those things return.

03. Communication (that doesn't feel like work)

Real-time chat can give your working day a shot in the arm

Email isn't fun. I get why we use it, but you'd be hard-pressed to find someone on your team who's dying to tackle a full inbox. It's a slow, often hard-to-follow way to tell someone something (re: re: re: etc.).

Chat apps like Slack and HipChat not only provide your team with lightning-fast communication, they add a big dash of fun. Virtually every (modern) work chat I've been a part of has been filled with jokes, GIFs, and general good vibes.

That's not to say that work doesn't get done. Both Slack and HipChat have some serious integrations under the hood for GitHub, Trello, and all the other major players you're already using.

Pulling quick conversations out of the inbox and into real-time chat is a huge shot in the arm for teamwork and productivity. Gathering feedback is quicker, action items multiply, and everyone gets on the same page.

Next page: four more top teamwork tips