Running a successful design team has been one of the most insightful and challenging experiences in my career and knowing when to give advice, step back, and watch the tide of talent throw their wave of shapes has been a massive learning curve (one I leapt into head-first). It's a tough adjustment filled with process, an incredible amount of time management and planning, but when your team's learning and producing amazing work which doesn't just answer the brief – but nails it, ends up filling you with the best feelings in the world.
Part of the challenge is resisting the tempting lure of jumping on a designer's Mac and crafting my two pennies' worth into their work; I've become more of a disciplined listener with a 'two steps back' approach that allows the designer to apply their own thinking with a careful helping of my own critique at the right time.
Developing a team is tough, knowing each of your designers' strengths, weaknesses, passions and humour is simply the start, and it's not so simple. I count myself lucky knowing I've a solid team of thinkers and doers who have adapted to my style and given me the opportunity to steer them over the past year.
James Oconnell is a designer, illustrator and creator of things
The hardest thing about my job, or at least the thing it probably took me the longest to learn, is being sure to treat the admin side as an integral part of the work itself, and not somehow as a separate thing to 'get round to later'. Nothing upsets creative flow more than a nagging sensation of 'did I invoice that other job?' or, 'did that client pay me yet?'. As such I now make it a priority to get those things done.
When I'm working from home, I often have an early start in a local café to get on top of all those things, so that when I then come home, I can get to the work itself without distraction (or with fewer distractions, at least!). If I'm working in London, then the train journey is valuable time too. Still, it's a small commitment to make when the fact is you're making a living from doing the thing you love.
Sam Gilbey is an illustrator and designer
Getting clients to realise design isn't just about making things pretty. It's about problem solving with the goal of achieving tangible, measurable business objectives. Because of this, design has value and its budget should be planned accordingly at the very beginning of any strategic endeavour. I'm always looking for ways to improve this important dialogue between the client and creatives.
Melissa Brunet creates stylish design and illustration in Paris
Matt H Booth
The hardest thing about my job as an in-house freelance designer is getting my work to run on. You could be waiting around for a couple of weeks for a project to kick off, then mid project you're contacted about another project, which you end up having to turn down. Don't get me wrong, it's a nice position to be in, but you can guarantee when you've completed the project you'll be waiting around for work again.
After 8 years of working like this I've decided to solve the problem by following my plans, some might say dreams, of working more like a studio: going after direct work rather than in-house studio work, putting together the right team for the project, developers, project managers, illustrators etc. Watch this space.
Matt H Booth is a UK-based multi-disciplinary designer
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