Inside Pixelmatters' Design team: new dynamics, processes, and tools

Hey, everyone! Luís here 🙋‍♂️, Design Director at Pixelmatters and leading the most creative and talented design team you’ve ever met. Any guesses? That’s right! Our Design Team.

Over the last months, our team has been implementing and testing new ways of working and communicating. And there’s not a secret formula on how to manage a team. Instead, day by day, we need to learn how to create the best possible creative environment, supported by effective and efficient communication, constant feedback, and continuous improvement.

So, I would like to share the Pixelmatters Design team journey, in which we've become more solid and united, with the will of building more and better. Are you ready? Here we go!

Design Team

With the pandemic, our remote culture turned more real than ever — "Remote by default, office as an option." It wasn't something that worried us a lot since we were already working remotely with our clients from the beginning. Since then, we've been working from home and already going to the office a few times.

Fortunately, this pandemic also showed us that companies didn't neglect the importance of design even in uncertain times, and our workload remained stable.

Working fully remote has its upsides — it allows us to escape the routine, avoid commuting time, and have a better work/life balance — but on the other side, it also brings some downsides which started to become noticeable over time. Being locked at home for so long can sometimes cause some anxiety and loneliness. And we, as a team, started missing the face-to-face contact we were used to and how easy it was to speak to the person sitting next to us to ask for a simple opinion or to laugh out loud for no reason simply.

We want our team to feel happy, productive but especially connected. So, to contradict these not-so-good feelings, some initiatives were implemented and evolved, such as:

  1. Small Talks: a meeting to talk about everything and nothing at the same time, to enjoy time together and remember how good it is to have such a united team. We'll even be looking into having some virtual gaming sessions soon;
  2. Designmatters (our monthly design presentations) become more and more necessary to foster knowledge sharing and team bonding. Great topics have been discussed these last months... We may share some of them in the future; 👀
  3. More regular 1on1's between the team and Design Management to understand how the team was feeling;
  4. Ah! And our slack channel (#design-team) started to be the go-to place to share design stuff and ask for help... and how great it is to see our team together even though being more apart.

Design Process

Our work reflects our design process, and that's why we are always looking to improve it. Make it more collaborative, avoid unnecessary and time-consuming tasks, improve quality, productivity, and so on. We have made a lot of progress towards this:

  1. An upgraded Design Review process: introduced more dynamic design review sessions to allow proper scalability of the process. This will be done in a joint effort of the team, where each project has a reviewer associated with it, responsible for providing guidance, feedback, and guaranteeing our quality seal;
  2. Adopted a new UX-related toolWhimsical — to help us take care of flowcharts, concept maps, and low to mid-fidelity wireframes. So far, the experience has been excellent;
  3. Solidified our Design System documentation: so everyone can be on the same page, and all the Design Systems follow the same structure and terminology;
  4. Created some Agnostic Design templates: these help the team saving time and facilitating their work by starting a task based on an existing file;
  5. Started to standardize some of our process documents, such as nomenclature and grid documentation, which also helps saving time and facilitating work every time a new project starts.
  6. And finally... Moved from Sketch to Figma — that helped us reduce our tool stack (saying goodbye to inVision) but, most of all, highly improved our collaboration and workflow as a team. This was a crucial change for us at so many levels — more about this at another time 👀.

The importance of UX

UX was always a part of our day-to-day work, but it's now, more than ever, a clear core piece of the design process. Companies are becoming more sensible and aware of its impact, along with its benefits in the long run. So, earlier this year, the Department decided to make a bet on this discipline and start looking to introduce that level of specialization within the team.

To kickstart this, two UX Designers were hired and are now working on developing internal UX processes and focusing their strengths on helping our clients' businesses with their expertise.

Reinforcing the Quality Mindset

Over the last months, we found strengths in what defines us the best, on what's on our DNA — our design quality, high standards, and the way we efficiently communicate.

At the end of the day, come what may, this is what matters the most and what comforts us. This is what we are. What's on our core, and what leads us to become better each day that passes. This is part of our culture, and it's reflected in the work we deliver and the relationships we create (both internally and with clients). And how great it is to keep pushing this mindset forward.

Looking at the future

As you can see, even though we were apart, the design kept us together. We're now a more solid team than ever, with new processes, new members, new documentation, new tools, new guidelines, and, most important of all, a shared vision and mindset towards every new challenge we face.

None of this would be possible without this team, and I'm sure that the upcoming times hold extraordinary things design-wise. We'll continue to focus on our core as a team and making sure great experiences are the norm, not the exception.

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Luís Monteiro
Design Director