I have led design teams. And I have been a member of a design team under many different kinds of leaders. I have learned some important lessons over the years.
In my experience, it's not easy being a designer in the large enterprise. First there is the highly technical subject matter, which can take years to master. And there you are, working with a team of incredibly smart developers and testers who might not understand why this strange, artsy person has been assigned to work with them.
Design requires disruption of the status quo. And in a large enterprise, disruption is not always welcome.
I have found it to be incredibly important to form a tight community among the designers in the enterprise. You need a team of trusted colleagues to offer critiques and support in finding the best design solution, given all the technical requirements you are trying to juggle, not to mention accessibility, localization, branding standards, common frameworks--the list goes on.
I am incredibly proud of the art field trips program I initiated under the sponsorship of the CTO/VP of R&D. We'd all have lunch together (the CTO included), then we'd tour an art show. We went to NCMA, the Nasher, CAM, and 21c. We saw performance art, Porsches, and paintings, and everything in between.
We'd discuss the artworks. We'd commiserate about struggles in the office. We had a shared experience and a shared memory.
Yes, the workload was heavy, and though everyone was always very busy, we made it a priority to feed our stomachs and our souls on these trips. Many designers told me that this was their favorite perk at a company that offered many, many nice perks.
I was proud of the fact that this program was featured multiple years on our "Best Places to Work" application.
I still have plenty to learn about being a leader. But one thing I do know that designers in the enterprise need inspiration and a supportive team in order to do their best work. And I believe in the power of art field trips.
Quotes from the "Best Places to Work" application:
"Whether you're designing a hotel, a bank vault, or a user interface for SAS software, you're trying to understand a problem, then provide an elegant solution through design. Seeing how others address their design problems inspires me to be a better designer. In turn, after the outing to 21C, I returned back to work with a renewed excitement about my design projects."
"The designers look forward to the art field trips and draw inspiration from other artists. I also see it as a valuable team exercise. Sharing curiosity and exploring and discovering things together builds and nurtures great team dynamics which results in creative, high-quality work."