Creative Review: How do you cast and structure your teams in the most appropriate way for each project?
Adam Roberts: I like people to be on a project from start to finish, so even if their core skill is not involved throughout I think it is important that they have visibility throughout the whole process. For instance, we have researchers, designers, coders and developers in my team, and I will get a designer or a developer involved within the research phase just as much as I would use a researcher within the design phase. If a researcher just hands over a piece of work then a designer won’t get the subtleties. I also feel the researcher should be constantly understanding what research brings to the design.
CR: How much autonomy do you give each team once a project has been set?
AR: We have a pretty flat structure here, so although we have hierarchy in terms of levels, I like to think that a junior person has just as much of a voice as a senior person. We have a front end lead, a mid-design lead and maybe a development lead, and the leads aren’t necessarily based on levels – someone junior may still be best suited to take on more leadership and ownership of a specific project.
CR: Do project teams sit together throughout the project?
AR: We have pods, which are basically three sided meeting rooms with an open front, and our desks are situated outside the pods. When we start a project it is very much about collaborative working, or workshops. I think multiple minds are better than one so we sit and work together. Each pod is assigned to a project, and each one is populated with inspiration. Once projects get going and you need to get more digital, people will start working on their work stations but there is still lots of sharing. I am quite an advocate of collaborative working.
CR: What processes do you use for project management?
AR: I have spreadsheets which are constantly updated based on resource management. I don’t like people to work on too many projects at a time because I don’t feel they can fully embrace the project, so it is a juggling act. Because our projects aren’t short term it is not about resourcing hour by hour, it is more week by week. Internally we have tried a lot of different resource management tools but they generally become too complex and require too much admin. Spreadsheets work well for me.
CR: How has the speed at which you must work/complete projects changed in the last five years?
AR: Everyone always wants everything tomorrow and I don’t think that has really changed. But my team has grown and, as it has grown, we are getting more projects, and those projects are getting more diverse. The more you do the more knowledge you have about what the stakeholder likes, the technical constraints, the cost per unit etc so you actually save yourself time. But I don’t feel that the timescales have shifted that much because we tend to be quite regimented in terms of when we launch products.
The above interview is from Working Lives, a special report on the changing nature of creative leadership produced by CR and Adobe. The report features a series of interviews with creative leaders from the likes of Microsoft, Sainsbury’s and the BBC, revealing how creative-first customer experiences are changing their working lives, with data-driven design, personalised customer-centric UX, and collaborative, agile working at the forefront.The full report includes interviews with the following 10 design leaders:
Adam Roberts, Senior UX Design Manager, Samsung
Lee Schuneman, Studio Head, Microsoft Lift London
Clive Grinyer, Premier Design Director, Barclays UK
Darren Wallace, Head of Design, BMI Healthcare
Charlotte Briscall, Head of Digital Experience, Sainsbury’s
Kresten Bjørn Krab-Bjerre, Senior Manager, Sound Concept, Bang & Olufsen
Jane Murison, Head of User Experience and Design, BBC Future Media
Thomas Johansson, Design Director, Electrolux Group Design, Electrolux
Martin Samuelson, Virtual Design Lead, Three
Jason Gregory, Head of Product Design, iZettle