Internal designers face different challenges
Working internally at a company can be very different than working at an agency. For one, you essentially have 1 perpetual client where an agency designer may have dozens or more. While you may only have a single client, you have a completely different perspective on your client than an agency designer has with theirs. You are part of the day-to-day and have a much deeper understanding of the product and it’s users than an agency would, since they work separately from their clients.
Having that intimate understanding can be dangerous if not kept in check. It’s easy to become entrenched by the politics and internal struggles of the company and lose that fresh perspective an outsider can bring to a problem. You may want to keep some distance from some of the internal workings to keep that distinctive view, while not alienating yourself from colleagues or managers. There is a happy balance that needs to be found.
Basic design principles can be applied in any situation, internal or otherwise. Using these can be the leverage needed to gain buy-in from the stakeholders and managers.
- Establish yourself as the expert. This is easier said than done, but don’t forget you are the expert. Doing this can positively change the dynamic between you and your managers and stakeholders.
- Bring data to the table when going over ideas and concepts. It’s important to justify the choices you make, and even more important to show that your choices benefit the end user.
- Educate the team with your expertise. It’s critical to keep the team up-to-date with current technologies and ideas within the web and digital communities, even if it’s in a very basic way. You want everyone on the same page and you want to dispel old and outdated information about digital design that a non designer or developer may have stuck in the back of their head.
Working alongside an external agency
Depending on the size of the internal team you may have to work with an external agency. It is common for an internal team to have few or no developers which makes it important that someone from the digital team becomes the bridge between the internal group of designers and stakeholders, and the external agency. Without that bridge too much can be lost in translation.
Take control when given the chance
This sounds simple but that’s far from the truth. It can be really easy to miss one of these opportunities, as I have learned. The key for me was to gently poke and prod managers for control over a project, or aspects of a project, and when I found a soft spot, take control.
It’s harder to lose that control after you have gained it than it is to gain it if you are too far into the project (although it still can be lost if you stop battling). Find opportunities to demonstrate leadership and capitalize on them.
Losing the battles to win the war
The web is flexible and up-datable. Think about that when you find yourself against a wall. You may have to concede a few battles to ultimately win the war.