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Choosing the Right Design Team Structure for Your Company

design team structure
One of the central parts of an efficient and effective design process is your design team structure. You may have a great concept for an animated video or a winning strategy for your brand asset design, but without the right inhouse design team structure, execution will suffer.

While there’s no such thing as a ‘perfect’ team, as teams are formed by individuals with their own complexities, it doesn’t mean that you can’t have the right team. With the right approach, you’ll be able to put together a skilled, effective, and productive design team.

And that starts with understanding the three design team organization structures that companies usually employ:

Centralized Design Team Structure

An organization with a centralized setup has one design team receiving and executing all requests from other departments. While larger firms have the luxury of hiring more people, startups usually rely on just one person to wear all the design hats.

Pros

  • Designers work closely together, fostering a healthy environment of collaboration where they can easily swap ideas
  • Feedback is much easier to give, which also results in skill improvement
  • Easier to maintain and implement a standardized process 
  • Due to the bond between designers, morale and retention are up
  • The look and feel across deliverables remain uniform, thanks to easier and constant communication 

Cons

  • Overwhelm is a constant issue as all departments may request work in one go
  • On the flip side, there may be days where designers won’t have anything to do
  • If each designer in the team specializes in one skill (as opposed to multidisciplinary ones), work will inevitably pile up
  • May not fit venture-backed startups that need to innovate and scale fast 
  • Designers work in isolation from the rest of the company, receiving requests and producing deliverables, which results in the company not appreciating design as a strategic part of the process (and not just a productive one)

Cross-Functional Design Team Structure

Also called embedded UX design team structure, this structure is the complete opposite of centralized setups, as a cross-functional team employs at least one designer under each department.

Pros

  • Best fit for organizations that want to keep design affordable and lean
  • Departments can move faster since there’s close coordination with their own designer who doesn’t have to worry about another department’s request
  • Designers do not work in a silo; they can build relationships with other departments and better understand their nuances, erasing barriers and allowing for better communication
  • Easier to discuss the parameters of each project 

Cons

  • As each designer under different departments need to wear different hats, feelings of isolation are common, especially when they work under departments where no one shares their skillset
  • Organizations would need to hire a designer with a wide range of skills to be able to deliver everything that one department requires, from email to illustration to product packaging
  • Hiring an incredibly talented designer will cost the organization
  • Working with a department that doesn’t understand the nuances of design can result in output based on ease of implementation as opposed to what’s aesthetically pleasing or user friendly 

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Flexible Design Team Structure

In a flexible design team organizational structure, you’ll work with people from outside your company. This could be an agency, a freelancer you hired through design marketplaces or a subscription-based service like Design Force.

Pros

  • You can keep your costs down while still receiving high-quality deliverables produced within your agreed-upon timeframe
  • Have access to expert talent without needing to manage multiple designers or on-board highly skilled yet expensive designers 
  • Work with a dedicated creative team that can deliver your design needs as many or as few as you need
  • Take project management and creative direction off your plate and completely outsource them; all you need to do is approve them
  • Have a fresh set of eyes looking into your design needs and strategies

Cons

  • There will be a lot of discovery meetings to get everyone on the same page
  • Unless they’re a full-stack creative firm that can also take care of your brand strategy, flexible design teams tend to be more involved in the production and churn work only, so the overall project vision and direction will be yours to provide 
  • You have to make sure that you give complete brand guidelines and detailed instructions for outsourced teams/individuals to nail the design that you want

Work With The Right Team 

Whether you’re working with an in-house design team structure or choosing outsourced design, remember that the right team is one that fits exactly what your business needs. There is no right or wrong answer here. In fact, some organizations prefer to have more than one of these design team structure in place.

If you need to launch a big campaign and you don’t have enough time or manpower to plan and execute each design requirement, our on-demand services will help you deliver. Our team of expert designers will be your team as well, bringing fresh perspectives to your brand and making sure we accomplish what you need on time. 

You’ll also have your dedicated project manager who will make sure that your project is properly taken care of and is going smoothly as planned. And with our design-on-subscription model, you will only pay for what you need—nothing more. Get in touch with us today and let us know how we can help you.

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