Design Leadership & Growing a Design Culture
Three years recruiting, building and leading a world-class Experience Design team at MOO. This section gives a high-level introduction to what was entailed in my role leading a team of 12 UX designers and researchers. (2013 - 2016)
MOO is an online print, design and technology company, based in Shoreditch, London. The company's core offering revolves around premium business identity products, most notably highly customisable business cards, with a strong visual design aesthetic. MOO believes great design should be accessible to all, and that it can make a material brand and commercial impact on businesses of all sizes. I was brought to MOO to build out the UX function, and to help drive a customer and user-centred design culture throughout the business. I spent almost three years recruiting, establishing and leading a 12-strong team of wonderfully talented UX Researchers, Interaction and UI Designers at MOO, where I lead the Experience Design group. I loved going to work with them every day.
During my time leading Experience Design at MOO, I built a full UX Studio, from a team of two, growing the team to twelve senior UX Practitioners. I established a new, dedicated user research function (hiring the first User Researchers at MOO), as well as leading Interaction and UI Designers working in distributed agile product teams.
My group contributed to new features for MOO.com, as well as our enterprise SaaS offering, an Internet of Things product (NFC) and our core suite of highly interactive online creation tools at the heart of the MOO customer digital experience, in various release cycles.
Outside of immediate design direction with my team, it was my role to lead, inspire the group with a clearly articulated vision, and drive design standards and practice in the Experience Design group ever higher. Not only did I manage recruiting, retaining and training the best talent, but I was also hands-on in project delivery and leading major research and design efforts alongside the product teams. This included mentoring the team and wider business stakeholders to effectively give and respond to design critique, facilitating many (many!) workshops across the business, and setting up the team for success by educating the business on UX and design and organisational challenges that come out of a move to responsive. I also built strong industry links to other UX teams such as the design team at The Guardian.
As with my design processes, I took a pragmatic and flexible approach to delivering business value as my team grew in size. During my early time at MOO, I was part of the group tasked with reorganising our delivery across departments from a waterfall method to distributed agile product crews, a considerable change management project over several months. By the end of my tenure, each agile crew had ownership of its own KPIs and support from members of my team delivering specific improvements on the customer path to purchase. I navigated the cultural dynamics of having a large, centralised design team, with a strongly unified sense of identity, to operate as federated designers, each capable of working with different teams of engineers and product managers to support great UX outcomes for our customers.
What I've learned
I've been lucky to take some extremely valuable lessons from my time running a large design team at MOO. I understand the very real challenges in hiring good designers, whilst running a core business function in a fast paced environment, with strong, passionate personalities. I've had both successes and failures mentoring and integrating UX as a part of a largely marketing-driven culture, and have reflected on how individuals operate successfully in teams at all levels (associate to C-suite) with different rhythms of work and priorities. I had many opportunities to learn more about obstacles that design managers face, including direct experience handling challenging team reorganisations, job function changes, personnel changes and people issues, all on top of educating the wider business on the value of UX and Design. It was a hugely valuable experience.