How to survive expanding your design team


How to survive expanding your design team

So, picture this. You’re in a two-designer team and your fellow designer decides to leave. Suddenly, you’re all alone. There’s no one left to understand your issues about Adobe buying Figma. No one to listen to you complaining about endless Q&A briefings. No one to empathize with your deep hatred of the font Papyrus.


And then, like an angel sent from above, your boss approaches you and grants you your deepest wish – to build your own design team! Like-minded designers to collaborate with, explore new design challenges with and finally, to put to rest that age old question…why did Avatar, the highest-grossing film in history, use such a clichéd font?!


Here are some tips and musings that I realized during my seemingly never-ending recruiting journey.

Set a team picture
As the only remaining designer at viesure, it was my responsibility to paint a picture of the future design team. With an exciting opportunity such as this one, it’s clear that management will want to know what they can expect. Having a clear idea of how many designers you would like to get on board is obviously a good place to start, but it’s also helpful to outline future goals, potential projects on the horizon and the different skill sets and design expertise that might benefit the company. As a starting point, I can recommend writing down your initial expectations and using them as a recruitment compass for when things (inevitably) get a bit off track.

Adapt your research to the current situation
​​Let’s be clear, expectations are good. They help you to proceed on a clear path which, in the long run, will minimize the risk of getting bogged down on technicalities and veering off track as you continue your recruitment journey. However, you will also need to make sure that your expectations are realistic. For example, it may seem counterproductive to include designers from all over the world during the recruitment process. It isn’t. Having the opportunity to reach a geographically diverse bunch of candidates and explore different points of views and fields of expertise is awesome and can certainly be to your advantage.


Don’t be afraid to explore new ways of working and adapt your recruitment process to your current – and even future – situation.


Consider soft skills and company culture
During the recruitment process, soft skills can be identified through various methods such as behavioral interviews, personality assessments, and reference checks. Look for candidates who possess strong communication skills, problem-solving abilities, adaptability, and teamwork skills. Observe their body language, tone of voice, and ability to handle challenging situations.


Next is compatibility. During the interview, embrace your inner Jedi and “search your feelings” to understand how an applicant could fit in your workplace culture. Ask about their hobbies, previous jobs totally unrelated to design, their favorite apps, movies and past experiences – good and bad. You will often find that some of the best designers out there were shaped by very diverse experiences and life decisions, from playing bass in heavy metal bands to short-lived careers as painters, hairdressers and more.

If you pay peanuts, you’ll get monkeys
At some point during the interview process, it is inevitable that you’ll talk about salary expectations. Remember, discussing salary should be a discussion and not a negotiation. My advice is to bring it up naturally. A simple inquiry about the candidates’ own expectations right from the beginning is typically the best approach and minimizes the risk of any awkward – or belated – compromises further down the line. And, whilst it’s important to make the candidate feel that you’re willing to make a deal that’s best for both parties, it’s also vital that you check the current market to curb any overly enthusiastic deals – which might not go down too well with management! However, as the old saying goes, “you get what you pay for”. If you’re not prepared to meet – or even in some circumstances – exceed the going rates then you might miss out on hiring the right person for the job.

Hire the same but different
If you are building your own design team, you will be spending a lot of time looking at what’s out there, but it’s also a good opportunity for a bit of soul-searching as well. Understanding your own strengths, weaknesses and technical limitations will help you seeking out individuals that can complement your existing skill set whilst enhancing the overall fluidity of your team. Is prototyping not your strongest suit? Search for a designer that puts the “pro” into prototyping. Of course, you’ll need to find some common ground as well if you want to work well as a team, such as a certain level of proficiency in standard design programs. But hiring designers with specific specialties will undoubtedly increase production whilst also providing you with the time and resources for you to excel at your own disciplines.


Creating your own design team, whilst exciting, liberating and full of promise, is ultimately a challenge. You will be confronted with topics, situations and personalities that are not usually part of your day-to-day routine. And, while I hope that this blog post was at least a little helpful, the reality is that for the most part you will depend on your own instincts. Keep your eyes open, set your biases aside and be open to new personalities, surprising professional backgrounds and technical expertise. Most importantly, make sure that you encourage new candidates to be “their best self”, which in the long run will not only provide a fun and positive team environment but also to help you to continue your own work journey.