design team

Dedicated design teams: interviews with Cieden's designers

8 min read
Iryna Serednya
Iryna Serednya
14 Feb 2023
Dedicated design teams: interviews with Cieden's designers Cieden
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As a Design Director and co-founder of Cieden, I highlighted the most frequently asked questions about building and managing an effective design team: 

  • How to ensure that a UX/UI designer will integrate well into your team, be deeply immersed in the product, and be proactive in tackling tasks?
  • How to protect your company from the chance of a new employee quitting your product after a few months of work?
  • Hiring an internal designer seems cost-effective, but is it worth the risk, that even a specialist with a stunning portfolio and decades of experience may not be able to solve custom challenges of your product?

It is not rocket science, there is no one-size-fits-all answer for every project, as each has its exceptional requirements and conditions. If you are looking for a complete guide on how to hire a UX/UI designer with pros and cons of freelance and in-house models, check the article that recently shared Cieden's co-founder & CEO.

In this article, I will focus mainly on sharing with you insights on how you, as a client, can profit from extending your internal team with UX/UI designers from a product design agency like Cieden

Being a boutique-style agency, we are flexible in terms of cooperation models, so our clients can decide which of them to choose based on their needs:

  • full remote model (off-site work without a centralized main office)
  • hybrid model (both in-office and remote work)
  • on-site model (work with your internal team in the same office).

Let me share what value integrated designers have brought to business in each case. I interviewed three Cieden’s designers that gave their versatile and sincere feedback on their work on the product and cooperation with the internal client's team. And here are their answers.

Valentyn about the remote work from Ukraine

Remote dedicated senior product designer from Cieden

Valentyn has been working on the AI-Based Supply Chain Resilient Planning solution, since February 8, 2022. 

– Why did the client need a dedicated designer? 

– When I joined a project, it was already a fully operable platform with existing clients. The team consisted of 20 internal specialists, including an in-house designer who was quitting the job. 

So the client decided to hire a more qualified dedicated designer from the agency to speed up the process and benefit from other designers' knowledge, expertise, and validation, which is a nice bonus when hiring Cieden.

– What were your responsibilities from the start?

– The main task was to develop a new feature from scratch based on technical documentation. 

At the beginning of the cooperation, I mostly communicated with a CTO. We were waiting for a product manager to join the team. My primary duty was to support the existing and upcoming designs. 

quote about the responsibilities of a dedicated product designer

– What was the problem with the old system?

Well, I saw that the whole system was massive and made of a template. Designers know what it means: no customization according to the product needs. When the system's design is made from a template, it is almost impossible to scale it properly. 

So I knew from the start that it was something I needed to take care of.

– How much are you integrated into the team?

Oh, pretty much. When the product manager joined the team, I started doing two additional directions: user research and interviews with new designers. I prepared scripts for interviews and helped with conducting the interviews. 

Participating in the selection of the candidate was fantastic because I already knew the project and could help choose the most suitable designer.

Another field of my work is a setup of product analytics. We don't have an internal analyst on the team, and I had such an experience. So I helped a lot — we connected Hotjar and Google Analytics and managed to optimize a few flows.

And I also combine a part of a product owner job in the product documentation for dev teams. 

– That seems like a lot!

– I have multiple tasks that allow me to participate in many areas of project development. I feel like a part of the team. Plus, it's nice to see the team grow. 

For example, the team is also expanding and looking for a second product manager to meet growing needs.

– Does the fact that you and your team work full-time create any communication barriers? Are there any negative consequences?

– We have never had "cultural issues" because we live in different countries. We have a system of online events; apart from the weekly and 2-month sharings between the departments and other work-related events, we have a morning coffee sync. Everyone can join before the workday for small talk.

I can say that all the barriers disappeared during the mutual work. I am fully integrated and impact the overall process and strategy. I don't feel like a "hired contractor doing a task." Instead, I work to improve the project and share ideas. I see how vital my participation in the project is.

– Do you have any measurable success cases?

– Yes, I have great outcomes from our cooperation. Since February 2022, I:

  • Delivered a design system, 60% of which is already implemented;
  • Improved almost 80% of the product UI;
  • Organized & sped up the development process;
  • Decreased the number of issued tickets.

– Any final thoughts?

– Even though I'm a dedicated designer, I feel like part of a team. Thanks to Cieden, I can go deeper into the project's development, but at the same time, the company cares about my development. I can always come to my colleagues from Cieden for advice. I like this system, and it works great for me.

Drop-by every now and then: Kateryna about the hybrid model

Dedicated product designer from Cieden

For over six months, Kateryna has been working as a dedicated Product Designer on a the healthcare app developed in Berlin. 

Why did the client need a dedicated designer?

– They needed to have their design system fixed, and the design itself was not ready to be handed over to the developers. Also, the process required a designer in a team — you still have issues even when the collaboration with the agency is completed.

One of the main things we prioritize at Cieden is design-development cooperation. I like how we prepare our designs for developers. Designers should understand development specifics. A beautiful design is great, but what's the point if it can't be put together? 

Additionally, the company needed help with the development of an in-app store. So I had a lot of work to do.

– Describe the beginning of a cooperation.

– The onboarding was super short. I received the document with the project's main goals, met the team, and started working. It is easy to begin when you already have a lot of experience behind your back.

–Who do you work with mostly?

– A small yet experienced team handles the app, which is the part I work on. We have a limited capacity that requires close collaboration, prioritization, and a lot of validation before development. Usually, I communicate with marketing, the R&D team, managers, and developers.

product designer works in a team

It turned out to be a great cooperation for both parties: I have an excellent team and project; they can have a good designer.

client feedback on the work of a dedicated product designer

– What does your usual working day look like?

– Firstly, many meetings: strategic planning, release sync, and getting requirements from tech, marketing, and project teams. The first part of the day is all about communication and clarifying what needs to be done. I need to stay on the same wavelength with the team.

After that, I devote the second half of the day to the actual design.

– Can you share some results of your work?

– I jumped on the project, intending to get results immediately. With all the changes done, the app has started making money. The designed in-app store has already brought income. Now, we are implementing essential improvements to CSAT and making improvements all the way long.

quote about the result of the work of a dedicated product designer

– What is your impression of the project?

– Lycon's team needed a designer who would make balanced decisions based on feedback from users and the needs of the company. My background in marketing helped me a lot with this part of the work.

Olenka about on-site cooperation

Lead UX dedicated designer

Since August 2022, Olenka has been working as a dedicated Lead Designer on an e-commerce platform. She works together with the team from Vancouver. Her project shows how dedicated designers can improve the on-site team and boost the project. 

– Why did the client need a dedicated designer? 

– There was no collaboration with development and no understanding of the developers' capabilities. So the design had unrealistic features that were technically impossible to develop. It affected the development team's work; the process dragged on for months, and features were not implemented on time

– How often do businesses suffer from such troubles with design?

– I have seen these situations quite a lot in my experience. It can seem logical to involve your in-house team in all business tasks. But design can be tricky, as it often requires an experienced designer who understands the processes at hand. 

I have witnessed many designers creating something "beautiful" with little thought to how difficult it will be for developers to create a working model out of it. 

Such approaches damage the project and can be challenging to solve. There should be a balance between the perfect app variant with all the possible features and what the client can get.

– What are your responsibilities?

– I am a lead designer, so I organize design management processes and have hand-offs with developers. In my position, I am responsible for the outcomes of the entire team's efforts. 

Also, I maintain a constant dialogue with C-level executives daily, ensuring that I am up-to-date with the latest developments and strategies. This open line of communication helps to ensure that all stakeholders are well-informed and on the same page for successful outcomes.

– How would you describe the process of cooperation?

– Adapting to a large and complex product is a challenge. There is a risk of wasting time during onboarding. We had the right strategy — we started with a small project within the product. In this way, designers can start working immediately and, at the same time, get an understanding of the product. 

Therefore, I began by working on a service that created assortments of product lines from the platform, made different iterations of products, ran tests on them, and was able to see feedback on the product.

There are two product teams, two in-house designers, and Ciden’s team on the project. In general, there are three teams, and I am mostly responsible for the management and long-term design roadmap.

UX designer works with an internal team in the same office

I communicate a lot and set up processes, so cooperation is essential to me. The team was ready to work with a dedicated designer, so I was not considered a "stranger" but an integral part of the team. I attend all internal and annual on-hand meetings, for example, a three-day workshop with the whole team.

– Tell more about Cieden’s team. Who is there except for you?

– Yes, Vasyl works with me on the project, he is a design wizard with a lot on his plate. He's responsible for:

  • creating unique and stylish design concepts;
  • creating functional pixel-perfect UI designs;
  • developing and maintaining a comprehensive product design system;
  • creating and iterating high-fidelity wireframes for unique and complex features;
  • working closely with the team of other designers and developers.
Product dedicated designer from Cieden

– What are the results of your work?

– In these four months, I gathered a strong team and built a productive/efficient process. We have workshops, retrospectives, and design boutique sessions, where we make demos as a single team. We have established rules for managing documentation and feedback. 

As a result, the team began to work smoothly and achieve the goal together.

  • Prepared the first phase of the product iteration for testing;
  • Set up the design system, which was a significant breakthrough for the product and greatly accelerated the work of the project;
  • Based on the design system, we updated and launched a small project inside this product;
  • Developed a design with features that will be implemented for the next year or more. Now we are cutting features for phases and preparing them for dev.

– What is your impression of on-site cooperation?

– In general, I feel like a part of the team. When you are close to the team, you see how it functions and understand the processes better. It is crucial for a lead to feel the team and company. Online it takes more time to learn all the ropes.

I see how the agency designer's background helps me — we already have an understanding of the work. We are focused on fast and high-quality results, and we know how to communicate with developers, analyze the target audience and do our job in the best way possible. 

Bringing all the dots together

In which cases a dedicated designer is the best option for business? Such specialists can become a part of an in-house team or work independently to perform tasks of different complexity. You can get a wide range of expertise without overpaying for hiring and maintaining the in-house team. 

At the same time, I need to say that the business does not take the same risks as when working with freelancers. A vendor agency provides a dedicated team, ensures service quality, and manages processes.

For instance, one of our recent clients needed us to fix the UX of an existing product because users did not use even half of the functionality. It was easier to hire Cieden than to gather a brand-new inner team, onboard it, deal with organizational issues, and so on.

Additionally, businesses may hire dedicated designers to complete short-term goals, like when you need to: 

  • bootstrap a product;
  • create the initial style;
  • manage A/B testing;
  • get long-term support; 
  • develop new features for existing pages. 

The stories of Valentyn, Kateryna, and Olenka show the all advantages of a dedicated designer model. With a wide range of expertise but without breaking the bank on hiring and maintaining an in-house team, plus the quality assurance of a vendor agency — dedicated designers may solve a lot if not all the tasks.

If you decide to go the dedicated team route, be it an extensive team of designers and researchers or individual roles such as a committed design director or design lead, Cieden is here to help. Contact us to learn more about our services and how we can help you get the most from your project.

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