How do you build a great design team?

Elmwood group chief executive David Godber recently told us what he reckons makes an ‘amazing’ design team. What do you think does?

Toby Southgate

‘David talks a lot of sense – he would, of course – but his overarching point is simple. There’s no prescribed answer. To make amazing things you need an amazing combination of people, skills, circumstances, brief, client… and luck. And the key word in the question is “team”. Mix it up and try something new. Great ideas come from sharing and giving, not from prescription. Anyone who thinks they have the magic answer is lying.’

Toby Southgate, chief executive, Americas, Brand Union

Phil Jones.

‘I enjoyed David Godber’s piece and in particular I agree with his comment “creating the right environment so everyone can be everything they can be”. I used to run a type business working with pretty much all of the leading designers of the day and the best work always seemed to be coming out of the consultancies who had great leadership where creatives felt exhilarated about going to work every day.  Whether it’s a sports team or a design team the role of a consistent, encouraging leader is paramount to creating and maintaining a great design team.’

Phil Jones, managing director of Real Time Consultancy and founder of Podge Lunches

Greg Quinton

‘I’ve found that most things in life can be explained with analogies, usually The Simpsons or, in this case… football. Practically? A team size should not be too big nor too small. Small enough to keep simple, have clear roles and responsibilities; but big enough to cover holidays and illness. Many believe the perfect size is 12 (one more than a football team). Structure? Clear leadership. A “manager” to guide and make key decisions, often with a right-hand person/assistant (usually organised and people-friendly). A midfield of people that handle the bulk of the work and distribution. A production-type person (a goalkeeper) that stops any potential screw-ups – especially own goals. Trust? Goes without saying. Everyone relies on each other and every team needs a comedian! Belief? Everyone needs to understand the ambition, it can be impossible to obtain, but there must be one (ask any player in the Premiership why they’re there). Good teams have one shared goal and self-regulate quality control too. Finally, financial backers for stability. Oh and it’s really nice if there are some fans or silverware to make all the effort worthwhile!’

Greg Quinton, executive creative director, The Partners

Heidi Lightfoot

‘Yesterday we had a team outing to try our hand at bookbinding and letterpress. Looking around at our rather overexcited group I was presented with all the qualities that make a good team. We have a broad mix of character, age, nationality and even (finally!) gender in our team of 13. Everyone has different skills and interests but everyone respects, trusts and utilises one another’s abilities. Most important of all, everyone genuinely likes each other and (given that we had to be dragged away from our book arts session) shares a dogged commitment to getting the best result.’

Heidi Lightfoot, creative director and co-founder, Together Design

David Hills

‘Having a spectrum of thinkers working together enhances any project. They need to have complementary skills, but also a diversity of styles, experience and ideas. Critiquing work along the way is crucial to involving the whole team both senior and junior in the decision-making process. Everyone should feel they are making a worthwhile contribution, so as to remain passionate and energetic. Differences of opinion can lead to new ideas and solutions. The project manager should have the right experience to manage this, to make sure the brief reaches its goals and within budget.’

David Hills, founder, Hills Design

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