Designers can be hard or easy to work with. It’s not that they are special, or should be treated differently, it’s the way they work that is a little different. Follow these tips, and you’ll work with them smoothly in no time. Also applicable when you are a design people manager.

Allow them long blocks of time

As Paul Graham eloquently argued, the one thing that makers needs the most is a long, non-interrupted block of time. You can’t chop their time into 30 minutes here, then a meeting for 23 minutes, and expect them to continue another 45 minutes working on their stuff. Don’t be a time-chopper. Be a time wholesaler. Give them at least 3 hours solid of work time, or better yet, day halves — e.g. non-interrupted pre-lunch or post-lunch time. Arrange meeting early in the morning (before they start work) or end of day (after they end work, and do not add anymore to work after that).

Do the dirty, boring, mundane work

Designers love to work on meaningful things. While I am usually tempted to work on that latest iOS redesign for our company, don’t be greedy. Allow your designers to take on big and meaningful challenges that they can fully own.

As their manager, it’s your duty to support them, one way is to do the dirty work, like helping them be consistent in file namings, layering, re-arranging screens on Invision, preparing documentations for engineering, and meeting clients. Keep face-to-face meetings to the minimum. They’ll love you for it.

Give them a voice

I mean it. In meetings, give them a chance to present or talk about their ideas, however shitty, childish or hipster-ish it may sound. In the end, they will know you listen to them, and it builds a great conversational culture in which ideas and thoughts come first before visual design. Don’t be a jerk who jump in to conclusion and rule the room with your “wisdom”.

Build a culture of experimentation

We all know we all aim for business and growth. But, stop for a while and provide time to experiment and make mistakes. Without mistakes, nothing good can happen. Have one-day sessions of “Design Whatever I Like”. Give them “time-off” off anything in a day and let them work on whatever they want to.

I think that’s it! If you can master at least four of the above, I am sure you’re already in to be a good design manager, or a good design comrade, at least!

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