We pump designers in the company: from junior to art director

    A free retelling of a lecture by Alexander Kovalsky from our last QIWI Kitchen for designers The

    life of classic design studios begins about the same: several designers make about the same projects, which means their specialization is about the same. Everything is simple here - one begins to learn from the other, they exchange experience and knowledge, jointly carry out different projects and are in the same information field.

    Difficulties begin at the moment when new business units appear, the studio model changes to the model of an agency or product team. The number of specialists is growing, and their skills are mixed so much that it becomes almost impossible to keep track of them. We faced this problem when, in addition to traditional web design, we got service design and branding teams, and the formation of a foreign UX team began. The question arose of how to digitize their knowledge, lead to a unified system and make for each an individual plan for pumping skills.

    I worked as a designer, creative and art director, but now as a design director for CreativePeopleI am committed to collecting creative teams within the agency and on the client side, pumping them and taking them to a new level of efficiency. In this article I will share our experience and talk about successful ways to develop both individual employees and the team as a whole.

    Today only 65 people work in the CreativePeople Moscow office. Another 11 from the Prague team, and about 30 work on a project basis. A significant part of our team is designers, and it is easy to imagine how difficult it is to keep track of each of them, to develop and organize in time.

    The designer’s pumping system is based on the digitization of his current skills. To get an objective picture, we interviewed our designers on the topic of how they actually perceive their positions and how they see further development, as well as talked with the heads of product teams of our clients. Opinions were divided: designers indicated hard-skills as the basic skills for career growth, and department heads noted that they increasingly needed soft-skills so that the human benefit was higher. The problem is that in the market paradigm, most often the design lead / art director is usually the coolest designer by skill who owns the best software. At the same time, many people forget about soft skills, although business needs them first of all. And drawing skills are far from the most important.

    And in our opinion, and in the opinion of those agencies with which we work abroad, junior is the person that you just need to learn. Middle - this one who has learned, I can leave the task in the morning, return in the evening, pick it up and send it to the client, without checking for him. And Senior is the one who can teach others and implement the project with the help of different specialists.

    We have always sought to ensure that designers grow within the company, so we have developed our own system for assessing the competencies of employees. We call it DEMP: design, education, money, process - the main blocks of competencies that can be developed by a designer.

    In design, we pump logic and visuals. The main thing in education is the question of how he learns himself and can teach others. Money - about the perception of finances in the project, team and your own. The processes show whether the designer is well aware of the creation of a creative product and the possibilities for its optimization.

    Each block is divided into three levels. The first, basic is the personal experience of the designer and the personal area of ​​responsibility. At the next level, he is already starting to think in terms of projects. And at the last level comes an understanding of how the department / company works. With regard to design, it looks like this: I draw myself, I draw in a collaboration, I draw with the help of other people (putting together a team and broadcasting my vision of the project to them).

    One stage is divided into 3 sub-stages and the fastest time for which the designer passed the sub-stage is about 3-4 months.

    But, of course, it doesn’t happen that a specialist will fill each block to the maximum. And here the question arises. A person whose design will be on the first level, but everything else will not, is this a good art director or a bad one?

    According to this matrix, it turned out that there are many guys whose visual skills are not so developed, but there are many other things that can be very useful in a team. Moreover, if you look at the bottom two graphs, then two people in a pair form a very cool collaboration in terms of skills. Good knowledge of the processes, understanding at the project level of how work is done with money, learning ability, skill of pumping a team, training coupled with a very strong person in design gives a very cool bunch. And thanks to the digitization, we were able to select a person who complements the team with his strengths.

    And then the employee development plan comes into play. It looks like this.

    Stage 1. New employee

    The result of rapid changes in our field is how often the specialist is mistaken in his own assessment at the interview stage. It is not uncommon when a person comes to us for an interview who evaluates himself at the senior or at least middle level. But in the course of communication, we understand that he can not be perceived otherwise than as a junior, because he does not have half of the necessary skills. And this is not a reassessment of one's own strengths, but simply the result of the dynamics of design development. So not only beginners are mistaken, who were convinced in the courses that they now cost from 100 thousand, but also people with great experience. If five years ago they could apply for the position of art director in a small company, now they will be completely ineffective in the product team.

    At this stage, we need to “bite through” a specialist: understand his real level and correlate this with whether we can pump it effectively. To do this, we form a map of his skills.

    See how the skill set in the Figma team works similarly. Not only the assessment differs, but also the number of skills that you need to know. An ideally pumped one skill is clearly not enough for career growth. They do not divide into such large blocks as we do, but work in the same logic.

    Stage 2. Synchronization with the team

    We, as a rule, have only three months to immerse a person in work, synchronize with our processes and transfer accumulated knowledge. Sometimes the operational leveling of hard-skills also refers to this stage, when you need to tighten the knowledge of a certain software.

    At this stage, it is very important not only to transfer all the artifacts and throw off useful articles, but also to immerse the designer in the processes, to establish comfortable work in the team. And after three months, we can begin to study the strengths of the employee in a normal working environment.

    Step 3. Identify Strengths

    We conditionally divide all designers into “three circles of trust”. In the first circle - everyone who works constantly, in the second - those who work with us on a project and give a predicted result, and in the third circle - people with whom we worked at least once and checked the level. CreativePeople’s infrastructure is designed in such a way that designers flow from one circle to another and it’s easiest to get permanent, just getting into the “third circle”, initially trying to make at least one project with us. This is much faster and more effective than spontaneously looking for a new person in the market. People from the second and third circles are synchronized in the background - this helps to save time when switching to the first circle.

    Stage 4. Natural pumping

    If there were no special problems with synchronization, then the stage of natural growth was associated with difficulties. Designers did not always understand how a specialist grows and how a career can develop.

    And this is normal, because 5 years ago there were some rules on the market, now they are different, and after 5 years they are likely to change too. The big question is: what to do now and how to swing in order to be as effective as possible over a long distance.

    Stage 5. Development Program

    Of course, there is nothing better for pumping a designer than a bunch of craftsmen and apprentices. In management, this is called Shadowing, a method where someone “follows the shadow” of a more experienced specialist and learns by repeating after him. In addition, there is mentoring, there is coaching, mentoring, and all these things differ from each other in the level of responsibility: for example, the mentor is responsible for the one he teaches, and the mentor simply transfers knowledge. Inside the agency, we use all of these options, depending on how and which design skills we want to work out. But there are many other options, how to pump the team, the main thing is to track the performance of each person in time and work with them.

    In our skill set, we note the rating that the designer himself set, and the rating of another person (manager or colleague).

    As a result, the system allows you to bring pumping to such a level that you practically cease to be dependent on the external labor market. Over the past 6-7 years, all CreativePeople art directors have been grown internally.


    The most important thing, when the designer comes to your team, agree immediately on the shore that you will have a certain stage of synchronization. During this time, you will understand how you will work in terms of rules and terms.

    Next, you begin to identify strengths using the competency matrix. Life hack: it is better to pump a person in the direction where he is already good. That is, if he is successful in the “Education” block, then it’s better to strengthen this competency and grow a good speaker out of him. And already after he reached the maximum level here, to develop the next block.

    But this will already be a stage of natural growth, where the employee and the team will absorb new knowledge and become stronger.

    You can watch the video version of the performance here .

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