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How to Build an Award-Winning Web Design Team

As Art Director over at Vintage, I have had the opportunity to build and grow an outstanding web design team. Together, our team has managed to work on plenty of innovative, award-winning projects. I would like to share some of my tips and techniques for hiring, helping cultivate the skills of team members, and creating a productive team culture.

Hiring

In the web design industry, there is no shortage of potential employees. A highly-driven individual with a bit of talent, a computer, and Internet access has the capacity to learn the basics of web design. This low barrier to entry is a blessing and curse—as an employer, you have to put in a lot of time and hard work to find a gem in a pile of rhinestones.

To help choose and make sure potential team members are a good fit for our design team, I use these five principles:

Growth

So, let’s say you have found and hired some people. Your job isn’t done, it has just begun. Here’s my advice for cultivating the skills of your team members and helping them flourish in their roles:

Team Culture

Eventually, you will be able to help junior designers become calibrated to the standards, culture, style, and other base requirements of your design team. But what will it take for you to help them progress towards producing masterwork-quality designs?

 

My grandfather told me once that hard work makes a person. I never really believed that until I became an art director.

Many people think that design is an innate ability, as if a person is born with (or without) a special gift that somehow automatically allows them to create world-class designs.

But looking back at my experience, I can undoubtedly say that even the most talented designers in the world would not be able to achieve their level of success without a strong desire to keep learning and improving, the hunger to be the best at what they do, and the diligence to put in the hard work. These are the concepts that must be championed in a design team.

If you manage to build a team that has continuous self-improvement, excellence, and hard work as its foundation, there will truly be no project on this earth that’s impossible for you to do.

Principles of Building an Award-Winning Design Team

Below is a visual of the tips and techniques discussed in this article. You may want to print this image for future reference. Click the image to enlarge it.

Principles of building an award-winning design team

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Olga Shevchenko is a Jury at Awwwards, CSSDA, and Art Director at Vintage, one of the most awarded agencies in Eastern Europe.

This was published on Aug 22, 2016

5 Comments

“Don’t hire seniors and middles.”? Sounds like blatant ageism (though I’m sure you’ll dance around that). There is something to be said for diversity and experience, but everyone keeps making the same mistake and (implicitly) saying “don’t hire old people.” One day you’ll be old too — will you have nothing to contribute then?

    I would like to thank you for your comments and appreciating my post.
    I’ve had similar comments to this article on Twitter, so I guess I should explain what I meant by this “not hiring seniors” practice.
    First of all, by seniority I meant the level of skill and professionalism, and not age. You can have a 28-years old designer who is still on a junior level, and that’s normal. That person may have had a career shift from a different industry, and is eager to grow as a designer now. On the other hand, you can have a 23-years old designer, who’ve been mastering their skill since middle school, and by now have reached the level where they can be entrusted with the most challenging of projects.
    The reason I’ve included the practice of hiring junior staff over senior onto my list was that I prefer seeing my people grow and develop, and take personal part in that process. I certainly do not do it to sack them once they reach heights in their profession. They become senior designers who share my vision and principles, and can in their turn educate new members of our team.
    My intention is to help the newcomers grow, and I achieve that through people who already evolved under my mentorship. That way, the collective experience is not lost along the way, but accumulates and passes on to the next generation of creative minds.

Yaroslav Sep 15 2016

Well-said, Olga. I especially liked your point on Team Culture. Approach to establishing a remote development may have some related items but the communication process and structure are quite different:

thewhitelabelagency.com/set-up-remote-development-team-5-steps

I would like to thank you for your comments and appreciating my post.
I’ve had similar comments to this article on Twitter, so I guess I should explain what I meant by this “not hiring seniors” practice.
First of all, by seniority I meant the level of skill and professionalism, and not age. You can have a 28-years old designer who is still on a junior level, and that’s normal. That person may have had a career shift from a different industry, and is eager to grow as a designer now. On the other hand, you can have a 23-years old designer, who’ve been mastering their skill since middle school, and by now have reached the level where they can be entrusted with the most challenging of projects.
The reason I’ve included the practice of hiring junior staff over senior onto my list was that I prefer seeing my people grow and develop, and take personal part in that process. I certainly do not do it to sack them once they reach heights in their profession. They become senior designers who share my vision and principles, and can in their turn educate new members of our team.
My intention is to help the newcomers grow, and I achieve that through people who already evolved under my mentorship. That way, the collective experience is not lost along the way, but accumulates and passes on to the next generation of creative minds.

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