Office Ours Extended

Office Ours Extended is a series of responses to unanswered questions from the inaugural Office Ours appointment. Throughout the summer, we'll dive deeper into the values that were discussed throughout the webinar—including the importance of nurturing relationships, being honest and transparent, and prioritizing curiosity to name a few.

Building a Pipeline

If you build it, people won’t necessarily come to learn about it.

Over the years, we’ve learned: Don’t be shy, and share the responsibility of getting the word out evenly amongst your team.

Find avenues to put your work out into the world and give folks something to remember you by. Express your point of view—consistently, and with a personality. Build a positive reputation in this small, very connected world. Manage leads and accounts diligently, together—by being in near-constant communication and having tools to sell your work at the ready.

Abby Brown Seiple: How have social media and the digital world changed the ‘pipeline’ within the last 15 years?

Colleen, Director of People, Process, and Culture: To say that social media has a direct or obvious impact on our pipeline would not be true. Indirectly, however, social media has helped us build brand awareness for One Design in networks outside the local Chicago design community. We’re able to showcase our work in a more meaningful way—and do so more nimbly. Using social media to highlight our values, our work, and our culture has also directly benefited our hiring efforts.


Jen Lemerand: How do you balance budgets and resourcing to the internal work that helps to showcase yourselves when you have amazing client work that may take priority?

Caitlin, Project Manager: Communication and setting/reviewing expectations with the team on a consistent basis is so important—both generally speaking and in creating amazing work for our clients and ourselves.

We have a weekly planning meeting between the project managers, account and creative directors, and leadership where we review and discuss resourcing to have our clients’ needs met. Behind the scenes, we’ve formed a solid internal team that has the leadership, skill set, and adaptability to essentially ‘tag’ each other in when one of us is unable to dedicate as much time as we’d like to toward internal work that week. We also have a weekly meeting where we all vote on the two or three priorities that we’d like to focus on, which helps keep us all aligned and looking ahead!


Jess: As a designer who is just entering the industry, how conscious should you be when choosing who to work with?

Stacey D., Associate Creative Director: My advice is that you should be conscious enough when making your decision that you’re getting out of a first job what you need to continue to learn and grow. For some, that means surrounding yourself with mentors and designers who inspire you in your field that you can learn from. For others, that might mean working more independently and growing your skills as an entrepreneur.

If you’re not sure of the type of work you’d like to do, studios that offer a wide range of services could give you the opportunity to realize your interests and skills in different parts of the design process. Wherever you land your first job or internship, you’ll come away from it learning more about the type of work and working environment that appeals or doesn’t appeal to you.


Maria: How does using Copper compare with Slack or Asana?

Billy, Business Development Manager: We primarily use Copper to track leads and opportunities, as well as support forecasting. It’s less of a communication tool than Slack and more of a task manager. While I’m not intimately knowledgeable about Asana, my understanding is that Copper is not as robust of an overall project management tool as Asana and is more focused on tracking communication with business opportunities.

We landed on Copper after first prototyping our own tracking solution in spreadsheets and identifying that the key stakeholders who would be entering relevant information—project managers and account managers—were primarily engaged in new business/business development efforts within their inbox. Copper has a great Gmail integration, which we saw as the differentiator in supporting our team’s effort without creating new (frustrating) workflows.


How often do you turn down a lead or a project? Why?

Billy, Business Development Manager: We try to speak with every lead, but we also want to respect businesses’ time, knowing that the reality is we may be not aligned on either budget, timeline, or skill set. Once those considerations are addressed at a high-level, we seek alignment on process and outcomes. As much as we may want to work with a particular lead or vice versa, if we can’t align on an approach or set of deliverables it will ultimately lead to disappointment for both parties. Most times we are able to establish an agreed-upon scope of work through conversations, but other times there are disagreements. This is rare—and maybe happens one to three times annually—but we believe that passing on a project we are not a good fit for is what’s right for our team and that particular lead.


How do you choose the clients or industries you target?

Pat, Founding Partner: Most of our current work comes from a combination of our existing client base and inbound referrals, but when we are engaged in outbound targeting efforts, we are looking for industries or companies that are showing growth in general and have adequate budget(s) for our services—provided we will always qualify opportunities based on alignment with our studio’s skill set, ethics and morals, and general timing and availability.

We strive to have an industry-agnostic and well-diversified portfolio and client base so we do intentionally look for opportunities to fill in a gap in our portfolio, for opportunities that stretch our wings from a creative or technical standpoint, or for opportunities that promote a cause or product that we strongly support as a studio.


Kevin Leonard: Can you share how your proposals are structured?

Brad, Director of Project Management: One thing that’s important to note is that we distinguish between a project proposal and a project agreement. I’ve seen some places where those are one and the same, but we treat them separately.

The proposal is a chance to make an impression, to introduce ourselves, and to communicate to the client that we understand their needs and can collaborate on a successful project. It is almost always in presentation-slide-deck-format and is used to support an in-person (or now remote) project pitch.

Assuming the question is about the proposal as described above, at a high level, the structure is:

  1. What you should know about us—this section includes company history and philosophy, team composition, service offerings
  2. What we understand about your project—reiterating the client’s goals and objectives and identifying the opportunities we’re seeing
  3. How we’ll conduct your project—including project phasing and per phase descriptions, durations, activities and deliverables
  4. Timeline and budget
  5. Examples of relevant work—a curation selection of case studies

The agreement on the other hand—which we call a Project Itemization (PI)—is (literally) a black and white business document with a dotted line to sign on. While it borrows content from the proposal, it states very succinctly what we’ll be doing together (and what we won’t), what the output and deliverables will be, and how much that will cost. Information about who we are and our past experience is excluded.

It’s also worth noting here that we take this a step further and have a third document—a Master Services Agreement (MSA)—that holds all the legalese about our engagement(s) with the client. It is agnostic of the scope and budget of any one project and governs, from a legal perspective, the project at hand and any future projects we might conduct with the client. All proposals are then written pursuant to the MSA and if needed, can supplement the MSA’s legal terms in the event that an individual project requires that.

Making Things

We dont like to take assignments here—which means we have to be curious and open minded from the get-go.

We also think of our clients as our team members. From bringing them into the fold early and often pre-quarantine to now, utilizing tools like Miro and Google Hangouts, weve been able to bring more heads with different backgrounds together to lead to greater outcomes.

Anna Affias: When you’re staffing a diversified group of folks on the same project (which I love), how do you pitch this to the client and write hours into the SOW?

Brad, Director of Project Management: We generally don’t have to pitch team composition to the client as much as we’re pitching the approach to the project. So based on our understanding of their goals and objectives—and the activities and deliverables we see as necessary to meet them—we’re simply assembling the right project team to deliver on those needs.

That being said, our proposals do explicitly outline team composition from a roles and responsibilities perspective, though not necessarily identifying specific team members. This gives the client an understanding of what their project team will look like—and often, the confidence that their project is appropriately staffed. This is supplemented by an overview of the project that describes the intent, process, activities and deliverables on a per-phase basis. This begins to convey how the assigned team members will contribute to the success of their project.

However, we always request an opportunity to present our proposal to the client first, rather than just sending it over in an email. This allows us to round out the picture and answer any questions they might have about our team or other aspects of the project. This presentation often involves multiple members from across the studio who can speak for their discipline, process, and teammates—and provides the client an initial sense of what collaboration with the team at One might be like.

Finally, we don’t present individual hours per team member in our proposals, but rather we present the duration and budget for each phase of the project. We view collaboration with our clients on every project as part of a new or ongoing–strategic partnership. Line itemizing hours per team member generally frames things in a much more transactional way that we feel devalues our services and runs counter to the type of relationship we want to build with our clients.


Marc D. Hans: How and when is it appropriate to adopt new tools for both operation and creating?

Amber, Creative Director: When trying to decide if we need to add a new tool (or process), we look at what we have and see if it comes close enough to fit the job, if the people who will be using the tool are familiar with it, and if the new tool being proposed has a difficult barrier to entry verses the tradeoff of learning it.

A recent example from the studio is that we adopted Miro for white-boarding, because while we could have easily used Figma (a lot of the same tools were duplicated on both platform), we found Miro was a great tool to focus on initial ideating with the team and onboarding others inside and outside our org who may not be familiar with that process to co-create with us. If we would have used Figma we might have been too eager to jump right into designing, or it may not have allowed us to democratize the early phases of our process with other team members. Miro had enough ‘pros’ for us (especially as we look towards working remotely together for the foreseeable future!) that we decided it would be a good tool in addition to Figma. It has become a staple to white-boarding sessions, workshops with clients, and we have even started using it to run retros.

Aimee, Associate Creative Director: For creating, if you have something you want to do or demonstrate, and there’s a tool that will let you do it, I feel like we’re pretty quick to learn and adopt something right away, right when we need it.

It’s not like we’re saying, ‘ok, now everybody go learn this new design tool, that’s what we’re using now.’ It’s pretty fluid.

For operations, I feel like we’re actively working on process and organization, so we’re very open to trying tools and frameworks that could help (and also ditching them if they’re too complex or don’t serve us).


Dalvin Garcia: If you had projects like creating identity brands and UI design and you were given a tight deadline, how do you handle [the stress] with your team?

James, Account Director: We struggle with this too! Working backwards from the deadline is critical. You need to understand the end and the path to get there as much as possible before you begin and share that with your entire team up front.

We always have an internal kickoff meeting to discuss everything about the project, set context (why we took this on with this tight timeline), ask questions, and raise concerns. From there, we look for ways to divide the work, time-box or eliminate unnecessary steps and where we can actually lean on the client to pitch in more due to the tight timeline.

We also closely monitor our team’s hours on the project encouraging everyone to be accurate with their time tracking even if it means we’re heading over budget. If someone puts in a heavy week with extra time on a project, we flag that in our planning meeting and look for a spot for them to take an extra day or two off to recover.

I think the toughest part of working under a tight timeline is choosing the right approach. Understanding, ‘okay, if I only have one day to do design research, what do I do?’ We’re in the middle of creating a ‘lean process’ guide now to try and codify this as a team.

Nora, Associate Creative Director: Tight deadlines and team stress are no joke. They are also a part of doing business. As much as we try to control the process and set ourselves up for success, something always gets wonky. There are simply too many moving pieces. But you have a team for a reason. They are how you get through it.

Make a list and check it twice. Each project is a puzzle; some parts need to be completed before others. Usually, identity comes first—web second. Start your list with the client deliverables and work backward. Include every piece of the process, every question you have, everything that is blocking you from getting your work done. Then set your schedule based on that list. It’s easier to think about tackling a lot of smaller steps than a big one. There’s nothing more satisfying than crossing off things on a list.

Read the room. You have to know your team and how they deal with stress—this includes you and how you deal with stress. Not everyone is the same. Some people like to joke their way through the long hours, and some want to shut up and do the work. The more you know each member as an individual, the more you how the team communicates—including you. Communication is the key.

Be honest with the client. You are all in this together. They are an ally, not the enemy. Let them know about the tight timeline. Ask them for what you need to complete the work—copy, images, strategy. They can help you set priorities around a ‘need to have’ and a ‘nice to have.’ We’re all human. If you see someone working hard on your behalf, it’s natural to try to help them out. They are an integral part of the team.


Devin Gatling: When establishing visual territories, what methods or mindsets have you found to be helpful to encourage building differentiated yet honest directions from the brief?

Kyle, Associate Creative Director: While the briefing or mood-boarding process does allow us to narrow down visual territories to an extent, more often than not, clients often cant make an informed decision until presented with something real. We typically present directions that span some sort of spectrum, no matter how small. For us, the visual expression phase often happens on the heels of an extensive brand positioning phase, so showing a variety of ways to express that voice and tone is what can bring clarity to what can up until that point be pretty abstract.


Jen Lemerand: Do you find clients will try to cut important exercises like visual territory exploration and user interviews (all the good stuff that validates the work) from their budget? How do you sell the value?

Becky, Creative Director: At One Design, we believe our job is equally making and delivering a beautiful product or brand and making sure it will work for the business and the end customer. Tactically this means we never cut planning and discovery from our process, but that being said, we often can offer up a lean approach to these phases of the project to lay the foundation for our work and set teams up for success.

What does lean look like? First, we learn all the things the client knows, define a collective set of goals for the project, and highlight gaps in understanding. This helps us decide what pieces of our process are essential and what can be trimmed back with the goal to recommend the necessary project plan to ensure no decision is left to subjectivity along the way.

How do we frame the value? Once we’ve highlighted gaps in understanding across both teams, we can determine the minimum amount of lift from a research and strategy perspective to fill in those knowledge gaps—whether that be a technical understanding of requirements or functionality or an emotional understanding to ensure a brand resonates with key audiences.

The value is in ensuring everything we produce is desirable by the user and aligned with the organizations vision—equal parts believable and grounded. Our process produces beautiful and impactful work that highlights clear next steps for our partner’s vision.


BDomenz: What is the composition of your staff—designers, writers, developers, strategists, account, etc.?

Colleen, Director of People, Process, and Culture: A third of our team are designers covering everything from communication design to interaction design to design leadership. Our development team makes up about 16% of the larger team and all of these folks are senior in their discipline, covering front-end to back-end development. Our writing team makes up 10% of the larger team, with skills ranging from campaign development to social media to scientific analysis and beyond. All 3 disciplines work collaboratively on projects from start to finish with the guidance of our project management team—also making 10% of One. The remaining ~35% of the team are administrative, leadership level, and business development team members.


Christina Gonzalez: What tools do you use to build websites from scratch?

Brian, Senior Developer: The beautiful thing about web development is you dont need much to do it. You can crack open a text editor like Text Edit on a Mac (or Notepad on Windows), paste in some basic HTML and you have a website 🎉 That method definitely works, but soon enough, youll want to get more advanced which is where there are a ton of tools that can help out. Heres a quick rundown of some of my necessities:

Content Management: Craft CMS. Craft CMS has become our content management system of choice for almost all of the sites we build. It is responsible for giving our clients a place to manage their content so we can display it on their site. Weve found it to be extremely flexible and easy to use not only for the development team, but for our clients as well. You can read a bit more about why we love it on our website.

Local Development: Homestead. Homestead is a local development environment created primarily for Laravel developers, but has become pretty popular within the Craft CMS community as well. It is essentially a server that lives on my computer and hosts all of my development sites.

Text Editor: PHPStorm. Arguably the most important tool in your arsenal, or at least the one you spend the most time in. I use PHPStorm for the majority of my development. Its a bit heavier than some other options but Ive found that the IDE (Integrated Development Environment) features to be worth it for my work.

Git GUI: Tower. Git and version control is absolutely essential in my mind. It helps you organize your work and keeps you from losing things along the way. Using git from the command line is where I started, but over time I started wanting an easier way to interface with it and switched to Tower to interface with git. It makes some of the more complex git workflows much easier to use and understand.

Browser: Firefox. My browser of choice for web development, primarily because I like their dev tools best. Its probably worth noting that these arent necessarily what Id recommend for a beginner, but theyre the things I use on a daily basis. If youre interested in what a ton of other people around the industry use, check out https://uses.tech.

Ted, Senior Developer: I can only echo most of what Brian said regarding the relative ease with which one can start a web project from scratch, and he’s also correct that once you get even a little bit into it, you’ll realize the need to be a little more systematic in your approach, and that is where dev tooling comes in. I’ll give a rundown of the tools I use, but I think it’s important to note that while there is an absolute profusion of dev tools out there, as well as a profusion of opinions on what everyone should be using. At the end of the day, the tools are simply meant to facilitate the creation of something. Tools shouldn’t impede or necessarily have direct opinions about what you are meant to create.

If you are ‘building a website,’ then ultimately you are creating a living document that is meant to provide an interface for users to get information and/or access services. Ideally you’re doing that in a way that promotes the resiliency of your document, and that provides usable access to that document to the largest number of users possible.

I am definitely a purist, so here’s a purist book recommendation regarding making websites: https://resilientwebdesign.com.

And now, on to the tools:

  • Content Management: Craft CMS
  • Local Development: Docker, Homestead
  • Text Editor: PHPStorm or VSCode
  • Browser: Chrome
  • Git: On the command line
  • Browser Testing: VirtualBox + a VM with whatever browser I need (usually Edge or IE11)
  • Database Stuff: SequelPro
  • Design Stuff: Figma, Photoshop, Illustrator
  • JS Transpilation/Bundling: Webpack
  • Code Quality: Stylelint, ESLint, Prettier

Michael R., Senior Developer: Brian and Ted have stolen my answers, so let me share the free/lightweight tools that I used when I began as a website developer.

Text Editor: Sublime. This is a neat and lightweight text editor. There are some simple color packages and it doesn’t have the nifty tools PHPStorm does to tell you how your code is wrong. But this is good! Figure out yourself why your code doesn’t work!

Local Development: MAMP. This runs the site and is pretty simple. I have upgraded to the paid version but why not try out the free one first?

Git GUI: Terminal. You don’t need a fancy GUI to fix a merge conflict or just commit a simple addition. Get comfortable working in the shell. Learn the git terminal commands, get used to them, make an unfixable merge mistake that takes hours to fix, and then try not to make that mistake again. That’s how coding works! Also hot tip: it took me way too long to learn ‘git add -p’ and I use it all the time.


Adriana Rivera: Should you add older work to your website with newer work? Should you show in-progress work?

Michael M., Associate Creative Director: Regarding showing older work—if theres a specific type of project that you like to focus on, and are trying to get more of that type of work (e.g. branding, editorial design, mobile apps), showing older work in the field helps demonstrate that you have vast experience in that area.

Showing in-progress work alongside buttoned up case studies feels out of place. In our industry, there are plenty of more appropriate venues for that type of thing (social media, Dribbble or personal blogs)—places where its more common to share snippets of in-progress work and provide a little behind-the-scenes around your process.


Eugene Wang: Mondo seems like a dream client. While working with them, were there discussions about having their product less limited, more readily available to those that want them, rather than to the fast-fingered and mercenary?

Alyssa, Associate Creative Director: It was great working with Mondo. They’re a team who was equally as passionate in bringing joy and excitement to their customers through great user experience just as much as we were.

What makes Mondo unique is their high quality products, attention to detail and relationships with their artists. To have a product by Mondo? You know its one of a kind. Although we did not have a hand in redesigning their business model, we did however make the site more accessible and transparent around limited edition and limited product runs. We worked with their team to understand their process as well as interview customers to come up with a solution that meets the needs of the various customer types and internal team.

In doing so, we created a feature for those limited, highly coveted products called The Drop. While the rest of their products on the site support customers who prefer to browse, The Drop is meant for a quick add to cart experience. Read the full case study.


How do you collaborate across teams (research/strategy, writing, design, development)?

Aimee, Associate Creative Director: I think its best when everyone is involved from the beginning of a project, so we all share the same understanding and knowledge of the client, market, audiences, and users. I call it sharing the same brain. Strategy is part of everything we do, so we’re all technically strategists and we all can be involved in designing research—because ultimately research is a place to learn what we need to know in order to do our jobs on the project.

If you want to get literal about who collaborates with whom when, I see an oval circling research/strategy, writing and design during the beginning of a project, with development still informed of what we’re doing so they can ask important questions early on. Then as you move forward in the project, that oval shifts right to highlight strategy, writing, and design all working together. And further right during each phase until it’s just development doing maintenance.

Writer/strategists and designers work closely as partners when coming up with ideas or IA or content strategy or concepts. Designers and developers work closely when we move into actually building the things.

If you’re asking about how we collaborate, pre-Covid we used ‘war rooms—’ open work sessions where we all sit in the same room while we work so we’re free to collaborate quickly if something comes up, and dedicated white-boarding time together.

Now, it’s a little harder. But we’re using Figma the same way we used to use walls, using open Slack calls the same way we used to use open work sessions, and we’re using Miro for anything we’d normally use Post-its for. When it comes to collaborating with clients, we’re using Miro for what used to be hands-on workshop activities.

Long story short, it’s not often that you’re working in a vacuum unless you’re heads-down working on your particular craft—like if I’m writing a whole bunch of copy or if a designer is working on mood boards or refining designs. Even then, we come together and look at each other’s work at some point, because it’s all coming from the same brand or strategy and should be ‘saying’ the same thing and make sense to anyone who sees it.


How do you plan for the future of a brand or an account when the future is unknown?

Robyn, Account Director: The reality is that the future has always been unknown. In the past, we have been able to make more informed predictions about what may come, but some moments in our lives are less predictable and less stable than others. We’ve found that the best way to handle the unexpected is to trust in our process, and really lean into our research phase. The more information you have on the current state of the world, and how that has affected similar brands in similar situations in the past, you can offer some great insights.


What are project managers responsible for and how do they collaborate with the project team?

Andy, Project Manager: Project managers are the primary day-to-day point-of-contact for clients as well as internal project teams at One Design. They are responsible for keeping the project on track and on budget within the confines of the project scope, anticipating and communicating project risks, and ensuring that final deliverables are delivered on time (and, of course, meet or exceed client’s expectations in terms of quality). When working with the project team, I frequently wear the ‘client hat,’ keeping in mind the client’s objectives and preferences and anticipating a client’s response to project work.

Building Relationships

Making new friends is awesome. But strengthening connections with current friends is critical.

To put it concisely—stop thinking of your clients as clients. This mentality shift does wonders. It allows you to be honest, direct, embrace who each team member is. Because this is a tough business. Dont you want to like the people youre working with?

William Johnson: Our design business was built on a network of referrals based on good work. We have a hard time going after totally new clients. Any thoughts on your experience going after new clients you have no existing connection to?

Robyn, Account Director: This question reminds me of the motto, ‘Look for the helpers.’ There are of course several approaches to finding and building relationships with totally new clients—including targeting, responding to RFQs, cold calling, etc.—but we have found that regardless of the approach, the best tool at your disposal is to prioritize the relationships. If you can find someone within your network to build the connection for you, do it. If there aren’t any connections to follow, then build rapport with your first contact within the new client organization. Then build rapport with the next person you speak with, and the next, and so forth until you find your internal advocate. This advocate is someone who understands the value of your work, and has the traction within the organization to be able to fight for you when there are other agencies also being considered. At the end of the day, even if you don’t immediately land a contract, you’ve built a connection who may need your help down the road.


Tim Hogan: I found the hardest part of running a studio to be the project-based nature of the work (versus AOR). What are some regular practices you have in terms of relationship-building to ensure you have advocates in-house and allow you to land additional or ancillary work?

Robyn, Account Director: This is a tricky challenge, and one that many studios face at some time during their existence. To some extent, the way to build strong relationships depends on the scale and culture of the client’s organization, as well as the process and approach of the design studio.

For example, our studio process begins with a discovery workshop, in which we invite a broad group of our client’s stakeholders into the discussion. We may find that there are people in that discussion with whom we’d like to continue conversations. It’s also helpful to have regularly scheduled conversations with multiple project owners on the client’s team, so that if someone needs to step out at any given time, it’s a relatively seamless transition.

Also, in larger organizations, we will sometimes uncover other gaps during our initial research and discovery phase. It’s our responsibility to call those out, regardless of whether or not we’d be the best partner to bridge those gaps. This approach is one that many clients truly appreciate. And finally, we often include—either in writing or through conversations—our recommended next steps. Sometimes that includes ongoing collaboration, and sometimes that means referrals to other companies—but in providing a roadmap, we are proving that we are partners invested in our clients’ success.


Geoff Gaspord: Have you ever felt so strongly about a design that the client was strongly opposed to that you really went back and tried to reframe and then succeeded?

Katie, Designer: Oh boy. I’m sure I have because I often feel strongly about things—it’s getting the client to agree that’s the tricky part. Some things that make that easier:

Tie every design decision to clear rationale. This is (obviously) something you should be doing from the beginning anyway. Design shouldn’t be based purely on aesthetics or gut feeling; every choice should tie back to something, whether it’s a business goal, an insight from user research, a UX best practice, etc. At One, we always frame our design presentations with this context to make sure our clients understand that every choice is based in clear rationale with their particular needs in mind.

Include your client in the design process so they feel ownership over the work. Make them an advocate: Most projects typically involve a main contact on the client side; this is the person who’s owning the project and interfacing with the team most directly and frequently. Including this person in design discussions and work sessions throughout the project will help them advocate for your work—because it’s their work too.

Be persistent—within reason. If you feel strongly about something, say it! More than once! If your feedback is tied to clear rationale and your client understands the process, they’re far more likely to hear you out. But also, the phrase ‘is this a sword you’re willing to die on?’ exists for a reason. Pick your battles wisely.


Audrea Wah: With such a large breadth of clients and brand styles, how do you maintain individuality as a studio?

Erick, Junior Designer: I think that One Design has an amazing group of individuals that all have something unique to bring to the table. That personality is then projected into our projects, which allows us to create a vast array of work.

We are always working on different teams with different team members, so there are always new combinations of ideas and skills which makes every project distinct from the one that came before it. I think that One Design’s ‘style’ is that we don’t have a style—that we can adapt and take on clients from any industry without hesitation. Personally, I am always discovering new ideas or techniques in my personal work that, at times, I can use on projects here at One Design. When everyone does this, I think it keeps the work we do at One Design fresh, smart, and fun.


What are some ways you build team connections in-person? Remotely?

Colleen, Director of People, Process and Culture: Our kitchen at the office is a special space that builds connections. During the colder months of the year, we host Soup Club weekly where one individual of the team makes soup of their choosing for everyone in the club (let’s be real, the whole office) to partake for lunch. Many moments are created in that space because of Soup Club and other social events involving food.

Now being remote, our connections have shifted to a different and less informal manner. We rely on slack affinity groups to share our stories and interests with others. We post recommendations or random thoughts in other channels and we’ve been hosting Jeopardy on Fridays for our 4:30pm Happy Hour. The connects are more intentionally planned, but they often spur more impromptu conversations.

The thing we value as a team is sharing what we’re interested in with each other. Slack really has allowed us to keep that going in this remote setting.

Nurturing the Business

Lets get down to brass tacks.

We employ a thoughtful business frameworks that support team structure, facilitate planning, and frame productive meetings as well as internal reflection. Specifically, they help us answer: “Where is the ship heading?”

Abby Brown Seiple: Who is typically involved with deciding where the business is heading (quarterly or in the next 10 years)? Is this something reserved for only leadership or something that’s open to feedback from everyone?

Colleen, Director of People, Process and Culture: Typically, where we head as a business is first determined with a target and goal from leadership followed by outreach research and strategy from the business development team. That being said, we encourage feedback and discussion from anyone on the team about areas of need, opportunities, and options. This type of feedback often surfaces in our Monday stands or quarterly retros. We make a point of talking about our pipeline—the sectors we’re focused on and why—as a team.


Bryan Vanderwarker: Did you all come to these business operation learnings on your own, or did you have some ‘adult supervision?’

Billy, Business Development: A lot of our business operations came about through learning what doesn’t work or past experiences team members bring with them. While we continue to grow and mature, we are constantly looking for ways to streamline operations without compromising outcomes, and as a naturally curious group, we actively seek out these opportunities. We also listen to each other as a collective, and through initiatives like project retros and reviews we often are able to identify problems which is the first step in learning how to make things better.

We are also incredibly fortunate to have some amazing peers, like our friends at Table XI, who have shared their knowledge and have helped us refine our processes.


How do you manage client expectations?

Amber, Creative Director: Being a designer means managing expectations about your work.

Why did you make a series of decisions? What led to you choosing one font over another? Or going a different direction one week to the next?

Setting context for your client helps bring them along on your design journey. Democratizing the design process will make managing your client expectations way easier.

Empower your client to understand your thinking and they will be your biggest advocate!


Andrew Conklin: What do you use to archive or document all past projects so they are easily viewable? I am asking about the visual side (all website, print, etc.)?

Stacey S., Project Manager: As a studio, we document past projects in different ways for different uses.

For our clients: Through the course of our work together, project managers maintain a Project Hub—an index of all presentations, relevant notes and supporting materials, and deliverables. These are organized by phase and roughly match up to what we’ve agreed to in our project itemizations. We create our Project Hubs in an online tool called Notion (which we also use for our internal wiki). Each Hub is a single webpage with links to copies of relevant documents in Google Drive or Box, and access is limited to our clients.

For pitches: When we’re speaking with prospective clients, we usually include case studies of relevant work in our pitch decks. These will be a series of slides that introduce the client, their needs, and their challenges; discuss our approach; showcase our work; and wrap with outcomes. It’s always great when we can show before and after images of creative work.

For the public: We post featured projects on the One Design website. And we also share work on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram—we use each platform slightly differently. And finally, we share snapshots of creative work (often work in progress) on Dribbble.

One thing to note for both the studio and for individuals who are creating portfolios: Different clients have different requirements about sharing work, so we’re always careful to check our master services agreement and to communicate with our clients about sharing.

Nurturing the Team

To have a place where people feel safe and can thrive is huge. It takes a village to do so.

Developing and caring for our culture happens every day, at every level, in every interaction. Our culture is nurtured to grow and mature with us—and we encourage everyone to play a part.

How do you support your team’s mental health, especially during quarantine?

Colleen, Director of People, Process, and Culture: Acknowledging that our mental health and self-care is a priority is the first step. We incorporate this acknowledgement, as well as resources and mindfulness prompts, into our weekly stand to keep the conversation present.

In addition to that, I personally check in with folks to see how they’re doing, specifically if they’re finding outlets for times when they’re overwhelmed but also if they're finding ways to cultivate curiosity and inspiration.


How do you all manage to work from home with kids?

Colleen, Director of People, Process, and Culture: The short answer is that you don’t. You do your best. You can’t give to both 100% in a single day. We made a point of letting all the parents know that they should block off their calendars for the time they’re going to be unavailable and making sure everyone on the team understands that that time is to be respected.

We also shared some of our techniques with each other in our parenting Slack channel. Having a support system of peers helps you not feel alone as well as gives you different examples of ways to balance your day.

I think the most important part was that everyone on the team embraced the presence of our children from time to time on calls. That very habit being welcomed has made it easier as a parent to navigate the unexpected parenting throughout the day.


Abby Brown Seiple: How do you maintain nurturing the team as a priority as you grow? I expect it’s easier to manage it as a team of 30 verses a team of 200.

Colleen, Director of People, Process, and Culture: It’s just that—it’s a priority. We set goals around it. We’re constantly looking for resources to help us develop leadership skills, and find professional development opportunities for folks on the team to further themselves and their career.

As we scale in size, we know we need to scale the tools and resources with us. Leveraging systems out there that facilitate wellness, learning, coaching, feedback are just some of the things that can be used across a large scale team and diverse learning styles.


Jennifer Farnworth-Komar: You talked about having diversity in the teams’ backgrounds and design fields. Can you give an example of what that means to you at One Design? What is the actual diversity of thought?

Colleen, Director of People, Process, and Culture: Diversity to One Design means that our team is representative of the communities we and our clients serve. Race is one obvious gap for us today, but something we’re addressing by changing our hiring and recruitment practices, as well as the groups we sponsor and partner with.

Beyond race and other underrepresented groups, we believe that it is the collective influence of individual differences, personal experiences, skillset and knowledge, and unique capabilities that help us be more successful in our work and challenge the status quo.


Steven Russell: Can you talk about how you develop your confidence in terms of your relationships, your work, and with goal-setting?

Nick, Junior Designer: I think through building a rapport with the people you work with and familiarizing yourself with the process where you work helps build confidence in terms of feeling comfortable to do the work and share it with the team you’re on.

Goal-setting is important for long-term confidence and personal growth, but I find for the immediate-term, the best way to boost confidence is by making the work you do the best it can possibly be with the given time—and going above what was expected while trusting your own choices. I think confidence is always a work-in-progress to some extent.


Alli Elster: When you’re looking for a new designer and you’re looking through applicants’ portfolios, what would you say makes one stand out against the others? Diversity of work? Clients? Cover letter?

Becky, Creative Director: We look for a linear and thoughtful approach to storytelling around your portfolio of work, and relevance of that selected work to the position you’re trying to be hired into. Regardless of whether the work is real or hypothetical, across industry or in a single industry, digital or print—I’m looking for a concise but compelling framing of the problem you set out to solve and the solution. Extra credit if you can talk about the impact (or potential impact of that work).

And if you’re a designer, don’t underestimate the power of a nicely typeset and logical layout to your resume—this is your handshake and first impression of your work!

Managing COVID-19

How are we dealing with "The New Normal" at One Design?

Taking it one day at a time, and of course, remembering that “being there for each other” doesn’t stop because we’re all remote—it just looks a little different.

Irv Michaels: What are the post-pandemic organizational changes and opportunities that you think will be permanent?

Colleen, Director of People, Process, and Culture: I suspect we’ll be leveraging more virtual workshops through Miro. We’re learning how to build engagement with all team members in a remote setting too—something that can often be overlooked when two of eight people are remote. We will continue to support a flexible work environment and will continue to improve the tools we use to support remote collaboration.


John Masuga: What other successes or difficulties have you found while transitioning to and/or embracing a remote setting?

Mike M., Senior Developer: Working in a remote setting definitely has its advantages and pitfalls. I love the freedom of a quiet morning with a fresh cup of coffee; no music or distractions from coworkers; complete concentration to get stuff done. I find that I’m much more productive working remotely verses working in person.

That being said, the small human interactions that happen throughout the day in a normal studio environment are lost on remote working. What was once a simple tap on the shoulder and 30 second question is now a 10 minute, anxiety-inducing dialogue in Slack. It’s also undeniable that the human connection, comradery, and bonding of being present together in a studio for eight hours is lost when were all separated at home.

Yes, we still see each other on video calls, but there are fewer opportunities for me to crack a quick joke or for David to randomly break out into song as he usually does in the studio—I miss that the most.


Cassidy Day: Beyond the rise of online collaboration tools (Miro is life), have you seen any other rays of sunshine for design/creativity/community during this weird time?

Amber, Creative Director: Yes! I love that the light is shining on accessibility and inclusion in design.

There were places that this was a focus but the recent events in the past 6 months have brought inclusion in design to the forefront. Where are the black designers is an initiative which aims to give a platform to creatives of color. How to begin designing for diversity is a guide to get you started in building equitable products, services, and content. The Anti-racist Resource is a non-exhaustive list of anti-racist resources, readings, petitions, protest tips, how to's. And I love Queer Design Club which celebrates the community of queer creators around the world.


Bianca Albino: What has been sparking curiosity in the One team now that we’re in a more seemingly limited environment?

Alyssa, Associate Creative Director: Several of us have been finding creative and intentional ways to keep ourselves refreshed. Obviously a lot of the collaboration and knowledge sharing happens over Slack. We have an ‘art club’ Slack channel that a handful of us in the studio contribute to—shares have included personal projects such as illustrating, painting, animating and even crocheting.

One Design Company is a research-driven design and development studio. For over a decade, we’ve explored the intersection of experience and technology—where powerful brands come to life. Want to learn more? Let’s chat.

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